Saturday, 30 November 2013

Reading Narrative Fiction, Identity and the Humane Society

On our Room To Write Sister Blog I have  posted a report  (Erasing the Chasm Between the Bench and the Dock:  An Experience in Boston, USAon the visit made by Avril and me to Boston to explore the Changing Lives Through Literature project masterminded by Professor Bob Waxler.  

Now, the presiding genius of that project -  Professor Bob Waxler of the University of Massachusetts - brings us his new book which goes even further in helping us in the wider society to understand the significance  of reading in our present day reductive, impersonalised  culture,
Waxler 100w
Robert P Waxler of
 University of Massachuset

Bob's new book The Risk of Reading (Great title!) defends  the idea that deep and close readings of literature can help us  understand ourselves and the world around us. It explores some of the meaning and implications of modern life through the deep reading of significant books.

He  argues that we need "fiction" to give our so-called "real life" meaning and that reading narrative fiction remains crucial to the making of a humane and democratic society.

Beginning by exploring the implications of thinking about the importance of story in terms of "real life", The Risk of Reading focuses on the importance of human language, especially language shaped into narrative, and how that language is central to the human quest for identity.

Bob argues that we are "linguistic beings," and that reading literary narrative is a significant way to enrich and preserve the traditional sense of human identity and knowledge. This is especially true in the midst of a culture which too often celebrates visual images, spectacle, electronic devices, and celebrity.

Reading narrative fiction, in other words, should be considered a counter-cultural activity crucial on the quest to "know thyself." 

Bob Waxler asserts that reading literature is one of the best opportunities we have today to maintain a coherent human identity and remain self-reflective individuals in a world that seems particularly chaotic and confusing. 

This book promises to be a great contribution to the debate on the role of narrative fiction in modern society.

Very highly recommended.


  1. sounds interesting and worthwhile--i'd like to read this book.

    1. I hope you do - and many more people are inspired.



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