Thursday, May 06, 2004


What makes literature valuable? What does it do for us, or to us? One view is that it transforms us by showing us new ways to perceive the world and ourselves. In Kafka's famous phrase, it should be "an axe to break up the frozen sea within us" (quoting from memory).

I find this view attractive. If we want to make a case for literature's importance, to argue that good literature is something everyone ought to experience, then something like this seems the best bet. The trouble is that I've never been transformed in this way by a work of literature, or at least never that I can remember. (And I have read many of the "great books.")

What does happen to me sometimes is that a work of literature expands my notion of what can be done with language. But it's a lot harder to make the argument that that is an experience which everyone should have.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?