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The Use and Abuse of Literature

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eBook published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book

In this deep and engaging meditation on the usefulness and uselessness of reading in the digital age, Harvard English professor Marjorie Garber aims to reclaim “literature” from the periphery of our personal, educational, and professional lives and restore it to the center, as a radical way of thinking.
 
But what is literature anyway, how has it been understood over time, and what is its relevance for us today? Who gets to decide what the word means? Why has literature been on the defensive since Plato? Does it have any use at all, other than serving as bourgeois or aristocratic accoutrements attesting to one’s worldly sophistication and refinement of spirit? What are the boundaries that separate it from its “commercial” instance and from other more mundane kinds of writing? Is it, as most of us assume, good to read, much less study—and what would that mean?

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In this deep and engaging meditation on the usefulness and uselessness of reading in the digital age, Harvard English professor Marjorie Garber aims to reclaim “literature” from the periphery of our personal, educational, and professional lives and restore it to the center, as a radical way of thinking.
 
But what is literature anyway, how has it been understood over time, and what is its relevance for us today? Who gets to decide what the word means? Why has literature been on the defensive since Plato? Does it have any use at all, other than serving as bourgeois or aristocratic accoutrements attesting to one’s worldly sophistication and refinement of spirit? What are the boundaries that separate it from its “commercial” instance and from other more mundane kinds of writing? Is it, as most of us assume, good to read, much less study—and what would that mean?

Product Details
eBook (416 pages)
Published: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780307379627
Other books byMarjorie Garber
  • Academic Instincts

    Academic Instincts
    In this lively and provocative book, cultural critic Marjorie Garber, who has written on topics as different as Shakespeare, dogs, cross-dressing, and real estate, explores the pleasures and pitfalls of the academic life. Academic Instincts discusses three of the perennial issues that have surfaced in recent debates about the humanities: the relation between "amateurs" and "professionals," the relation between one academic discipline and another, and the relation between "jargon" and "plain language." Rather than merely taking sides, the book explores the ways in which such debates are essential to intellectual life. Garber argues that the very things deplored or defended in discussions of the humanities cannot be either eliminated or endorsed because the discussion itself is what gives humanistic thought its vitality. Written in spirited and vivid prose, and full of telling detail drawn both from the history of scholarship and from the daily press, Academic Instincts is a book by a well-known Shakespeare scholar and prize-winning teacher who offers analysis rather than polemic to explain why today's teachers and scholars are at once breaking new ground and treading familiar paths. It opens the door to an important nationwide and worldwide conversation about the reorganization of knowledge and the categories in and through which we teach the humanities. And it does so in a spirit both generous and optimistic about the present and the future of these disciplines.

    Shakespeare and Modern Culture

    Shakespeare and Modern Culture
    From one of the world's premier Shakespeare scholars comes a magisterial new study whose premise is "that Shakespeare makes modern culture and that modern culture makes Shakespeare."         Shakespeare has determined many of the ideas that we think of as "naturally" true: ideas about human character, individuality and selfhood, government, leadership, love and jealousy, men and women, youth and age. Marjorie Garber delves into ten plays to explore the interrelationships between Shakespeare and contemporary culture, from James Joyce's Ulysses to George W. Bush's reading list. From the persistence of difference in Othello to the matter of character in Hamlet to the untimeliness of youth in Romeo and Juliet, Garber discusses how these ideas have been re-imagined in modern fiction, theater, film, and the news, and in the literature of psychology, sociology, political theory, business, medicine, and law. Shakespeare and Modern Culture is a brilliant recasting of our own mental and emotional landscape as refracted through the prism of the protean Shakespeare.  

    Sex and Real Estate

    Sex and Real Estate
    Why We Love Houses
    Cultural historian Marjorie Garber offers incisive and witty commentary on what men and women today really want in her enlightening study of what may be the most meaningful relationship any of us will ever have. Real estate has become a form of “yuppie pornography.” Hopes of summer romance have given way to hopes of summer homes, and fantasies of Romeo have been replaced by fantasies of remodeling. Even real estate ads are flirtatious in their offers of bedrooms that are sensuous and sinks that are seductive. Thus the house you live in, like the partner you choose, can be everything from your beloved to your dream to a status symbol trophy. Marjorie Garber has fashioned a uniquely fascinating book that is as provocative as it is pleasurable, as erudite as it is entertaining, one sure to make readers consider more closely the rooms in which they live.

    Shakespeare After All

    Shakespeare After All
    A brilliant and companionable tour through all thirty-eight plays, Shakespeare After All is the perfect introduction to the bard by one of the country’s foremost authorities on his life and work. Drawing on her hugely popular lecture courses at Yale and Harvard over the past thirty years, Marjorie Garber offers passionate and revealing readings of the plays in chronological sequence, from The Two Gentlemen of Verona to The Two Noble Kinsmen. Supremely readable and engaging, and complete with a comprehensive introduction to Shakespeare’s life and times and an extensive bibliography, this magisterial work is an ever-replenishing fount of insight on the most celebrated writer of all time. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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