Art and Value: An Essay in Three Voices


As these responses indicate, the real issue here is not “Does literature matter?,” but “Should literature matter?” The former is a purely empirical question. The latter asks for a justification. Indeed, when it comes to teachers and students of literature, even that question is not quite accurate. Rather, there are three separate questions. First, should verbal art matter? Put differently, is there any particular value to the works that are read primarily in classrooms? Second, should literary interpretation or criticism matter, whether practiced in professional publications or in classrooms? Third, should literary theory matter?

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