Literature has a vital social role in ‘cultivating powers of imagination that are essential to citizenship.’ (Nussbaum, p 2306 Norton Theory and Criticism, Second Ed.) How far do you agree with this statement? Draw upon theoretical material studied so far in the unit.
There are ongoing speculations regarding the purpose of physical art forms within our contemporary society. The firm belief on behalf of Martha Nussbaum is based around the ideology that art plays a significant role in cultivating humanity, with a heavy emphasis on various types of literature especially. She is interested in what it means to be an educated and significant member of a community, highlighting the role of education in the development of human citizenship and posing a strong argument for the importance of literature in the progression of our emotional and mental development.
Nussbaum believes that there are certain human capacities that cultivate and nurture citizenship. We must think about our own culture and traditions merely as a part of a collective whole, understanding other lives and approaching such situations with a mind open to these differences, and subsequently creating an ability to overcome any false sense of our own self-importance. There must also be a capacity for extensive narrative imagination, such as that which is triggered by prose fiction and other such novels with a narrative structure. Engaging with other lives and contexts when reading a novel helps the reader to improve their ability to both empathise and sympathise with the characters, a skill which is almost certainly transferable to the everyday context. To be able to think from a variety of perspectives is an essential element of truly understanding humanity and the reality of an upsetting or emotionally challenging incident, fact or fiction, helps the progression of both our cognitive development and the onset of catharsis, a specialist term for the purging of excessive emotions after exposure to...
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