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Mar 25 2014

Literature and Truth

This is something I had written ages ago for a class assignment. The professor wanted us to write how we view literature. This was my paper. Since we had some discussion after my ranty, angry post two days ago, I thought of sharing it here. I got 19.75/20 in that class. Anyway, this summarizes my views on literature. The references are in the same form that I presented the papers, sorry.

Many have talked about the truth of literature- their question has been “what is literature”. Many have also talked about the truth in literature- that is the interpreter’s task; to find meaning and therefore the truth of a given text. This article aims to address none of these concerns. This article is about truth and literature. What is their relationship? More specifically, how literature deals with truth? If literature is capable of telling the truth, how does it accomplish to do so? Is the truth reflected in the literature or are the two completely different things? Therefore our goal is not to define literature or truth, but to talk about their relationship.

There have been many contradicting answers to the most frequently asked question “What is the truth of literature?” But if we change the question to “How truth is related to the literature?” Then we can find out that there are four attitudes, or for the want of a better word, four approaches or four tendencies among philosophers, critics and theorists in regards to our topic. These great thinkers have infinite things to say on the subject but for our purpose we can be content with reducing them into four. This will inevitably lead to some simplification on our part, but this should not matter as our question is also simple. We are not asking what the soup is; we are asking in what kind of dish we can eat it. There are many different species of soup in the world but a few containers, and usually chefs with varying tastes use the same container. A great literary thinker is like a chef here. So we might say that although the thinkers have differed in their definitions of truth and literature, they have had roughly four approaches in their relationship. We shall give each of these approaches a name for the sake of the ease of reading.

  1. Didactic approach: literatures teaches the truth.
  2. Reflective approach: literature reflects a truth outside of its own being.
  3. Religious approach: the truth of literature is its own and has nothing to do with the outside world.
  4. Partisan approach: there is a truth that we already know, and it can be found in literature.

One must remember that these approaches are not mutually exclusive. A specific thinker’s approach may be at the same time a didactic or a reflective one; and they can coexist in even weird forms. These approaches overlap in different thinkers. So we must not look at them as certain creeds and a body of ideological beliefs, but more as attitudes.

We shall talk about each of these approaches in detail below.

Didactic Approach

The truth is a lesson, and the author is a teacher who teaches that lesson to his or her pupil, who is the reader. The author is a great educator, who leads the reader through life. The author is the enlightened intellectual whom the society shall follow. The work of literature can make us better men and women. These are the many ways to say the same thing. The truth is something which can be taught through reading literature.

In its earliest form, this attitude considered that truth to be an ethical truth. We may be able to trace it back to Plato who believed that poetry teaches all kinds of the wrong things to its readers. Plato laments about how the Gods are pictured in the poetry of Homer and people like him and how a reader might impersonate evil characters in the poems and learn to do evil, and fear death by reading about the scary versions of the afterlife. For example:

But we have not yet brought forward the heaviest count in our accusation:—the power which poetry has of harming even the good (and there are very few who are not harmed), is surely an awful thing?” and “At all events we are well aware that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law. (Plato, Book X).

To be so much concerned about the negative effects of the poetry, Plato must have been a stern believer of its effectiveness.

Speaking of Plato, it seems that all censors throughout the history have had the same attitude towards literature. To all censors literature is a textbook, and just as we abandon any textbook with outdated or wrong information it is upon us to “protect” the society from the harmful lessons they might “learn” from a degenerate work. In an excellent article, a contributor sums up the censor’s attitude quite nicely:

According to conservatives, the state is justified in using its coercive power to uphold and enforce a community’s moral convictions and to prevent citizens from engaging in activities that offend prevailing community standards of morality and decency. (See e.g., Devlin 1968, Sandel 1984.) This position is sometimes called ‘legal moralism’. Governments also have a responsibility to prevent citizens from harming themselves. This is true, even where the citizen is not a child (who may not yet be competent to make responsible judgements for themselves about what is in their own best interests), but a mature adult who is voluntary engaged in an activity which they judge to be desirable and which causes no harm to others. The view that the state is entitled to interfere with the freedom of mentally competent adults against their will for their own good is often called ‘legal paternalism’. (West, 2.1)

It is not within the scope of this article to argue against such views- but one has to take note that the censor’s attitude towards arts in general is a didactic one. If one has to omit the offensive words from Huckleberry Fin it’s because one might learn racism from that book, heavy metal music and violent video games must be banned because they might teach violence. Another shape of this approach is the propagandist literature commissioned by the state or the proponents of different ideologies.

