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About the Author

Mark Edmundson is NEH/Daniels Family Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Virginia. A prizewinning scholar, he is the author of several book, including the widely praised memoir, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference.. He has written for the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Harper's, where he is a contributing editor.


Edmundson (English, Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville) calls for a new humanist education that stresses the importance of literary reading and teaching in making a life and ethical decisions. Expanding on his essay "On the Uses of the Liberal Arts" (Harper's), he discusses the interpretation of literature as a process of understanding, identification, impersonation, and spiritual truth, which leads to the reader's developing a final narrative or life vision. Using this framework, Edmundson describes his own method of teaching Henry James, Shakespeare, Homer, Dickens, and Wordsworth and also considers the critical writings of Emerson, Orwell, Frye, de Man, and Matthew Arnold, among others. He criticizes America's consumer society and university culture, seeing the proper study of literature as a way to make the society more open, fulfilling, and democratic. Engaging and controversial, this book will lead to discussion and debate. Recommended for education and literature collections.-Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

""Why Read? "makes passionate arguments for literature's soul-making potential."

""Why Read?" is an encomium to literature and reading, a passionate argument...Edmundson is dead on target."

"Thoughtful...striking...Edmundson lobbies for demonstrating literature's importance by teaching it through asking big, risk-taking philosophical questions."

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