The Educational Use of Literature

[D]amn. Great article.

Other points I thought of while reading it:

(a) another (failed) twentieth century attempt at ‘scientizing’ an art to increase the status of it’s professors. There are indeed basic rules to the craft of writing. But that in the end result, fiction is a parable: it gives us experiences of hypotheses at a discount and in compressed time. As such we can carry rich and complex parables, sometimes amounting to the entire mental framework of the author in his time, with us, as if we are Methuselah, having lived a thousand lives.

(b) I have been concerned about the use of literature as a vehicle for empathic suggestion and therefore as a means of deceit as it has been by the postmoderns – but now that I know it is possible to objectively test the moral content of actions, I know it is just as possible to teach people to morally judge literature, just as they rationally judge arguments, or scientifically judge the possibility of physical phenomenon. We merely would need teach objective morality, and the construction of moral political, social , moral, and commercial contract. Since this is the only form of accounting we can sense, perceive and measure without instruments, moral science should be the easiest science to teach. Leaving authors of literature as unconstrained with moral challenges for characters as science fiction authors are unchallenged with challenges of physics for their readers.

(c) science describes the universe. history describes man. fiction produces theory about what might be, how we might act, and in doing so is the most abstract, but most richly loaded method of teaching how one might live one’s life (and how one might not want to.)

(d) I can’t afford to read literature any longer, even if I love it as a kid. Too informationally sparse, and too time consuming. And I have too much experience in the world. And unless it’s mystery almost all of it is predictable. I am also too cognizant of the agendas of authors (Dickens),and too intolerant of their (shallow) attempts at manipulation, as well as that of liberation theology (Steinbeck), or even more subtle cultural competition (Dr.Seuss). While I can appreciate the artistry of Joyce’ Ulysses, I quickly lose patience with his and Pynchon’s works. Only Shakespeare seems to warrant the investment.

(e) So yes, I find cliff or spark notes, or even amazon reviews, useful in selecting those rare investments I choose to make. And I can see the value of teens and adults merely referring to them, and wikipedia entries. Why? Because scanning multitudinous sources for similar information in brief form provides less opportunity for deception by framing, overloading and suggestion. Which is why I find the whole idea of the near infinite discount on information access that comes with the information era more important than the literary era.

All communication is dependent upon technology. Novels provided entertainment and experiential enlightenment and most importantly, insight into the minds of characters. And novels were profitable vehicles. Movies do this poorly, but they show us rich information about the world and even now, about imagination of the world. And they were profitable vehicles.. But summary articles often do the same. And we can cover so much more thought in articles than we can in books. We can learn more, choose our own paths like a game, and compare dozens hundreds if not thousands of opinions and perspectives. However, one cannot make money at these things.

That is what I find most interesting about the information era. Incentives to produce truth rather than deception. And the use of comparison rather than argument to circumvent deception.

Conversely, authors no longer have much ability to influence the reader except with insight and fact. And it is this I think that creates opportunity for ours and future generations. We can perhaps all of us master the small number of basic principles of the physical and social realms, independent of the error, bias, wishful thinking, loading, framing, overloading and deceit that has plagued past generations.

But what will happen then is the loss of the influence of the narrator. And the relegation of such narrators to vaudeville. And that I think, is the real objection of the narrative (middle) intellectual class, compared to the factual (upper) intellectual class. Isn’t that something to ponder!?

(As such ( Troy Camplin ) I have lost my concern over the use of literature. All theories can be tested. All moral theories can be tested. The problem was creating the means by which moral theory and argument could be tested. And that was not so hard really in retrospect. )

Leave a Reply