The Uses of Literature


This series of podcasts explores the ways in which reading and studying literature can have a widespread social value. Understanding how literary writers have represented issues such as ageing, world politics, or science can help us to construct better societies today.

How Literature Challenges Our Infatuation with Numbers, by Michael Mack

How has the recent economic crisis challenged our trust in data-driven disciplines such as economics and medicine? In dealing with the problems of our time, what is the value of less quantifiable ways of thinking, such as literature? In this conversation, Michael Mack highlights the ways in which literature can help us to come to terms with issues such as mental illness, encouraging us to recognise how it shapes our humanity beyond the ‘objective’ medical account. Mack discusses the work of writers such as Sylvia Plath, Jonathan Franzen, and Bernard Malamud, showing how these writers challenge our dangerous infatuation with numbers. Read more about this podcast here.

How Literature Changes the Way We Think About Ageing, by Michael Mack

Michael Mack, author of How Literature Changes the Way We Think, explains how literature can help us to respond to the changing demographic of an ageing society. Writers such as Charles Dickens or Philip Roth present positive images of the elderly, which compare with more naive celebration of youthfulness such as that seen in the TV series, Mad Men.

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