Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Penmanila On Books And Literature

In his latest blog entry, Penmanila writes about books and literature in light of "The Great Book Blockade". An excerpt:

Literature pertains to any and all material—written or spoken—that employs words and language to convey meaning. In a narrower sense it is an art form comprising printed or recorded words that may be further classified into the genres of poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fiction. Literature is an imaginative exploration, through language, of human experience.

Thus, the creation and consumption of literature is an important cultural activity. Literature helps to describe, define, and even direct the thoughts, feelings, and practices of a community of readers.

All books, regardless of what may be perceived to be their artistic merit, belong to literature. They possess intrinsic educational value, as they can be used to illuminate and instruct the reader about some particular aspect of human life or about the craft of literature itself. Thus, even "bad" literature (bad whether in form or substance) may have something of instructional value to be derived and developed by a capable teacher.

It is not only the Bible nor Shakespeare nor a physics textbook from which or from whom we can learn. Even works of popular fiction—such as the Harry Potter series or The Da Vinci Code—conceived primarily for their entertainment value, can be used to teach readers about life and about literature itself, and may even have greater cultural and social significance precisely because they tend to reach much larger audiences.

It should never be left to government—and not even to literary critics—to decide which books are “educational” or of “social or cultural value” and which are not. Literary tastes and fashions change, as do societies themselves, and there is certainly more to literature than its moral content or the lack thereof, as important as this aspect may be to some readers and policymakers. Books facilitate cultural exchange, fostering in the reader a better understanding of the outside world and improving his or her ability to engage with that world.

As with democracy itself, literature must allow for a wide variety of subjects, themes, treatments, and styles, even the shallowest or most repugnant of which helps define a range of standards that can guide intelligent readers in forming their own informed assessments and conclusions. Thus, all books deserve equal protection and consideration under the applicable laws, as far as their tax-exempt status is concerned.

Click here to read his blog entry.

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