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