Why Read: The Uses and Abuses of Literature for Life

Why Read: The Uses and Abuses of Literature for Life

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by Mark Edmundson
     
 

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In this important book, acclaimed author Mark Edmundson reconceives the value and promise of reading. He enjoins educators to stop offering up literature as facile entertainment and instead teach students to read in a way that can change their lives for the better. At once controversial and inspiring, this is a groundbreaking book written with the elegance and

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Overview

In this important book, acclaimed author Mark Edmundson reconceives the value and promise of reading. He enjoins educators to stop offering up literature as facile entertainment and instead teach students to read in a way that can change their lives for the better. At once controversial and inspiring, this is a groundbreaking book written with the elegance and power to change the way we teach and read.

Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
"Thoughtful…striking…Edmundson lobbies for demonstrating literature's importance by teaching it through asking big, risk-taking philosophical questions."
Washington Post Book World
"Why Read? is an encomium to literature and reading, a passionate argument…Edmundson is dead on target."
Boston Globe
"Edmundson's an engaging teacher, earnest, knowledgeable, witty."
Raleigh News and Observer
"Why Read? makes passionate arguments for literature's soul-making potential."
Booklist
"Edmundson's many-faceted argument is forthright, rigorous, and inspiring as he convincingly links literature with hope, and humanism with democracy."
Willamette Weekly
"An engaging blend of social criticism, self-improvement wisdom, and appeal to fellow humanities professors…Edmundson writes with a rare combination of force and humility."
KLIATT
Edmundson, a professor at the University of Virginia, offers a stinging indictment of recent trends in the teaching of the humanities as well as a spirited call for a "renewed democratic humanism" as an alternative approach. Noting that the percentage of students receiving degrees in the humanities has dropped from 21 to 13 percent from 1968 to 1993 and that the percentage continues to decline, Edmundson fears that a "true liberal education barely exists in America now." The consequences are grave not only for individual students but for society as well. Instead of creating opportunities for students to challenge their core beliefs, to discover who they are and what they can do, colleges have become "like American culture...ever more devoted to consumption and entertainment." To reverse this trend, Edmundson states his central belief that literature is "the major cultural source of vital options for those who find that their lives fall short of their highest hopes." He describes his vision for what he wants for his students by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Circles": "'The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and that without end.'" To enable students to create their own circles is the challenge Edmundson presents to his fellow educators. It is especially critical in this age of easy access to information that students understand the differences between information, knowledge, and wisdom. Edmundson recognizes that there are risks in this approach to teaching. Students are empowered to make choices, and they may make bad choices. He believes that it is far more dangerous for studentsnot to understand that they have the obligation to make those choices at all. This is a book that every teacher of the humanities should read. KLIATT Codes: A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2004, Bloomsbury, 146p., Ages 17 to adult.
—Anthony Pucci

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582346083
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
09/05/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
405,360
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.44(d)

Meet the Author

Mark Edmundson is NEH/Daniels Family Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Virginia. A prizewinning scholar, he is the author of several book, including the widely praised memoir, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference.. He has written for the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Harper's, where he is a contributing editor.

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