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Special Reports on  " English"

      Click on a title below to access the article in this Special Report.

Special Reports

The Enduring Value of Literature

What makes us call a piece of writing "literature"? What qualities cause it to endure? What distinguishes it from the time-sensitive craft of journalism?
Illustration by Marcia Klioze Hughes/The World & I 
King Priam and Achilles, from Homer's Illiad.

Does literature have an enduring value? What form of writing goes beyond simply informing or entertaining us or filling up hours? ...

Honest Journalism and Good Literature
The question of just what journalism is and how it relates to its close but more aristocratic cousin, literature, is an old one--very old indeed, if we are willing to substitute journalism for the word history in Aristotle's Poetics and allow the great Greek philosopher's word poetry to stand for literature. Aristotle famously said that the statements of poetry--literature--had to do with "universals," while those of history--journalism--made do with "singulars," or particulars. ...

Toujours Normandy--and Gustave Flaubert
Like many Francophiles who have read Peter Mayles' savory memoirs of picnics on the grass, intricate negotiations with crusty stone masons and truffle hunters; and long hours of fraternizing in ambrosial wine "caves" with the locals of Vaucluse--my husband and I wanted to go to Provence. We probably shared with many others the surreptitious notion that only there, among its abundant vineyards and formidable rocks, would we find the heart of France and the true Frenchman. ...

Literature and the Power of the Imagination
In all of our discussions about what education ought to be--in our preoccupation with basic skills, knowledge, and educational strategies--we are in danger of minimizing or overlooking an obvious and important truth. If learning means a sensitive awareness of the nature of man, it cannot dispense with certain simple truths, though far too often these are emasculated under the weight of clichˇs and airy rhetoric. I would like to examine one truth so obvious that we instinctively accept it without, perhaps, fully appreciating what it means and how it enters into the process of growth and understanding. ...

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