Why literature still matters. Because what we read we make our own.

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Link trolling?
Sorry, Benjamin, didn't mean to be so abrupt. It's a link to the SF Chronicle's review of Marjorie Garber's The Use and Abuses of Literature, and I thought it was pretty interesting,.

No problemo. You know how you see those messages sometimes that say "You've got to see this!" and every word is hyperlinked. They go to spam sites sometimes. Just gut-checkin'.

 

Interesting article, though.

Well, it is interesting, but not particularly novel. I'm not altogether sure that we should pass over the author's intention quite so cavalierly.  I grant you, since readers are individuals with vastly differing backgrounds and also with different moods while reading, the perception of a work is frequently colored and distorted by this. That doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to honor the writer's intention.  As for questions: I always told students to ask themselves "why?"  A writer has an endless number of choices, and the choices he makes are significant.  What the reader brings to the work is not nearly so useful.
All good points, I.J., of course, but I'll still go to Garber for answers to questions from friends young ("I've never read that stuff. Why start?") and old ("I don't read that stuff anymore. Why go back?").

Yes.  I see that.  It's kind of sad.  You could always say, "You'd better read it if you want a passing grade in my course."  The young are pragmatic.  For the older folks, you need to sell it as a leisure activity that will impress their friends.

 

Sorry, I tend to be sarcastic.

That's very funny, I.J. I'm going to try your peer-pressure argument on my older (or, actually, my contemporary) friends. Thanks.
Let me know if it works.  :)

I tend to agree, that what we read we make our own.  And a fine writer makes it easier to do that. A great writer practically assures that. :) 

But "literature" does even more than meet us halfway. As Garber is pointing out, it can be interpreted over and over again, each time differently. We tend to see Shakespeare (for instance---since she speaks of him as her touchstone) in the light of our own times. There always seems to be room for a new "reading."  That's what keeps us going back to those plays; they will always seem fresh and alive.

We often say of a great work, written centuries ago,   "It seems so modern."  Above all,  "literature" arouses (or should arouse) our intellectual curiosity. We may read mysteries for suspense and for the satisfaction of a solution to a puzzle, but maybe  it's really  the WHY  that keeps us going,  and perhaps in the best mysteries, remains a lingering question. :)

Nicely put, Caroline.
Oh, very good point about mysteries.

Thank you both---I.J. and Richard.

I don't really feel I  need to justify my love of mysteries....:)....but if I have to....:))

Love may be one of the grreat mysteries of life, but so is the "urge" (is that the right word?) to commit murder. The criminal mind is endlessly fascinating!

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