But these dishonorable forms should not dissuade us completely from this approach. There is a rich tradition supporting this approach. A moral twist of the didactic approach is as old as the literary criticism itself. Horace was the grandfather and the ancient representative of such a view when he claimed that the very objective of poetry is to teach by delighting the reader. This view was the dominant view of the medieval literary criticism as well. Dante repeats Horace in his defense of his work (Hall, 23) and Boccaccio said “Good poetry is not of this kind [wicked]. It is inspiration plus learning”. (Hall, 29) The trend continues well into the Renaissance. A great representative of that era, Sir Philip Sidney, says in the praise of a tragedy:

Which notwithstanding as it is full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca’s style, and as full of notable morality, which it doth most delightfully teach, and so obtain the very end of poesy. (Sidney, 75)

Neoclassics also shared the attitude. Milton begins his grand epic as such: “Illumine, what is low raise and support;/That to the highth of this great Argument/I may assert th’ Eternal Providence,/And justifie the wayes of God to men.” (Milton, Book I) Even the great romantics did not let go of this notion, as Wordsworth says: “Every great poet is a teacher: I wish either to be considered as a teacher, or as nothing.” (Wordsworth, 183) In the nineteenth century it was Matthew Arnold who attracted our attention to the throne left deserted by the religion and how literature is supposed to reclaim it, and how literature must create men of learning and cultivate the culture.

Although this view is the most evident when we study the classic criticism, and it seems that since the time of Aesthetics and some modern schools the grip of this approach has weakened, and indeed this approach in its simplest form seems unfashionable and not chic at all, it would be extremely naïve to consider this approach forgotten. Outside the confines of academia, no other attitude is as popular or dominant. Censorship and hack writing for the governments is still rampant, spanning from age ratings to outright banning the books. Also, the presence of educative literature written for children and adults, the way that the parents and the schools deal with literature, all and all point to the fact that didactic approach is alive and well. Even most of the new schools of criticism are the adherents of the didactic approach. Marxism, Feminism, African-American criticism, post-colonialism and queer criticism all infer, or frankly affirm, that the reader might learn different values from the books he or she reads.

Of course one might not deny that literature may teach people things. Works of literature have shaped the lives of many people reading them, and they have changed their views towards life and other concepts. However, one cannot but feel that there is an inherent naivety and simple-mindedness behind this view. Didactic approach assumes many wrong things. Firstly, it assumes that the reader is a passive entity, who will blindly follow whatever is thrown at him or her. This is mostly evident in a censor’s disrespectful view of his or her fellow citizens, but one cannot help feeling that most didacticists share the same reductionist view of the reader to some degree. The truth is that the reader is an unpredictable entity and will most probably learn something other than what the author intended. Milton may have wanted to justify the ways of God but to many he ends up justifying the ways of Satan, as Blake testifies. Secondly, this view ignores, or at least tends to ignore, the possibility of multiple interpretations of the text. Thirdly, this view tends to ignore the other qualities of literature, such as amusement or experiencing different emotions, among many. There is no doubt that there is a didactic value to literature, but it seems that the relationship between the truth and literature is much more complex than that.

 

Reflective Approach

There is some truth out there, beyond the literary realm of words and rhymes, and literature is a mirror which reflects this truth. Or maybe it’s a small sample which can be used as the representative of that truth. The point is that this approach believes that literature can be used to illuminate some truth about something which is not literature. The difference between this approach and the didactic approach is that didactic approach considers author as a teacher, while the reflective approach considers him or her an observer. The text is not a lesson; it’s a window opening to unseen realms.

Mimesis theory of literature is the oldest prototype of this approach. Mimesis theory holds that literature is an imitation of life. To put that into words suitable to our own purpose, literature is an imitation of truth, and by looking at literature we might learn something about its source. Plato and Aristotle both are the most important people who have believed literature is a species of imitation; albeit one finding it a bad thing and the other a good thing. Plato says:

Poetry and mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative—instances of this are supplied by tragedy and comedy; there is likewise the opposite style, in which the poet is the only speaker—of this the dithyramb affords the best example; and the combination of both is found in epic, and in several other styles of poetry.” (Plato, Book III).

And Aristotle remarks:

Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dithyrambic: poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of imitation.” (Aristotle, I).

