The Value of Literature in Difficult Times

By Nancy D. Goldfarb.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

What role does literature play in difficult economic times? It can be a diversion, offering refuge from one’s troubles in another world. It can also help readers to understand individual problems within a broader context. Perhaps most importantly, it can allow readers to visit other cultures and learn about alternative perspectives, teaching empathy with others whose appearances and cultures may be different from one’s own. This paper argues that literature shapes the characters of those who read it while helping us to envision the kind of society in which we want to live. In addition to being an expression of culture, literary works are also producers of it, and the interpretive process develops the reasoning skills and imagination needed for citizenship in a democratic society. On the other hand, if we are not careful, literary interpretations can also inadvertently validate ideas that perpetuate close-mindedness rather than promote human flourishing. For this reason, it is important that literature be utilized to generate discussions around cultural diversity and to encourage students to challenge assumptions and think critically about received opinion.

Keywords: Literature, Literary Studies, Values, Empathy, Multiculturalism

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 11, pp.273-280. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 596.859KB).

Dr. Nancy D. Goldfarb

Doctoral Candidate, Philanthropic Studies, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Nancy D. Goldfarb is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English and American Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. She earned her doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, after which she earned an M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from IUPUI. Nancy is writing a book on representations of philanthropy and charity in 19th and 20th Century American fiction. Her work examines responses to negative representations of charity and whether unsanctioned stories condemned authors and their works to literary obscurity.


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