La literatura es más que una vía al conocimiento de uno mismo

orwell

Como una especie de réplica al ensayo publicado por Jonathan Bate en New Statesman –en el que proponía que la lectura de ciertos libros como los clásicos generan una profunda conversación que nos ayudan a ser reflexivos y sentirnos seres humanos; crean una ruta hacia el autoconocimiento. Por lo mismo, la literatura es y debe ser un arte accesible para los lectores que no necesita de explicaciones— el profesor Lyndsey Stonebridge dice no estar seguro que los estudiantes de literatura estén decepcionados debido a que los estudios literarios se hayan vuelto especializados y con ello se les niegue el placer de la lectura; admite que Bate tiene razón en que necesitamos volver a conversar con los libros, sin embargo, se pregunta: ¿qué tipo de conversaciones deberíamos entablar con ellos? Como Orwell entendió, las conversaciones literarias que tenemos con los libros acerca de nuestra humanidad son también conversaciones políticas en torno a qué valoramos acerca de la democracia y cómo pensar y escribir para protegerlas.

Quizá no requerimos que alguien nos enseñe lo que la mayoría de nosotros ya sabemos: que los libros contribuyen a entender el proceso de ser humanos, pero sí que haya personas dedicadas a promover la relevancia pública y política de ese entendimiento. Quiénes somos pero también en qué tipo de sociedad queremos vivir.

Aquí les dejo un fragmento del texto (How books help us to be better political citizens):

As discussion of the refugee crisis gets ever more bitter and our screens fill with images of boats packed with refugees, devastated parents clasping their children, tear gas shooting into crowds over barbed wire, those who remember George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four well might be reminded of an early scene that is frighteningly reminiscent of what we are seeing today. When Winston Smith makes his first, defiant, diary entry he describes watching a propaganda film of the bombing of a boat of refugees in the Mediterranean. The bombs fall, a man drowns. A woman clutches her child to her breast. Another bomb. A child’s arm points up helplessly above the waves. The audience applauds. Writing the scene begins the process of dissent. Winston’s words fall out on the page in an inarticulate rush, and Orwell depicts a thought-crime in the making.

In a New Statesman review last week Jonathan Bate suggested that the humanism of the humanities has been rendered so opaque by university English departments that we now need a Professor of the Public Understanding of the Humanities to explain the value of literary study to us. If we’re not persuaded that we need help to understand our humanity, he suggested, we can instead read some very well written books about the pleasures of reading by some of the last men capable of claiming themselves the heirs of Montaigne (Bate was reviewing Alberto Manguel, Michael Hoffman, James Wood and Clive James).

I’ve been thinking about Bate’s remarks while re-reading Orwell, and wondering whether the inability to grasp that refugees drowning in the Mediterranean are also human beings might be connected to the much commented upon demise of the humanities both here and, more dramatically in the US. I think there is a connection. Bate suggests that writing opens up a conversation about how to be “thoughtful, feeling human beings”. This is why literature is a pre-eminently accessible art and why something has gone badly wrong if it now needs explaining to us. I would push that idea of accessibility much further. For Bate, the problem is that literary study has become so specialised, so benumbed by theory-speak, it has disappeared up its own rat hole. The non-specialist public is baffled, and students disappointed. I am not sure that English literature students are disappointed because they’re denied the pleasures of self-discovery, or that the problem is theory whose moment, in any case, has long passed. This generation have been politicised by current events in a way its teachers were not, and maybe books by erudite and articulate men writing about other erudite and articulate but dead men may no longer connect with them very profoundly. Bate is right that we need to begin to have a conversation with books again, but what sorts of conversations should we be having?

About Irad Nieto

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This entry was posted in Debates, Ensayo, Lectura, Libros, Revistas culturales. Bookmark the permalink.

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