Fictions and Reality in the Teaching of Literature
This essay explores whether and how the comparative and dialectical study of literature(s) from new epistemological models preserves a sense of humane connectedness in a varied and threatening world. The question is not so much whether the study of literature humanizes as it is whether the way literature is taught contributes to the humanizing effect that its study is intended to produce, or does the aesthetic idealization and objectification of literature leave our students with a ‘dissociation of sensibility,’ a moral, intellectual, and psychological fragmentation, or even worse, a cultural disconnectedness, alienation, and spiritual cynicism. The goal is to investigate how an intellectualised aesthetic point of view built upon scepticism, defiance, and disbelief, or upon pride, pomposity, self-interest, and egoism produces hollow and uncommitted, rather than humanized and dedicated, world citizens. The paper considers strategies that help to transcend the tyrannizing barriers of parochialism, isolation, nationalism, racism, escapism, and political, religious, or gender-based chauvinism. The non-canonical, non-dogmatic methods discussed promote the association of knowledge, teaching, learning, and understanding; they integrate knowledge with life, ethics, behaviour, and spirit. The essay presents a brief historical overview of the place of the humanities, specifically the teaching/study of literature, within a liberal arts education from classical times to the present, a detailed consideration of the humanizing and de-humanizing implications of various approaches, and suggestions on epistemological models and perspectives that promote the humanizing capacity of literature study
Silvia Fiore (United States)
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Department of English
University of South Florida
Professor Fiore has a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Pittsburgh, was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Rome, and has done post-graduate work in Italian at the Universita per stranieri in Perugia. She has published extensively on Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, John Donne, and Vico.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)