Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer

An article from “TIME Ideas” on how the deep reading of literature makes us more empathetic, intelligent human beings. Fascinating!

Ideas

Gregory Currie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, recently argued in the New York Times that we ought not to claim that literature improves us as people, because there is no “compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy” or other great books.

Actually, there is such evidence. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories…

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Art and Vocabulary – the ‘A-Z of Unusual Words’ Series

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James and Michael Fitzgerald – two graphic designers, apparently after my own heart – have made a poster series called the “A-Z of Unusual Words” series.  In it, they have selected unusual or rarely used vocabulary and made an abecedarium of corresponding posters.

The above poster is for the word “Scripturient” which means “possessing a violent desire to write.”  You can purchase their posters on their website, “The Project Twins.”  Other words included in their series are:

  • Tarantism – A disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to dance
  • Yonderly – Mentally or emotionally distant; absent-minded.
  • Biblioclasm – The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media.

and

  • Cacodemonomania -The pathological belief that one is inhabited by an evil spirit.

Cheers to having a diverse lexicon!