Should We Read or Teach Literature Now?
Miller’s chapter shows how much a comparison with Ghosh’s chapter 7 reveals about the authors’ situations as teachers of English literature in what were in such different ways once British colonies. Miller then asks, should we read or teach literature in these days of rapid climate change, of a state of apparently perpetual war on terror in the United States, of the almost universal acceptance of new digital media, often used as a way to promulgate lies, of the rapid appearance of Massive Online Open Courses, and of online universities, along with the transformation of many colleges and universities more or less into underfunded trade schools educating students for jobs in science or engineering? W. B. Yeats’s wonderful short lyric “The Cold Heaven” is an example of a literary work that might still be good to teach for two reasons. First, the pleasure it gives and the intellectual challenge understanding it poses are goods in themselves, ends in themselves. Second, reading and teaching literature might have a further use to educate people in how to identify and resist the lies that surround us these days in advertising, talk shows, and the new media generally.