The Mimesis theory continues to be dominant throughout the Renaissance and the neoclassical era. Sidney, whom we quoted before, says:

Poesy, therefore, is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in his word [Greek], that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth; to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture. (Sidney, 13)

After dropping out of fashion in the romantic era realism and naturalism revived the reflective approach in the nineteenth century. William Dean Howells argues the case for realism:

I am in hopes that the communistic era in taste foreshadowed by Burke is approaching, and that it will occur within the lives of men now overawed by the foolish old superstition that literature and art are anything but the expression of life, and are to be judged by any other test than that of their fidelity to it. The time is coming, I hope, when each new author, each new artist, will be considered, not in his proportion to any other author or artist, but in his relation to the human nature.” (Howells, II)

Emile Zola’s arguments are in the same vein, although we associate him with a different literary school:

It is undeniable that the naturalistic novel, such as we understand it today, is a real experiment that a novelist makes on man by the help of observation. (Zola, 9)

Reflective approach lived well into the twentieth century. The main reason is that the realistic novel never lost its dominance over the bulk of the literature produced, although other schools have come and gone. Even now you can hear many authors defending their novel based on the fact that the same could happen in the real life. But the greatest example of reflective approach among modern thinkers can be found in Structuralism. Structuralists

believe that codes, signs, and rules govern all human social and cultural practices, […] [they] want to discover these codes, which they believe give meaning to all our social and cultural customs and behavior. […] When applied to literature, this principle becomes revolutionary. […] Since an individual work can express only those values and beliefs of which it is a part, structuralists emphasize the system (langue) whereby texts relate to each other. (Bressler, 109)

If Structuralists consider that every work of literature is a representative of its system and they are interested in that system, their view towards literature is reflective. They use literature to study something other than literature. To a great extent the same can be said about psychoanalytic criticism. The critics seem to be eager to learn more about human psyche through literature. Feminist and Marxists are more interested in the gender and class struggles. Reader Response Theory uses the text as a way to learn about the reading process. The proponents of Cultural Studies consider literature in a cultural context and the list can go on. One might say with confidence that the most dominant approach of our time remains to be the reflective approach, whether in the form of the realism inherited from the nineteenth century or in its more modern forms.

One cannot say that the reflective approach is false. A text is written by a human being and read by real human beings, and it deals with about real human issues. Each text has something to say about the real world. However it fails to explain how literature is different from an article in a newspaper, or philosophy, or history. When we ask the question “how literature is related to truth?” the answer that “literature reflects the truth” is not of much help, because that idea is already suggested in our question. That answer seems to be a rewording of the question, and it immediately arises a new question: “But how”? In short, the reflective approach puts too much emphasis on the “truth” end of the relationship and therefore is not very helpful. So now we can move on to another approach which puts undue emphasis on the “literature” end.

 

Religious Approach

According to the people with this attitude, literature is not related to truth much. It has its own truth or no truth at all. Literature is a separate entity. Literature has no use; it cannot be used to study truth. It’s a confined world. It is a thing of beauty, or a stimulator of pleasure. Literature is its own means and end. It would be foolish to compare it to history or philosophy because they deal with the real world while literature revels in its own virtual world.

Why call it religious you ask? One cannot help but notice that this attitude elevates (elevates? Maybe reduces to?) literature to a pseudo-divine entity. A godly entity with its own rules and its own ends, aloof, beyond the petite needs of us mere mortals. Let the world burn, literature stands still! Reality is the hobby of the lesser creatures, the materialists, the accountants, and those with some problems in their lives! We are better than them; we are the literature’s chosen tribe.

The religious approach began, in a way, with romantics. Although you may contradict me with the political conscience of people like Hugo, Shelley, or Byron, and I would answer that you are completely right. Romanticism is maybe the most complicated literary school which has ever existed, and one cannot reduce it to a simple attitude. However one cannot help hearing the voices of the future proponents of art for art’s sake when one reads “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. Keats seems to be directly answering our very question when he says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. (Keats) [There are some who claim Keats was ironic here. I disagree]. Or when Wordsworth invites people to forsake reading and sit on a stone and daydream. The great worth that they ascribed to the genius poet, the passionate way that Shelley talks about literature, considering it the origin of practically everything, all and all are huge strides towards cutting the thread between literature and real world and sending it whirling into heavens. Romantics paved the way for the religious approach but they did not found it. No, that honor mostly goes to Immanuel Kant who preceded them.

