Literary Power

As bloggers, we think a lot about the power of writing and publishing. Here’s the other side, the reading side of that:

Reading is a democratic activity, argues Philip Pullman, and theocracies discourage it. Khomeini’s Iran and the Soviet Union had similarly degraded views of literature – and Bush’s America is heading the same way.

Philip Pullman is the author of a marvelous trilogy, His Dark Materials, and more, as well as a teacher of literature. Jill and I just saw HDM here in London, presented in two 3-hour productions, on one of only two stages in the world capable of staging these amazing sets. (Your kids want to read these books, and so do you!) Pullman elsewhere….

Literacy has both a public and a private pay-off. The first empowers us in society; the second enriches us as individuals and encourages us to think for ourselves… unless, of course, the latter is deliberately “educated” out of us for the convenience of those who’d really rather we didn’t.

Some years ago I pencilled out some ideas about how writing and public speaking should be taught in school, surprisingly in sync with Pullman’s views here and elsewhere. Time, freedom, joy and practice matter. This past week I helped a friend polish a law school essay, we had fun, even in the time crunch of it. All of which has me thinking again about where I might teach when I get back to Chicago.

4 Replies to “Literary Power”

  1. oh, I’m envious of you getting to see the stage productions! For the past few years, HDM is my answer when asked what my favorite book(s)is/are–though we didn’t know anything about the trilogy until I read an article in the newspaper announcing the publication of the 3rd one, whenever that was.I was so glad that we didn’t start it until the whole thing was done–how hard it must have been to have to wait between volumes!

    hmmm. time to read them again!

    thank you for the further links to philip pullman, too


  2. yep. that’s what jill said… glad didn’t have to wait. she just gobbled them up when she found them. on stage, they were unbelievable… i’ve never seen live theatre that even came close to what they did here.

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