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Why Read or Write Literature?

This chapter of THE QUESTION focuses on the literary arts. How does literature enhance the quality of our lives? Does reading a short story, novel, poem, creative essay, or play make us more authentic, interesting, compassionate, perceptive, and whole? Does writing creatively make life more meaningful? According to Goethe, "The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation." What makes the reading and writing of literature essential to the health of a civilization?  What do YOU think?  Have any literary works, broadly construed, made an impact on the way you think, understand, feel, or behave?  Please help build community and share ideas in the blog.

Members of the WVU English Department will get the conversation started. In addition, I am including links to Karen Swallow Prior's Atlantic magazine essay, "How Reading Literature Makes Us More Human" and Annie Murphy Paul's Time essay, "Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer" to stir up this discussion. A short reading list to further guide the discussion, provided by faculty members in the WVU English Department, is also included.

 "We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers." -- Carl Sagan

Please share your own insights in the blog!  

I hope you are enjoying THE QUESTION. You can email comments and suggestions about this project to me at: