Seriously, though

We have money to make and worlds to save, so why should we spend our time doing this? It’s a question that is timely without being new–and although it’s phrased often in tones that range from skeptical to snarky, it also weighs heavily on the most avid readers sometimes. I know.

And I can imagine that every senior who graduates from Queens College with honors in English has found some cause to ask:

  • What good does literature do–ethically, aesthetically, politically–for a world that’s marked by so much suffering, and where there is so much work to do?
  • What kinds of benefits might we bring to ourselves or anybody else from the intellectual labor we put into the interpretation of literary texts?
  • Under what conditions of reading–by what methods, with what theories and what use of money– might we become most likely to do that kind of good?

Posing those questions in the seminar over the course of this year, we’ll read the ways they’re written through literary traditions that precede us by centuries, and we’ll hone our answers together.


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