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Essay on The Trans-formative Qualities of Literature

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A simple open ended question that leads to countless possibilities, from the quick response of “why not literature” to a response pulled from the depths of critical thought and much conjecture. Throughout history literature has helped form the social context of our society greatly. Some say literature is dying a slow death. What is to happen if the old standards of literary excellent are removed from high schools and universities. In our text book, Literature: The Human Experience, David Foster Wallace one of the contributors wrote in preface for instructors:
“We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy's impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character's pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive, we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple.” (v)
Wallace's quotation proposes a link or a leap in the reader's mind to embody characters emotions with their own. Not much of anything else can do this. Case in point, from the confines of his shoe box cell on Robben Island a man had little else than literature to keep his mind occupied. Sentenced to a life in prison for seeking justice for his people from an apartheid government, Nelson Mandela read what ever he could get his hands on. A disguised book, the “Complete Works of Shakespeare” later to be known as the Robben Island Bible. The book was smuggled into the jail by political prisoner Sonny Venkatrathnam, who disguised it in colorful Diwali cards celebrating the Hindu festival of lights, finally convincing the warden it was his bible. Between the years of 1975 – 1978, the book was passed between 33 of Venkatrathnam's fellow pr...


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...d pieces from the whole is not much of a society at all. As parents, teacher and educators it should be our mission to increase knowledge and not subdue one form over the other. Turn off the television, the computers, the cell phones, and turn on the lamp and read to your children. Educators come up with new ideas that are inclusive of the broadening technological advances in society. Reach one as you have done. The hunger for knowledge should be unquenchable. The trans-formative qualities of literature are numerous, from “Harlem” to the Stop and Frisk laws in New York City, with “Oedipus Rex” how do we view our world...do we really see anything. Race, class, love, death and war surrounds us everyday. When you read between the lines all of these points become evident. The real question should not be Why literature?...what about Why not literature!






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