Friday, March 20, 2015

Literature as Self Help - The Life Lessons of Dante's Divine Comedy

Why do we teach literature? What's the point of studying history's "stories"? Most English teachers would acknowledge the focus of self discovery and character education in the novels we teach. In fact, the standard has long been to recognize literature as a "record of the human experience." We read to commiserate and learn and understand who we are on both an individual and global historical scale.

That's what makes Rod Dreher's recent piece for the Wall Street Journal so cool. Dreher, who is a columnist also known for his unique take on conservatism, offers a unique and surprising explanation of Dante's Divine Comedy as a classic of self help - "The Ultimate Self Help Book: Dante's Divine Comedy. It's not just a classic of world literature; it's the most astonishing self help book of all time." Dreher explains his own personal struggles and the coping mechanisms he picked up from Dante after browsing the classic in a bookstore.

Another great bit of self-help advice from antiquity comes in the form of non-fiction analysis of classic philosophy in pop culture form. Rebecca Goldstein imagines the wisdom of ancient Greece applied to the contemporary pop culture world in her recent book, Plato at the Googleplex. The value of classic philosophy in our modern lives is far more relevant than many might imagine. And Goldstein is that rare scholar who can frame the insight for the average contemporary reader.

1 comment:

MM Anderson said...

I have been an English teacher for 30 years. Taught everything from pre-school ESL to college business writing. I now host writing workshops and post free writing tips on my YouTube Channel. Please share with your audience if you think they would find the lessons helpful.
Best, Maria