Advanced Literature 4/16/2014

JG2Guest post from a MICA student, Jess Bither, who joined our class on April 16:

After everyone introduced themselves, Mikita passed out copies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Previously, they had been reading Macbeth. I was surprised to hear that they would be allowed to read such a bloody play. I took a step back to analyze my feelings of surprise. High school students are often required to read Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, so why shouldn’t these grown men be able to read texts that have death, suicide, and murder in them? I must have thought that the mere act of reading would rile them up and perhaps reawaken something…? I don’t think I actually believe that, but for a moment apparently I did. I am still trying to understand my initial reaction. Now, I am asking myself if this means I ultimately believe in the power of art and literature. I have never aligned myself with the camp of thinkers who suggest that consuming depictions of violence makes one more violent, so that is why I am taken aback by my own thoughts.
The more I consider it, the more I find myself thinking that texts that present violence and ethical questions seem especially appropriate in a prison setting where the inmates are told to think about what they did.
Yet thinking about it every hour of every day seems excessive (perverse even). Never thinking about it is frowned upon as well (at least from the POV of those on the outside). So how much is enough, and how much is taboo?

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