In his book An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis writes, “We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. . . . We demand windows. Literature as logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is ‘I have got out.’”
While I agree with Lewis wholeheartedly about literature’s ability to allow us to see with “other eyes,” I am afraid that we now live in a world that doesn’t want to see with other eyes. I have no evidence from sociological studies to back up that claim, but I think that anybody who takes an honest look at the world (at least in the West) will agree: we no longer want the windows or doors that Lewis describes; what we want is a mirror. We want to look out and see our own thoughts, beliefs, and identities reflected back at us.
Don’t believe me? Pay attention to political discourse. Listen to people talk about anything important to society. What you’ll see and hear is mostly a lot of people who are completely incapable of comprehending the thoughts and opinions of others. If anybody dares to disagree with us, we label them as bigoted, stupid, ignorant, reactionary, radical, backwards. (more…)