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“The great books are those that tradition, and various institutions and authorities, have regarded as constituting or best expressing the foundations of Western culture…derivatively the term also refers to a curriculum or method of education based around a list of such books.

Mortimer Adler lists three criteria for including a book on the list:

the book has contemporary significance; that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times;

the book is inexhaustible; it can be read again and again with benefit;

the book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.” [Wikipedia]

TODAY:  In Defense of a Liberal Education (2015) by Fareed Zakaria is a “great book.”

YESTERDAY:  The Idea of A University (1854) by John Henry Newman is a “great book.”

Here are some other “Great Books”:

Classical/Old Fashioned, but not-outdated sources for reading/reading skills:

Art and Reality— Joyce Cary (1957)

The Dynamics of Literary Response--Norman N. Holland (1968)

Great Books–David Denby (1996)

How to Read a Book–Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren (1940; 1972)

Literature as Exploration–Louise M. Rosenblatt (1937; 1968)

On Moral Fiction–John Gardner (1978)

Perspectives in Contemporary Criticism–Sheldon Norman Grebstein (1968)

Principles of Literary Criticism–Lacelles Abercrombie (1932; 1960)

Understanding Fiction–Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren (1943; 1959)

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from Art and Reality by Joyce Cary (1958; 1961)

Sympathy is essential to the reader and writer. By sympathy the reader can obtain from the created world of art a knowledge of truth, of the real world, with exactly the same sense of illumination as if he had discovered it by force of intuition. So the reader’s process of creative discovery follows the same course as the writer’s.

The reader is often aware of learning more about the world from a book than he gets from actual experience,

not only because in the book he is prepared to find significance in events that mean nothing in life, but because those events in the book are related to each other in a coherent valuation which sets them in ordered relation of importance, and this can reveal to him in what had seemed the mere confusion of his daily affairs new orders of meaning … created by the author … with truth in context … showing motive and morality.

In summary:

PRIMITIVE RESPONSE [innate feelings] + EDUCATION [conceptual/symbolic]

AND

INTUITION [the recognition of the objective real: seeing what’s there]

PLUS REFLECTION, then EXPRESSION: ART

Once more: Art is the MEANS by which we can express ourselves in forms of meaning and communicate these meanings to others. It is the only means by which we can convey both FACTS and FEELINGS about the fact.

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from Art and Reality by Joyce Cary (1958; 1961)

What happens in reading?

The reader is receptive only in a special sense. What a reader has in front of him is simply a collection of marks on paper, inert and meaningless in themselves. They are incapable on their own account of giving him anything. Reading is a creative art…. The meaning received is created by the imagination from the symbols, and that imagination must first be educated . . . in the use and meaning of a symbolic system….

Without education, it is not possible for a man even to appreciate any art. For education does not give only knowledge but taste; it qualifies the feelings as well as the judgment. It creates the sensibility, which is a compound of feeling and judgment.

We judge the value of the work finally by its revelation of a moral real. The power and quality of the artist’s craft is in the force and authority of his revelation. His subconscious is creating or reconstructing from the symbols before him the whole emotional content of the work; his reflective judgment is all the time recording flaws of expression, failures of emphasis, loose joints and weak transitions . . . some part . . . ready to notice an error of fact, even when the error does not destroy the continuity of the emotional experience.

The mind, in short, by education, has acquired a complex formal character which has all the spontaneity of primitive emotional make-up. The feelings are charged with ideas and the ideas with feeling, and reflection can proceed without conscious thought.

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from Art and Reality by Joyce Cary (1958; 1961)

ART is the MEANS

by which we can express ourselves in forms of meaning and communicate these meanings to others.  It is the only means by which we can convey both FACTS and FEELINGS about the fact.

Truth in art can be checked with an objective reality, by correspondence with the real. All the scenes, all the events, and all the characters must contribute to the total effect, the total meaning of the work. The reader must not be confused by side issues.

Men live so entirely by feeling that reason has extremely small power over even our most intelligent geniuses.

The most important part of man’s existence, that part where he most truly lives and is aware of living, lies entirely within the domain of personal feeling.

Reason has very little power in conflict with any strong emotion, any powerful symbol [like a flag, the mere name of a country . . . or words like “freedom”].

 

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