Silly you — you thought your Lit Professor was right about reading the classics! When all along being a classic may not have been the only thing to look for.
First, there was Marshall McLuhan’s breakthrough idea the-medium-is-the-message — the way you get your messages is a message in itself. His idea has moved from book to television to Kindle. For example, a classic like Dickens’ ‘Tale Of Two Cities’ is a powerfully different experience depending on which of these media you meet it.
Now comes another twist. A recent study by the New School For Social Research reports in USA Today that a crucial facet to the message has to also do with the form as well as the medium. Namely, the novel form. For them, the novel [fact or fiction] has enormous advantages for its readers in the way it helps them get in touch with the lives and motives of different psyches. As their findings state: “Reading novels on a regular basis heightens one’s emotional intelligence…”
These psychologists go on to suggest neither the subject matter nor even the quality of the novel is the key to emotional intelligence, but rather the novel form itself. They had their volunteers reading everything from Dickens to Chekhov, from Don DeLillo to Danielle Steele. They found that those who read literary works scored much higher in their ability to relate to and identify with different people’s feelings, values and needs.
“This is because literary formats force you as a reader to contribute your own interpretations,
and to reconstruct the minds of the characters. That in turn can make you better at empathizing with others, and navigating complex social situations in real life.”
Quick, where’s my library card…? Or more to the point, where’s my Kindle….?
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