Have you heard the news?

illustration by Paul SahreThis week’s edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review highlights Changing Lives Through Literature. To read Harvard English professor Leah Price’s essay “Read a Book, Get Out of Jail,” pick up a copy from your local news stand or click here to read the entire piece online.



Want to hear our thoughts on the article? Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post!


4 thoughts on “Have you heard the news?

  1. Although Price’s piece seems to keep shifting ground, so it’s hard to see where she’s going to land, she has some good points, and I am sure the article will go some distance to stir increasing interest in the CLTL program. Auden was wrong when he said literature makes nothing happen. Literature can make a difference–and CLTL is a great example of that.

  2. The article has its merits, but its slant seems to have simplified the richness of the CLTL experience, I think. To suggest that the choice is jail or a book club, or that CLTL is another rehab program, or that we are running a version of Sunday school is to reduce CLTL to the simple terms of journalism without regard for the complexity of the truth. I also wish that Leah Price had given some attention to Jean Trounstine, a central figure in the program. On the other hand, all publicity is good publicity, I am told, and I hope that people will be inspired by the power of literature to change lives when they realize how, through CLTL, thousands of men and women have been touched by reading good books and discussing those books around the table. Literature can move us, it can help build community, and it can help keep us human. I have seen it happen. Price seems to have missed that dimension in her article.

  3. It was interesting to read Leah Price’s Ivy League perspective on Changing Lives through Literature. Ms. Price reveals both the wisdom and the value of the program. She is correct in seeing that both judge and convict find revelations in the books assigned. Good for her for discovering the dynamics of a CLTL class. Next we need to find out what she takes back to her Harvard classroom from her experience.

  4. I agree with Bob Waxler’s response to Price’s article in that “any publicity is good publicity.” I also agree with Ellen (from one of the response postings) that “Price’s piece seems to keep shifting ground, so it’s hard to see where she’s going to land.” I think that Price may have started down the road to denigrate the CLTL program as a whole and then decided she couldn’t really do that.

    Why would Price be “off-base” if she tried to completely disparage the CLTL program? My personal response to this is that I trust in the power of reading and discussing good literature. Earlier in my career, when I was teaching high school English, students would regularly ask, “Why are we reading this?” This question is a microcosm of the larger question of why we do read literature. I see reading, studying, and discussing literature as ways to explore “unlived” realities and to understand some of the complexities of social interaction. Certainly, we can live lives that are rich in terms of experience, but we cannot possibly experience all. I am suggesting that literature can enlarge one person’s experiences by making others’ experiences visible. I believe that a person who “sees” another’s plight, experiencing it through reading and discussion, does have the possibility for leading a richer and fuller life. And, my bias is that a life which is richer with experiences is a better life. Part of the power of literature involves vicariously experiencing and seeing others’ lives; this allows a view of the psychological complexity of human beings.

    This begs the question: “To what extent could anyone be demonized (Bob Waxler or anybody else) for getting people to read literature and discuss it together?” That creation of community, with the text at the center, and then the reader at the center, is a generative way to create community with others. And this creation of community feeds some of our cognitive and affective needs as human beings.

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