[My] assertion [is] that there is no Rennaissance for the modern reader. There is instead a curriculum, a forced burden, from which a few students might find a few things that they like. Students, save for a few, walk away from this cuirriculum with spite and a vow never to return.
I once heard the Renaissance defined as a love of the Classical World. There was a time when the educated would look back at the great thinkers (Aristotle) and Poets (Homer) with admiration and a desire to emulate. Today there seems to be no looking back (ie, Renaissance). Instead there is a looking forward, mainly to audience appeal and profits. Literature is deemed to suffer because of that. The place of Industry and Capitalism seems to be the best place to blame, if blame is the objective. A commoditization? Industrialization? An assembly line, for books? At least in part, and perhaps in totality. Let us push further into this historical tangent: The scientific revolution propounded new methods of thought which made the previously mysitcal place of art and literature quantifiable. We can look at Psychology as the more obvious example, but Historicism and Formalism are active as well. Art was to be classified, not worshipped.
From Lukacs The Theory of the Novel http://www.marxists.org/archive/luka...novel/ch01.htm:
"Truly a folly to the Greeks! Kant’s starry firmament now shines only in the dark night of pure cognition, it no longer lights any solitary wanderer’s path (for to be a man in the new world is to be solitary). And the inner light affords evidence of security, or its illusion, only to the wanderer’s next step. No light radiates any longer from within into the world of events, into its vast complexity to which the soul is a stranger. And who can tell whether the fitness of the action to the essential nature of the subject — the only guide that still remains — really touches upon the essence, when the subject his become a an object unto itself; when his innermost and most particular essential nature appears to him only as a never-ceasing demand written upon the imaginary sky of that which ‘should be'; when this innermost nature must emerge from an unfathomable chasm which lies within the subject himself, when only what comes up from the furthermost depths is his essential nature, and no one can ever sound or even glimpse the bottom of those depths? Art, the visionary reality of the world made to our measure, has thus become independent: it is no longer a copy, for all the models have gone; it is a created totality, for the natural unity of the metaphysical spheres has been destroyed forever."
What are we getting at? This commoditization is realized by the modern audience as born consumers, and as such, the modern audience places literature on the same plain as cell phones and shampoo. Like those commodities, they pick the book they like best, for whatever reason (advertising, social pressure, personal relatability, etc). Thus the reader is defined.
For a writer in a saturated market (the saturation is debatable, but that argument is for another day), he/she has to cut through the great noise with the most obvious emotional appeals onto a very narrow audience, in order to make sales. Thus the writer is defined. The economic needs and desires of the struggling author lead to a soppy, cliched product for the reader.
Commoditization and a lack of Renaissance compound into eachother until the thought of Literature as Art is a matter only for lifelong academics sitting in their offices. Though I add this is not unique to this span of history (for instance, the late 1800s in America). It seems to take a historical event (World War I) to smack western literature out of its funk, and back into producing art that is historically significant. I would like to respond to more of your post, especially the bit about an English education (which I largeley agree with), but the rambling needs to stop.