Orson Welles and Roger Hill on Scientific Appreciation of Literature

The plain fact is that for a generation in American graduate university circles (since the advent of the German idea of scholarship through specialization) it has been impossible for our teachers or prospective teachers to attain scholarly distinction on the basis of broad appreciative study of literature.

One hundred years ago Spencer opined hopefully and a little wistfully that some day Science was to reign supreme and was no longer to be the household drudge “kept in the background so that her haughty sisters (Literature and the Arts) might flaunt their fripperies in the eyes of the world.” How soon—how completely his dream has come true. Far from being the household drudge today, Science dominates the domicile …

The truth of it is that we in the field of English expression have been indoctrinated with the scientific approach theory so thoroughly that we are making dissecting-rooms of our English classes to the slight buildup of our own sense of importance but to the infinite detriment of our charges. We are tossing away their aesthetic birthright for a dubious and unsavory mess of analytical pottage.

In attempting to make our study of literature scientific and analytical we have merely made it dull. A Shakespearean play is no cadaver, useful for an autopsy. It is a living, vibrant entity that has the power of grasping us by the hand and leading us up onto a peak in Darien.

via The American Scholar: Orson Welles on Reading Shakespeare Aloud – Paula Marantz Cohen.

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