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Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy

Abstract

The role of literature in democratic education has always been a subject of paramount importance to Maxine Greene. Sprinkled throughout her work are thoughtful accounts of the myriad ways that the reading of fiction can significantly contribute to an understanding of what it means to teach and learn. She has continually insisted that thoughtful engagements with poetry and prose can offer new perspectives from which to see, and thereby potentially remake, the world. Even while insisting that the embracing of complexity and possibility is central to such an aesthetic reading practice, she has never wavered in her deeply felt conviction that it can profitably enhance both the personal attempt to fashion meaning, and the related social experience of shared democratic life. In her first book, an edited collection of essays on existentialism that she selected for their potential value to teachers, Greene (1967) could not resist slipping in a line about one of her favorite authors at the time, Ralph Ellison. While discussing the potential dangers of reductive categories of thinking, she makes the point that “to identify an individual by means of a category (‘Negro,’ ‘disadvantaged,’ ‘upper class’) is to give a certain amount of information; but it makes the individual, qua individual, ‘invisible’—to use Ralph Ellison’s term” (p. 7). In all her books that followed, Greene would help deepen our understanding of how the reading of literature might help people become more visible to each other, and why as a pedagogical goal this is so vital to the maintenance and expansion of democracy.

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