Monday, March 17, 2014

"Exploring the Inner Life"

O’Reilly and Harriet and Irving Deer all seem to be suggesting similar things about the power of literature, albeit in very different ways. O’Reilly explores this theme in light of her students’ discussion in the classroom while Deer and Deer follow the progression of satire as a form of expression. O’Reilly believes it is the duty of teachers to encourage their students to “explore the inner life.” In other words, she believes it is the responsibility of the teachers to encourage students to discover themselves through literature. As literary characters become defined by their experiences, such as Billy’s experiences in Dresden, they start to form new world views based on what they have seen and experienced. O’Reilly believes we can apply this same process to our own lives and much like the characters do in novels, we can learn something about ourselves. The ways in which we interpret literature reveal a remarkable amount about our own world views and personal beliefs. O’Reilly is stating that the power of literature classes isn’t that they challenge students to analyze written word; it is that they also challenge them to analyze themselves.
     Deer and Deer also make a similar claim. They argue that the postmodern form of satire is that it rejects the previous dualistic form of modern satire. In essence, they are arguing that satire simultaneously speaks to readers as an audience and invites them to participate in the novel as an active character. As we read satire, we are subconsciously reading from two alternative points of view. We are silent observers and active participants. We connect to Billy Pilgrim because his unfiltered description of events creates a profound emotional connection with the reader as if the reader was there when it happened. However, there is also a disconnect in the sense that we cannot truly experience the same things as Billy Pilgrim for the simple fact that we are not Billy Pilgrim. We are defined by our own experiences and each person would respond to the firebombing of Dresden in a unique way. This does not make our responses any less significant, it simply stands testament to the fact that we are each individuals.

  Their suggestion that each person responds to traumas in their own unique way can be viewed as slightly alienating. We are completely alone in how we respond to certain events in our life. However, O’Reilly believes that there is much to be learned in this process and that can be revealed in class discussions. By opening ourselves up, and allowing our individualism to show we learn not only about ourselves but about those around us. The result is a profound sense of community in which each person is recognized for their own individual qualities. As O’Reilly argues, this type of community is fostered through open and welcoming class discussions. 

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