Literary Education Humanized
In the twentieth century, literature was under threat. Not only was there the challenge of new forms of oral and visual culture. Even literary education and literary criticism could sometimes actually distance novels, poems and plays from their potential audience. This is the trend which Roger D. Sell now seeks to reverse. Arguing that literature can still be a significant and democratic channel of human interactivity, he sees the most helpful role of teachers and critics as one of mediation. Through their own example they can encourage readers to empathize with otherness, to recognize the historical achievement of significant acts of writing, and to respond to literary authors’ own faith in communication itself. By way of illustration, he offers major re-assessments of five canonical figures (Vaughan, Fielding, Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and Frost), and of two fascinating twentieth-century writers who were somewhat misunderstood (the novelist William Gerhardie and the poet Andrew Young).