Thought for the day: Literature

Here literature’s weakness – that, unlike philosophy, it is unsystematic – becomes its great strength. It draws on all our ways of knowing at once: not just the analysis of the outer world, but introspection and intuition as well. We can understand what is going on in the hearts of others because we know what stirs our own hearts, and what could stir them. When a writer imagines his characters’ inner drama, his description rings true to us because we have felt similar impulses or imagined analogous situations, and , further, can identify sympathetically with something beyond our ken. We grasp intuitively the complex internal mix: the simultaneous interplay of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and hopes, of conscious and subliminal impulses – as pity combines with social anxiety, say, or eros or vanity or sudden insight to impel a character to behave as he behaves. Literature is the great school of motivation: it teaches us how, out of the complex welter of impulses churning within us, we make the choices that define us and seal our fate.

— Myron Magnet, from the preface to the ISI edition of Dickens and the Social Order

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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