The Enjoyment of Literature
by Elizabeth Drew (9781406702897)

The Enjoyment of Literature
 
Elizabeth Drew
Release Date: 01 March 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 236
Category: Literature & Literary Studies
ISBN: 9781406702897
ISBN-10: 1406702897



THE ENJOYMENT OF LITERATURE by ELIZABETH DREW. CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1935 For permission to use selections the author is indebted to the following William Heinemann Ltd. for passages from Edmund Gosses Father and Son. Macmillan Co., Ltd. for passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey by Lang, Leaf Myers and from Thomas Hardys The Dynasts. COPYRIGHTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BY W. W. NORTON 5c COMPANY, INC. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA With love to B. W. D. CONTENTS PREFACE ix THE LITERATURE OF GOSSIP 15 THE ESSAY 38 LYRIC POETRY 62 BIOGRAPHY 78 THE NOVEL 109 EPIC AND NARRATIVE POETRY 147 DRAMA 172 THE CRITIC AND THE WORLD TODAY . .210 INDEX 227 vii PREFACE THERE are all kinds of creative artists in the field of literature, but there is only one kind of critic of books who is of the least value, and that is the critic who makes us want to go and read the books he criticizes. The function of criticism is to send people to literature. And the aim of the teaching of literature is the same. The facts of literary history can be taught, but the only way in which the love of literature can be taught is by arousing the desire to read literature, and all the teacher can do towards that end is to describe and analyze his own enjoyment, to try to communicate his own sources of human and intellectual and artistic delight in books. The heart of that delight is the same for everyone, for the power and the glory of literature will always be that it enlarges and enriches life. That is its value to the most primitive as well as to the most accomplished reader it is its universal and comprehensive activity. The small child, spelling out Robinson Crusoe or Winnie the Pooh, andthe cultivated reader of Paradise Lost or War and Peace, are alike finding in books an extension and expansion of their actual living in the world of men. D. H. Lawrence says in one of his letters, If I were talking to the young, I should say only one thing to them . . . Try to find out what life is, and live. There is no better exhortation, but the life of even the freest and most active of us is strictly and sternly limited, and it is the chief of the enjoyments of literature that through it we can share in a range of experience which we can touch in no other way. It may be that these modes of living are utterly remote from any we know in our daily lives, and indeed the most widely read of all literature is of this kind. It has been labelled by the psychologists the literature of escape, and it is the result of the common human craving for something di ferent for a refuge from the dullness and drabness, the harshness and baseness and emotional poverty of much of the real world. In such literature the writer creates in the place of the real world, a world whose standards are free from the thwarting bounds of the actual, and the reader follows him there. He may escape with the author of The Arabian Nights or Treasure Island into the world of practical or romantic adventure with the poets of La Belle Dame Sans Merci or of The Lady of Shalott into the world of sensuous dream. Or, a lower literary level, he may follow the writers of a hundred best sellers into a world of comforting and comfortable wish-fulfillment, where the mighty fall and the lowly are lifted up where all the women crackle with sex appeal, and all the men manage to combine the attractions of the cave-dweller with thoseof the perfect English gentleman. The literature of escape will always flourish. We all live, as Dr. Johnson said, in a world bursting with sin and sorrow. Life is unintelligible and monotonous, human relationships are inevitably unsatisfactory, human experience is inevitably circumscribed, and every individual is the victim of what Walter de la Mare calls poor mortal longingness...

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