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Why Read? Paperback – August 11, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Edmundson's argument in support of the examined life is all the more compelling because it is so democratic. Edumundson believes that the life of the mind is available to all, not just to a privileged elite. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of Mark Edmundson and glad to have him on the faculty of his university.
But you're already an avid reader? You read and you know why you read. Do you really need a book entitled "Why Read?" I think so. Edmundson's argument is really much broader than the title would seem to indicate, and he will also renew your interest in reading and reading widely.
I did find large portions of this book inaccessible--I haven't read Derrida, I am not particularly well versed in Shakespeare. I suppose I read mainly for pleasure and only partly for deep personal reflection. Edmundson would probably say--and rightly so--that this is because I am certainly a participatant/victim of the consumerism of the liberal arts education! And maybe that is one of his most important points. In any case, this was a stimulating read but it may make some readers feel intellectually inadequate.
I got sucked in by the author's suggestion that literature can be a new religion, a secular religion. I got sucked in by his comments on modern pop culture. And then, since it's a short book, I kept reading.
One of the key issues in the contemporary university world, in case you don't already know, is how the humanities fields can justify themselves in comparison with science. Science has become the measure against which the humanities are judged and found wanting. So what can the humanities do? They try to deal with science in various ways.
I like Edmundson's implied answer: ignore science. Almost no one from the humanities dares to take this approach. But after all, does poetry ever try to do the same thing that science does? I wager, never. Thus, poetry has value as poetry, and criticism as an understanding and appreciation of poetry, with no scientific pretensions at all. Many arts departments have managed to learn this lesson thoroughly, but evidently literature is not.
Edmundson goes on: literature exists to help us become better people. (Science doesn't do this: if Edmundson is right, obviously we need more literature in this world!) Literature helps us find our way, existentially, when we are lost--the way religion used to. The role of a literature teacher, then, is to enable the student to encounter the literature, to be changed by the literature, and then to freely accept it or reject it.
I teach literature occasionally, as if by accident, when it falls to me.Read more ›
Mark Edmundson is an earnest, honest, intelligent and disciplined teacher. What's more, he loves his students and work in the purest sense. He enters into relationship with them with an open mind, which is to say he attends and listens without predisposition, motive or bias. When he tells us to approach literature in the same way, to allow it its "maximum advocacy," he is both modeling and advocating the same message. The man lives what he teaches and it makes for grace and power, whether speaking or writing.
As Edmundson explains so elegantly, the real issue is not why we should read but how we should live. With the tail of our economic system increasingly wagging the dog of our political system - and swatting our freedoms in the process, it has become a critical question. Are we, as individuals as well as a society, going to proclaim our faith in ourselves and truly listen to one another, or are we going to give in to fear and assert to the exclusion of listening? Edmundson has the faith in himself to listen and he teaches us how to develop that same faith in ourselves by listening to ourselves through literature. Though short and sweet, "Why Read" is a profoundly wise and inspiring book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this book for class and it was not an easy read. The title has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the book. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
Although I do not accept the books promise that democratic humanism can and will replace God in our lives, I hasten to declare the thoughtfulness of this work. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Tom Willingham
If you have read "Why Teach?" you will have read some of these essay. That is why a 4 and not 5. But Edmundson is fun to read. Read morePublished on July 5, 2014 by C. Medine
As a retired educator I have well defined opinions on the nature of education in America. I also like finding validation for my owns ideas in the thinking of others. Read morePublished on June 17, 2014 by Jude
I was introduced to the author of this book through the other book he wrote, "Why Teach?" and based on my interest in the other book I ordered this one as well. Read morePublished on June 11, 2014 by marie
This is an excellent book. Every teenager should read it prior to going to college. I absolutely highly recommend it!Published on January 30, 2014 by Maria Jones
Thought provoking book. Though I did not agree with everything stated in the book, the premise is most agreeable. Read morePublished on December 11, 2013 by Amazon Customer
Author covers many relevant works of literature and philosophy. He has a unique perspective about reading and teaching. Read morePublished on November 12, 2013 by texasrose1015