Over the course of the last week or so, I have been developing a syllabus around the question “what is literature for?” Oddly enough, this would have been an easy enough endeavor for me—I wrote my undergraduate thesis on essentially the same question—except that I wasn’t simply designing a theory course. Instead, the syllabus is designed as an introductory literature course for community college.
How can I take up a debate that has gone on since Plato first threw the poets out of his imagined republic (with the notable exception of Homer) first, in the short length of a semester-long course, and second, with students who might not care or who have many other concerns like work and family filling their thoughts? In other words, how can I show that the study of literature can be personally impactful and socially relevant? [...]