Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Studying Literature is Important

Is Moby Dick just a print version of Discovery's Deadliest Catch? Is there more to be gleaned from its pages than harrowing experiences and melodrama?

I have struggled to explain to my students, most of whom are struggling, why it is important to persevere even when they find the reading difficult or boring, and I found a great quote on The Dish that helps.

Andrew is quoting Nathaniel Philbrick, from Vanity Fair. In the article Mr. Philbrick expounds on the lessons in the story, the context and character, and how these things affect our lives. It is a wonderful dip into the world of Moby Dick, but it is also an illustration of how Reading Literature can expand and strengthen our critical thinking skills.

And between you and me, critical thinking seems to be on life support these days. Mr. Philbrick ends with:

So how do we face a world in which yet another cataclysm, whether it be environmental, financial, or terrorist-devised, always seems to be just around the corner? I think it’s Ishmael who puts it best. Nearly halfway into the novel, after almost getting killed in pursuit of a whale, he says,

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

ilustration of Moby Dick with the whale breaching and three men in a lifeboat struggling to escape

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