In 2013, Lee Siegel wrote an article for The New Yorker about how useful literature can actually be for students to study. In this article, he discussed two closely related studies that measured the participant’s level of empathy after reading literary fiction and the results were reassuring to those that advocate for the teaching of fiction in schools: fiction heightens empathy levels of those that read literary fiction over those that read non-fiction. By proving this, Siegel says, the Common Core Standards that are now being advocated by schools throughout the country are challenged, showing that just reading non-fiction and things like bus/train schedules will not make the student a well-rounded individual.
I thought that this idea is extremely true and only confirms what I have been thinking for a long time: that fiction helps strengthen an individual’s mind. In my studies as an English major, I have not been subjected to reading copious amounts of non-fiction; most of my studies have involved reading fiction and then drawing my own conclusions from it, reading between the lines to get to the deeper meaning of the text. I think that with non-fiction, you lose that personal connection that fiction provides you with. It puts you at arm’s length, making you unable to interpret and connect to the piece of literature . . . and that’s sad :(.
Later on in the article Siegel becomes a sort of devil’s advocate, stating that empathy does not mean sympathy, but he eventually confirms that fiction does indeed enhance the imagination, becoming a tool for people to profit from it intellectually and emotionally. In my experience, fiction has definitely been a way for me to escape from the real world which some would say is not good or even dangerous. I disagree; I think that this type of outlet is important for students, especially those much younger than me, so that they are able to become creative individuals. That creativity can be applied in places such as the workplace, school, and life when making decisions or coming up with new ideas.
So what I say is this: go out and buy some literary fiction. Escape into a world that may not be real but in the end, teaches you valuable lessons. Not everything has to be numbers and charts; there is always room for a little imagination. Grab a book, or two, or three, and start reading . . . who knows what you will discover!
Until next time.
explore. muse. create.
Check out Siegel’s article here!
Siegel, Lee. “Should Literature Be Useful?” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 06 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. <http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/should-literature-be-useful>.