Studying Literature

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"We all have slumbering realms of sensibility which can be coaxed into wakefulness by books." [Robertson Davies, A Voice From the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading 13 (New York: Penguin Books, rev. ed., 1990)]

"[L]iterature is an art, and . . . as an art it is able to enlarge and refine our understanding of life." [Robertson Davies, Reading and Writing 2-3 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, special ed., 1993) (1992)]

The study of literature "is the place—there is no other in most schools—the place wherein the chief matters of concern are particulars of humanness—individual human feeling, human response, and human time, as these can be known through the written expression (at many literary levels) of men living and dead, and as they can be discovered by student writers seeking through words to name and compose and grasp their own experience. English [that is, literature] in sum is about my distinctness and the distinctness of other human beings. Its function, like that of some books called 'great,' is to strive at once to know the world through art, to know what if anything he uniquely is, and what some brothers uniquely are. The instruments employed are the imagination, the intellect, and texts or events that rouse the former to life . . . . [T]he goal . . . is to expand the areas of the human world—areas that would not exist but for art—with which individual man can feel solidarity and coextensiveness." [Benjamin DeMott, Supergrow: Essays and Reports on Imagination in America 143 (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1969)]

"It appears to me quite tenable that the function of literature as a generated prize-worthy force is precisely that it does incite humanity to continue living; that it eases the mind of strain, and feeds it, I mean definitely as nutrition of impulse." [T.S. Eliot, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound 20 (New York: New Directions Book, 1935)]

Literature "returns you to otherness, whether in yourself or in friends, or in those who may become...
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