The Dangers of Literature

I found the image by Gustave Doré that we looked at in class today to be very interesting. It shows Don Quixote going mad from reading his books. This is representative of a common idea in the Middle Ages, that literature was potentially dangerous. Doré’s engraving depicts Quixote reading a novel and the novel coming to life all around him. The characters from the book, however, include knights, fighting, and monsters. His surroundings seem to be corrupting his mind.

I like the comparison of the dangers of literature to the dangers of video games today. It is commonly agreed upon that books are not very corruptive in nature (although some might argue that certain genres are not suitable for specific audiences). When it comes to video games, however, even the most innocent games, such as Tetris, are considered to be a waste of time, turning brains to mush.

What causes people to label books or games as corrupt? Does genre make a difference? Why do we not think books are dangerous today?

2 Replies to “The Dangers of Literature”

  1. Hi Beatrice,

    You pose some really interesting questions in your post! I think that, to a certain extent, we associate physicality with the most amount of danger. So, because video games present visuals that a user can see and that can occupy his or her mind later, they create this lasting effect on the reader quicker and easier than books do. When one reads a book, one has to create the images oneself, but when these images are provided by the medium, one hardly has to do any creative work. In this way, video games are far more dangerous than books because they similarly cause the reader to be consumed and ideologically influenced by an imaginary world while letting their brains do even less work than books do to get there.

  2. Beatrice,

    I really appreciated the topic you explored and the questions you posed. This post made me think for a long time about evolution of societal views towards literature. Still, I think it is difficult to draw comparisons between society’s criticism of literature and video games. Yet perhaps my perspective is informed by a bias towards books. There is a legitimate argument to be made that too much digital exposure can be detrimental to the brain. I think in the movement from print to technology there’s a contradiction in the problem of permanence (which Julia referred to in her comment, too). While it would seem that the digital would be more ephemeral than print, technology with its bright visuals and consumer-aimed designs, has a way of seizing the mind. Books leave space for imagination and inference, which, in the past was indeed viewed as dangerous. It might permit people to venture beyond prescribed customs and modes of thinking. Today, with things like video games, the preformed worlds and ideas that are visually imposted upon players can in turn influence their actions in the real world. This is particularly the case with violent video games. The same could probably not be said for books with bits of violence. Technology holds its sway over society as a useful and fascinating, but potentially insidious force. Books remain enlightening yet harmless.

Leave a Reply