Wall Street Journal Publishes Dean Bakopoulos's Essay on Teaching Literature
— filed under: Creative Writing
"So, this semester, despite my university’s focus on science and technology, and despite some state lawmakers’ insistence that the liberal arts are a luxury we can no longer afford—this is what I plan to do: to use literature to help my students understand their experiences in a new way and to understand the experiences of others with more empathy." --Dean Bakopoulos, "How Reading Junot Diaz Can Help America Prosper"
A short essay by Dean Bakopoulos on the value of teaching literature to students in a science and technology university was published in the "Books" section of the Wall Street Journal on February 12, 2011. Bakopoulos reports on the lessons that he and his students glean from the study of complex works of short fiction that contain perplexing contradictions and what his students sometimes call "depressing" themes.
"This science major has no intention of ever writing fiction again once he’s done with my class. But there is a very good chance that he’ll be working for a Big Ag outfit some day, and that he’ll have a better understanding of the paralysis felt by struggling family farmers increasingly beholden to both federal subsidies and corporate agriculture. He’ll understand, at least at the heart level, that the actions of the wealthy and powerful often have irreversible consequences on hard-working Americans. Whatever challenges he faces, personally or on the behalf of his country, I hope he carries with him the ability to stare at a complex situation and emerge with an answer, a realization, and a vision as simple and true as the one he had in my classroom."
--Dean Bakopoulos, "How Reading Junot Diaz Can Help America Prosper"
Dean Bakopoulos is the former director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and a professor at Iowa State University of Science & Technology. He is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation and his second novel, My American Unhappiness, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June.