The value of good books and films to human souls and societies
I want to versify the following words, set them to music, and print them in hymnals to be sung in churches. Either that, or have them accompany the national anthem at school assemblies and baseball games.
[W]here does one go, exactly, to cultivate “the capacity of imagination” and “the exercise of imagination”? Where, in other words, do we imaginatively step into the shoes of others?
Here are some possible answers:
- You go to the movies
- You watch a sitcom on television
- You go to a play
- You read a novel, a short story, or a poem
- You take a literature course
In other words, the narrative imagination supports the democratic and moral imagination. And so, if you’re a film or literature student, or a teacher of film or literature, you’re playing a crucial role in our society, for you’re making spaces for the human empathic imagination to live (both in yourself and, via dialogue, in others). Likewise, if you work on quality drama in Hollywood—or write poems, literature, or plays—you also may be invigorating democratic and moral impulses in your audiences.
This counters the prejudice that practicing the creative arts, reading literature, and watching films (or studying these subjects) are somehow, in a pinch, disposable to society and education. To the contrary, a good society—a society worth living in—foregrounds their value.
— Santi Tafarella, “Why Read Literature or Watch Good Films? Martha Nussbaum on the Role of the Imagination in the Cultivation of Empathy,” Prometheus Rising, July 23, 2010