In his philosophical masterpiece Critique of Judgment he says that:

In order to decide whether anything is beautiful or not, we refer the representation, not by the Understanding to the Object for cognition but, by the Imagination (perhaps in conjunction with the Understanding) to the subject, and its feeling of pleasure or pain. The judgement of taste is therefore not a judgement of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective. Every reference of representations, even that of sensations, may be objective (and then it signifies the real in an empirical representation); save only the reference to the feeling of pleasure and pain, by which nothing in the Object is signified, but through which there is a feeling in the subject, as it is affected by the representation (Kant, § 1).

This follows with the inevitable logical conclusion that this process is “disinterested”, that is, not related to any other knowledge or the function of mind. It is not because of the material value of the object of art that we behold it, but because of its sublimity. Therefore, we deal with art for its own sake.

This was followed by the Aesthetic movement in the nineteenth century. Walter Pater proposed a way of living which was led by powerful emotions inspired by an ideal of beauty. His disciples from Oscar Wilde to the Decadent movement led the battalion of the religious approach with the banner of “Art for Art’s Sake”, claiming that literature’s aim is to provide sophisticated aesthetic pleasure, and rejected all utilitarian and didactic views towards literature. Therefore to them there can be no relationship between truth and literature.

Although they may seem radically different it can be argued that the Russian Formalists and New Critics of the twentieth century share the same religious approach. If language is merely a violation of ordinary speech, then it does not have much to do with its other uses. The materialism of the Formalists stopped them short of praising and glorifying literature in the manner of the Aesthetics, but they seem to cut literature away from truth as much as them. The same can be said about New Critics. If poetry is an autonomous entity which has nothing to do with its reader or its writer or its context, then it doesn’t have any relationship with any truth but its own truth. The same can be said about Poststructuralists as well. Although Poststructuralism too is a rather too wide a term to be reduced to a single approach, but then again one feels if every work of literature is a series of endless signifiers and there is no closure of meaning and especially if real communication is impossible then at least to some extent the world of literature is separated from truth, because it cannot lead us to truth. If every work of literature is unable to find the truth or unable to communicate it then why bother reading it- if not for its own sake? Postmodernist thinkers may hail from a very different place than Aesthetics, but they end up at the same destination. Let us quote one of them:

A literary work is not, as many people may assume, an imitation in words of some pre-existing reality but, on the contrary, it is the creation or discovery of a new, supplementary world, a metaworld, a hyper-reality.” (Miller, 18)

Wilde couldn’t have said it better himself.

Again, one cannot completely reject the religious approach. There is some truth to it. When someone nags about the violence in novels it is useful to point out that the world of literature is not the same as the real world. The rules of literature differ from the rules of reality. That is what makes dragons and goblins possible. And pleasure and entertainment is a great part of literature. However, to go to extreme in this case is also ludicrous. Such a view can be easily rejected by the empirical evidence. The works of literature can and do change the real world. And there are many works of literature which carry truths about the real world. One can point to the effect of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the question of slavery, or how Jean-Paul Sartre used Nausea to deal with philosophical truths. Also, this attitude seems to be shooting literature in the foot. A concerned citizen might ask if literature is so useless, why are we supposed to spend taxpayers’ money to fund libraries and universities studying it? Why should we even respect it? If it’s a glorious luxury, like a very expensive purse or a gold-studded belt, let it be treated as a glorious luxury (not with much respect from the intelligent people). A person with religious approach fails to meet this challenge. But this is a failure on his or her part, not literature’s.

The truth is all these three aforementioned approaches are true, in a way, and all three are false, if they are believed without the others. The truth is, literature has a separate truth of its own which is related to the non-literary truths, and to some extent a reflection of it, and therefore it might teach us a thing or two about truth. But as you can see, even when put together, these approaches fail to completely explain the relationship between literature and truth, the main question remains unanswered.

Partisan Approach

Each of the above approaches may become a partisan approach one day. Partisan approach is to go towards literature with an interest in mind; it is to already believe in a truth and now interpreting the work of literature mainly to affirm that already determined truth. This approach does not seek the truth, but affirmation, it does not investigate, it blends and manipulates the work in order to fit it to its own scheme. This approach usually occurs when the critic has completely made up his or her mind about what is literature – what is all literature. Therefore this approach is always fallacious, because the proponents of this approach prefer their own opinion to the empirical facts that the criticism of a text may yield. It is completely fine to have a theory in mind, but one must be open to accepting exceptions or even changing the theory if one is faced with opposing evidence. Yet it is surprisingly easy not to do so. If you are stubbornly inclined to look for gold in a copper mine, you will eventually find gold. However, when one manipulates or ignores the evidence in the service of theory, the theory and all that the critics says lose their value.

