Reading for Peace: A Possible New Direction in the Humanities

By Ann Murphy.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This essay accepts the claim made by Terry Eagleton, among others, that contemporary literary theory has too often inadvertently constituted a “flight” from the “rich variousness” of human realities. It further assumes that the sometimes “barren conceptual enquiry” of literary theory has contributed, along with many other forces, to the decline of the humanities as a field of study that attracts, challenges, and sustains students. One response, the essay argues, is to read literature from times of war and conflict in less theoretical, though no less scholarly, ways, seeking in its characters and settings, structure and imagery, insights into ways to make peace. This is a different focus than the more traditional one in Peace Studies, of reading such literature to illustrate the horrors of violence and war, and one that offers a bridge between the “seemingly endless range” of literary theories and that vital “engagement with the living situations of men and women” that the humanities have traditionally provided.

Keywords: Peacemaking, Literature, Iliad, Mrs. Dalloway, Beloved

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp.13-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 747.140KB).

Dr. Ann Murphy

Professor, Department of English, Assumption College, Worcester, MA, USA

Ann Murphy is Professor of English at Assumption College. Her academic interests include the 19th century British novel, feminist history, Virginia Woolf, literature by American women of color, post-colonial women writers, peace studies, and the literature of war and peace. She is the co-editor, with Deirdre Raftery, of a collection of letters from Emily Davies, 19th century British feminist. She is working on a book exploring images of peacemaking and nonviolence in literature from times of war.

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