Tag Archives: Literature

Reading in the Age of Fake News

“In order to have an overall developed personality to cope with modern-day crisis, it becomes vital not only to study literature, but also see its relevance in economic, political and class terms. Such is the coalescing of radical sociology and the humanities, more so at a time when the old certainties are questioned and a civil society is being built around new identities and forms of empowerment.

“In Praise of Literature [the authors] argue for the redirection of sociology and literature towards active politics, justice and freedom. In other words, art and literature can never be cordoned off from social sciences and social theory. Literary scholars bring perceptive readings to bear upon social and political texts in the same way as sociologists throw light on the human condition. For instance, Greek Tragedy is aptly used in putting across a case in criminal law having direct bearing on social welfare, or Plato and Gibbon facilitate the understanding of diplomacy or important aspects of human value and the meaning of life, the chief concern of liberal arts.

“The crossing over from literary practice to social theory or vice versa gives a broader critical and philosophical grounding to the study of ideology and resistance, knowledge and power, the major concerns of humanities in a world overtaken by ‘pseudo modernism’ that spells disaster for our pulverised culture of ‘unreliable Wikipedia and blogs.’”

From, and more: https://www.tribuneindia.com/mobi/news/spectrum/books/words-that-drive-society/303323.html

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Read Books to Fight Sugar Addiction

“Beyond acting as a form of meditation, reading helps build the neuro-networks that improve our lives immeasurably—including reducing sugar cravings. As mbg Collective member David Perlmutter, M.D., said on a recent episode of the mbg podcast, “100 percent of humans have a sweet tooth. It’s an ancestral trait that allowed humans to survive. Our sweet tooth is a legacy, and now it’s catered to 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which leads to obesity.” The problem? “When we’re catering to this notion of stimulating the reward part of the brain with sugar, we strengthen that pathway to those reward areas of the brain that are involved with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and it tends to distance us from connecting to the parts of our brain that aren’t involved in rewarding us moment to moment but are involved in our ability to be empathetic, to make long-term plans, to understand the long-term consequences of our day-to-day choices. We live in a society where we’re catering to the reward system of our brain moment to moment.” Conversely, when we strengthen the parts of our brain that are involved in being empathetic (something reading fiction has been shown to do), we weaken the neural pathways to the reward areas of our brain that make us crave sugar.”

From: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/health-benefits-of-reading

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Literature’s Battleground

Literature is “obligated to join the oppressed in the trenches and become a partisan for truth, justice and the higher ideals […], such as tolerance, personal and collective freedoms, equity in the distribution of public wealth and equality of opportunity. In a word, those who love literature have a big role to play in building a just and open society where ideas are free to compete and where it is not criminal to hold divergent views. Literature, indeed all art, is therefore expected to engage in the difficult task of remaking society. It has a responsibility to guard society from what Bob Dylan, the Nobel prize winning crooner, called “the morals of despair”. It also has the onerous duty of standing up to those who seek to “choke the breath of conscience”. As the English Romantic poet, Percy Shelley famously observed, “the most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is poetry”.

From: nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/writers-stood-up-for-democracy-and-higher-ideals/1220-4317766-7o48im/index.html

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Write to be Heard

“while it’s conventional that wisdom exists in literature, creative writing has always been seen as more rarefied or intimidating. It has been celebrated as personally palliative, yes, but it’s never been considered a method to increase participation in society. After all, what good is composing poetry and writing stories when you need a job, or a nation must be founded, or a war has to be won, or cancer is ravaging the bodies both human and politic?

But creative writing can be anyone’s best training for speaking out – and if you’ve ever read novels, heard scripture, watched movies or TV, listened to songs, or learned folklore, then you’ve been studying your entire life how storytelling works. By applying your hand at creating it, you are not just attempting art, you are learning vital skills and life lessons.

Fiction teaches us about characters and empathy, plot and consequences, and the value of nuance to truth. Poetry teaches us how to distil language, value silence, and understand metaphor. Non-fiction (which certainly includes journalism) teaches us accountability to facts, critical thinking about the systems in society, and the importance of getting out into the world to listen to others. These are but a few of the skills one learns from writing creatively.

Are those life lessons not vital to democracy? To have a voice is to have a vote. To have a vote is to be represented in society. To represent ourselves clearly and confidently empowers us citizens to air our own concerns and our community’s grievances, to be accountable for ourselves, and to demand the accountability of our leaders. If we are not trained to articulate our arguments properly, we will never be heard legitimately, and we can be ignored too conveniently.

… while art itself might not change the world, it’s abundantly clear that it can empower those who will.”

From, and read more: http://ewn.co.za/2017/05/11/art-and-literature-are-vital-to-democracy-here-s-why

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Literature Key to Successful Business

“What is the role of literature, or for that matter any form of poetry, art and music, in management education and practice? Is it an engagement in abstraction, an escape from the drudgery of daily life? Is it a flight to fantasy, a leap into the void? Certainly not! The need for mainstreaming inputs from literature, poetry and music in MBA curricula and corporate training modules rises from the acute inadequacy to deal with the complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and turbulence in the business scenario today. The art of managing people is not a matter of deployment of a set of skills or use of stereotyped formulas but awakening and unleashing our creative potential energy in its deepest and widest sense. Thus the realisation is slowly dawning in leadership consciousness that literature can enliven the spirit within, or otherwise why should Prof Joseph L Badaracco Jr at Harvard be using Sophocles, Joseph Conrad and Arthur Miller in leadership courses and Prof James Maarch at Stanford, who delves into literature after a lifelong journey with Organisational Design and Strategy to unfold the myriad dimensions of life and human behaviour to students and business barons before they deal with the multiple layers of reality within the self, the organisation and the planet at large?