To every person that I talked about the Partisan approach they were quick to bring up an example- Marxism. Indeed. Long before turning to literature most Marxists have made up their mind about superstructure and base and they have already decided to find economics and class warfare in everything. But one cannot but feel that people are unfair to Marxists – partisanship is a sin almost all academia today is guilty of. And because of the undue respect that “literary theory” enjoys no one seems to mind. It is fine, we all have our own narrow set of definitions and we would slap the label “theory” on our laziness. Are Feminists any better? Don’t they look for gender roles and similar issues in every work of art, no matter how insignificant this topic can be in a given novel or poem? Aren’t they determined to come up with a female canon no matter how undeserving some members of that canon are? Are postcolonialists any better? Or psychoanalysts? Doesn’t a postmodern critic want to “deconstruct” a text under any circumstances, no matter how fruitless or irrelevant that endeavor can be in regards to certain texts? All of these theories come up with an arbitrary definition and method, and then force it upon every text. And partisanship is acceptable at our universities these days. When someone “applies” a certain theory to a work what he or she is doing is to approach the text with a biased mind. What we do in our academic setting is that we shed a certain color of light- red, green, blue, etc- on every object, then gleefully claim that every object is the same color.

This of course is not a criticism of any of those approaches – they all have their place. This is the criticism of an attitude.

In dealing with truth and literature we must be aware of the partisan approach. It is a danger threatening all of us.

The Dynamic Truth of Literature

So how do we finally explain the complex relationship between truth and literature which encompasses the three historical approaches, realizes that literature has its own independent truth which is at the same time a reflection of the real world truth, and it can be useful and educative to read and criticize literature, while avoiding the pitfalls of partisanship, narrow definitions, and oversimplifications? How can we talk about literature and truth without simplifying truth or literature?

We usually think of truth in static terms. We usually say that “The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776” is a true statement. “All people of the village were at the fountain” (Dickens, 153) is, on other hand, literary. We usually think of literature in a dynamic manner. We usually think like this because it is fictional, and the writing style is elevated. We usually contrast factual truth with fictionality, but this is misleading. Sure, a factual statement usually needs to be pinpointed on a certain time and place, and therefore a literary event may never be factual. But truth is not limited to factual truth. “I love my parents”, “there is hope”, “what you did was bad”, none of these are factual statements but all of them may be true. But then again, it would not serve to reduce literature to a true nonfactual statement. Why?

Because a statement is always static. We are freezing the time, we are isolating it, we are taking it out of its context. “The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 and this was a glorious moment in history” is composed of two separate statements, one factual and one not, but both are static, as they have a definite place on the spectrum of time, and we know them.

Literature, however, is dynamic. We do not read literature because we are curious about the timeline of the events. Or because of the messages popping up. This much I believe all different definitions of literature agree on, we read literature because of the experience of reading. We do not want to know about the events, we want to experience them first hand. We want to be immersed in the fictional universe. Therefore our literary experience is temporal. We want to watch Thomas Jefferson rolling the document out and we want to accompany the founders while they sign it, and possibly tap Benjamin Franklin on the shoulder and congratulate him. This is how a literary experience works. Therefore a binary opposition is created which identifies truth with a statement and considers it static and literature with an experience and considers it dynamic. But this binary is false. And in order to understand the true relationship between literature and truth, we have to dismantle it first.

Truth can also be an experience and dynamic. In the real life, when we learn something through practice and not theory, we have learned the truth through a dynamic experience. A native speaker may never know what second conditional is but he or she uses it seamlessly. Also, we have heard many times that a person who has experienced a great ordeal saying that words cannot explain his or her experience. Even when considering philosophy, which may seem completely static at the first glance, we know that the only way to truly learn what a philosopher says is to read their books, and have imaginary arguments with them. Scientific truth can also be dynamic. A chemistry teacher who takes his or her students to a laboratory to conduct experiments is teaching dynamic chemistry. It is wrong to reduce truth to a series of static statements. Truth can be dynamic, and therefore now we can say how a work of literature can true.

A work of literature is an experience. This experience is fictional, and it happens in a virtual, separate world. But yet it is rooted and related to ours, and by living in that world, by experiencing it, we learn, through experience, about truth. We all fall in love when reading a love story, and we learn about love through experience. When we read an elegy we learn about losing a loved one. A male can never experience abortion and other female plights but through the poems of Sylvia Plath. It might be a single emotion, it might be love or war or a whole decade as in Ragtime or War and Peace, the point is, reading literature is living an experience and that experience can help us better understand the truth about humanity, nature, and the world. This truth is not static, and is not definite. Each reader may take away a different truth as we all tend to interpret real experiences differently. But the fact remains that we all learn something, and that something changes us.

