My house is quiet right now, actually quiet, with a sleeping husband and baby, and two lazy dogs who, luckily, do most of their barking during daylight hours. The house is quiet, and I’m still awake… with nothing to do. If it seems like I’m pinching myself right now, it’s because I am: ‘quiet,’ ‘awake,’ and ‘with nothing to do’ rarely overlap anymore.
I’m also pinching myself reading “Visiones: perspectivas literarias de la realidad social hispana,” a literary anthology of Latin Amercan texts, all in their original Spanish, meant to breach the gap between traditional literary study and language for the professions courses.
What’s novel about the anthology is not the editors’ proposal that students can gain insights into political, social, and economic themes through literature–outside of strict formalism, the study of literature has always allowed its subject to act as a window to other cultures and perspectives. Martha Nussbaum even suggests that literature cultivates empathy and instills in its reader the ‘moral imagination’ needed to act ethically within society.
What’s exciting about “Visiones” is its implication that literature can enhance–and even provide a cornerstone for–language for the professions courses, which are sometimes considered more instrumental than conceptual in scope. Chapter themes like ‘Burocracy and Economic Corruption’ and ‘Attitudes Towards Foreign Investment’ are of real business concern and could just as easily appear in international business guides intended to equip the interested professional with brief insights into the region, best practices, and avoidable pitfalls. However, instead of providing the reader with readymade conclusions, the anthology’s curated literary sources encourage students to recognize and think critically about each topic, and ultimately discover trends common to the Hispanic world for themselves. If that’s not viewing language through a professional lens, I don’t know what is.
What may actually be pinch-worthy about the anthology is what it suggests implicitly: the study of literature could itself be good for business. Again, Nussbaum lends her thoughts to the topic when she writes, “the humanities supply essential ingredients for a healthy business culture.”
At its most practical level, the study of literature hones students’ tolerance for ambiguity, begs them to think critically, and teaches them that what goes unwritten may be just as important, if not more so, than the words before them.
What future businessperson wouldn’t want all of this, in addition to whatever cultural, political, or socioeconomic conclusions literature may also ask them to draw?
And what person couldn’t benefit, now and then, from some time spent quiet, awake, and with nothing to do?