3. Why Study Literature?

Literary studies is suffering from a “crisis of confidence,” according to Harvard English professor Beth Blum, from both within and without. Compared to the concreteness of historical fact and scientific data, the humanities are all too often dismissed as offering no practical value, only art for its own sake. In this episode, we sit down with Professor Blum to push back against that argument. In her thought-provoking book The Self-Help Compulsion, Professor Blum untangles our insatiable craving for utilitarian reading like self-help, and argues that literature — even modernist novels as purely aesthetic as James Joyce’s Ulysses — may offer us just as much practical wisdom, if we only take the trouble to look for it. Presented by the Harvard Crimson. Hosted by Katelyn Li and Sanjana Narayanan. Produced by Amanda Su. Podcast art by Margot Shang.