So, a work of literature is a species of truth, and that truth is a dynamic experience. As George R. R. Martin says in his novel: “A  reader  lives  a  thousand  lives  before  he  dies, […] The  man  who  never  reads  lives  only  one.” (Martin, 745)

Literature achieves that goal by simulation. Literature is mental and philosophical experiment, as we imagine ourselves in situation we haven’t been before. We are caught up in discussions we haven’t had before. We experience emotions we haven’t experienced. We listen to people whom we haven’t listened to.

Literature does have its own independent world, but that world also reflects our world and teaches many things to us – and it does so through bringing voices, to giving life to philosophies and ideologies. That is why we read literature.

So, I think, literature is a simulation of truth. Literature is asking “what if?” and asking “imagine”. Literature helps us appreciate the truth by expanding the horizons of our minds, by letting  us practice complexity and contradiction. A literary person is someone capable of critical thinking and with a flexible mind, someone whose facility of entertaining hypotheticals is completely trained.

 

Works Cited

Aristotle. Poetics. c. 335 BCE. Trans. by S. H. Butcher. Project Gutenberg.November 3 2008. Web.

Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Fourth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2007. Web.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. 1859. New York: OxfordUniversity Press. 1990. Print.

Hall, Vernon. A Short History of Literary Criticism. London: The Merlin Press. 1964. Print.

Howells, William Dean. Criticism and Fiction. 1891. Project Gutenberg. August 22, 2006. Web.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgement. 1790. Trans. by J.H. Bernard. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan. 1914. The Online Library of Liberty. Web.

Keats, John. “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. 1819. Englishhistory.net. Web.

Martin, George R. R. A Song of Ice and Fire. Vol 5. A Dance with Dragons. London: Voyager Books. 2011. Print.

Miller, J. Hillis. On Literature. New York: Routledge. 2002. Print.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 1667. Project Gutenberg. March 2, 2011. Web.

Plato. Republic. c. 380 BCE. Trans. by Benjamin Jowett. Project Gutenberg.August 27 2008. Web.

Sidney, Philip. “The Defense of Poesy”. 1579. English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard Classics. Ed. by Charles W. Eliot. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14. Bartleby.com, 2001. Web.

West, Caroline. “Pornography and Censorship”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. May 5, 2004. Web.

Wordsworth, William. The Prose Works of William Wordsworth. Vol. II. Ed. by Alexander B. Grosart.  New York: AMS Press, Inc. 1876. Project Gutenberg. August 19, 2005. Web.

Zola, Emile. “The Experimental Novel”. The Experimental Novel and Other Essays. 1880. Trans. by Belle M. Sherman. New York: The Cassell Publishing Co. 1893. The Internet Archive. 2007. Web.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    rapiddominance

    Even though I didn’t like your conclusion regarding the Abrahamic God, I thought you did a fine job of expressing how an atheist can hate God (or a fictional character for that matter).

    I didn’t like that mean guy in “Avatar” who wanted to kill all the blue people and exploit their planet. I don’t particularly want to hang out with people who are either like him or admire him.

    Scott

  2. 2
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    My own warped perspective and shallow semi-serious perspective here FWIW :

    What is literature?

    A genre of fiction with occassional classics but which is vastly inferior to SF (Science Fiction) inmy subjective and no doubt biased artistic opinion.

    What is truth?

    Well, that’s a harder question although there are things that are simply facts, so much is so often in contention it can take a lot to uncover and understand what the truth is on any issue depending on the issue and a whole lot of other variable factors.

    Off topic, sorry, but I hope you might enjoy his cartoon :

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1686

    or have something to say on it, Kaveh Mousavi?

    1. 2.1
      Kaveh Mousavi

      It’s a very witty and interesting comic.

  3. 3
    Ed

    I’d say that literature and all other creative arts(including both their supposedly “high” and “low” manifestations) are a reflection of life, but not necessarily in anything resembling a literal sense. Works of imagination reflect some facet of the human experience isolated, magnified and exaggerated for effect.

    It’s mythology without the superstition. Every time I read a novel, see a movie, look at a painting or listen to music I think “yes, life sometimes feels a lot like this, and someone took what all or many people feel and distilled it into this work.” This can be enlightening or at least gives a sense of affirmation. Someone else gets it, so to speak.

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