Literature awakens the spirit in an exploratory – rather, evolutionary – and in not a pedantic manner, so that we can outgrow our conventional stereotypes of right and wrong, good and bad, black and white. “The colour of truth is grey,” said French writer Andre Gide.”

From: swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-importance-of-teaching-arts-and-literature-to-the-management-students

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Reading Literature Helps Chronic Pain Sufferers

“A study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, The Reader and the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, and funded by the British Academy, has found that shared reading (SR) can be a useful therapy for chronic pain sufferers. ”

“small groups (2-12 people) [come] together weekly to read literature – short stories, novels and poetry – together aloud. The reading material ranges across genres and period, and is chosen for its intrinsic interest, not pre-selected with a particular ‘condition’ in mind.

“Regular pauses are taken to encourage participants to reflect on what is being read, on the thoughts or memories the book or poem has stirred, or on how the reading matter relates to their own lives.”

“Group members participate voluntarily, usually in relation to what is happening in the text itself, and what may be happening within themselves as individuals (personal feelings and thoughts, memories and experiences), responding to the shared presence of the text within social group discussion.”

“The literature was a trigger to recall and expression of diverse life experiences – of work, childhood, family members, relationships—related to the entire life-span, not merely the time-period affected by pain, or the time-period pre-pain as contrasted with life in the present. This in itself has a potentially therapeutic effect in helping to recover a whole person, not just an ill one.”

From: medicalxpress.com/news/2017-03-chronic-pain.html

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For the Love of Writing for Money

“Money obscures one’s relationship to work; it distances us from ourselves and the things we make. … Because the value of goods is dominated by the market, one’s labor becomes subordinate to the ascribed market value, and once we begin to mistake this market value as true value, we lose any genuine connection we might have had to the work. …

Money taints everything, why not writing too? Once its value is determined by the marketplace rather than the writer or the reader, our relationship to literature becomes estranged. From bloated celebrity advances to rejected masterpieces, the market is more than just a poor arbiter of lasting quality: it tends to obscure that quality behind purely economic motivations. Good writing, we’re told time and time again, is born from love, not avarice. But this romantic picture of the writer, toiling without regard to money, is itself a fiction—one whose roots stretch back several millennia, and whose effects we’re still dealing with today.”

From, and more: A Brief History of Writing for Money

https://newrepublic.com/article/139769/cash-words-brief-history-writing-money

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Link

Simplicity and Clarity vs Complexity in Writing

“There are many plausible reasons that the use of million-dollar words would lead readers to believe that an author is smart. Intelligence and large vocabularies are positively correlated. Therefore, by displaying a large vocabulary, one may be providing cues that he or she is intelligent as well. Secondly, writers are assumed to be conforming to the Gricean maxim of manner, ‘avoid obscurity of expression’. If authors are believed to be writing as simply as possible, but a text is nonetheless complex, a reader might believe that the ideas expressed in that text are also complex, defying all attempts to simplify the language. Further, individuals forced to struggle through a complex text might experience dissonance if they believe that the ideas being conveyed are simple. Thus, individuals might be motivated to perceive a difficult text as being more worthwhile, thereby justifying the effort of processing. […]

Why might we believe that the experts might be correct in recommending simplicity in writing? One theory that predicts the effectiveness of straightforward writing is that of processing fluency. Simpler writing is easier to process, and studies have demonstrated that processing fluency is associated with a variety of positive dimensions. Fluency leads to higher judgements of truth, confidence, frequency, fame, and even liking. Furthermore, the effects of fluency are strongest when the fluency is discrepant — when the amount of experienced fluency is surprising. As such, it would not be surprising if the lower fluency of overly complex texts caused readers to have negative evaluations of those texts and the associated authors, especially if the complexity was unnecessary and thus surprising readers with the relative disfluency of the text.

Both the experts and prevailing wisdom present plausible views, but which (if either) is correct? The present paper provides an empirical investigation of the strategy of complexity, and finds such a strategy to be unsuccessful. Five studies demonstrate that the loss of fluency due to needless complexity in a text negatively impacts raters’ assessments of the text’s authors.”

From, and Read the study (PDF): http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/psy3001/files/simple%20writing.pdf

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Literature will set us free

“Nothing can defend us better against ignorance, prejudice, racism, nothing better than good literature. […] good books are the best defense that we have against prejudices, against distorted views of people of different languages, different beliefs, different customs. We discover that in spite of all differences, the common denominator among men and women of different traditions is much more important, because we are all humans and we are all challenged by very similar kinds of problems and obstacles that we have to overcome in order to survive, in order to live.

If free and democratic societies are to carry on as such, it is imperative that their citizens be trained by reading good literature not only for the great pleasure the activity affords, but also for its great potential to stimulate the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty.”

From: cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/literature/2016/11/09/mario-vargas-llosa.html

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Literature’s Greatest Contribution to the World

“Reading and writing are subversive acts by default. […] this activity develops in societies a critical spirit about the world as it is.

Why do you think that all dictatorships have tried to control literature? […] They have established systems of censorship. They have given special laws to put limits to the fantasy world that literature creates—because they mistrust very much this activity that is producing stories to replace the real world with the fantasy world of literature.

[…] writers don’t need to be politically inclined to make a criticism. Literature itself is critical of the real world.

The critical spirit […] is developed by presenting readers with worlds that are better, more coherent, more rich—in which life has possibilities that real life, the real world, doesn’t have.

And the greatest contribution of literature to the world, is when it gives us ideas that are very critical of the world as it is.”

Mario Vargas Llosa

From: gmanetwork.com/news/story/587427/lifestyle/dictators-like-marcos-are-right-to-fear-writers-mario-vargas-llosa

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