We offer to our readers the Introduction to the book just published,
Federica Bergamino (ed). Alice dietro lo specchio. Letteratura e conoscenza della realtà.
Edizioni Sabinae, Roma 2013)

At the end of theGreat Books course, a student highlighted what
she had learnt by concluding that there is a significant resemblance
amongst the most prestigious authors in literature.

She wrote: “Great Books fosters charity because it draws the
readers towards others in a way they we can understand and help other
people. It is a tool which integrates several ways of understanding the
world but does not put our ideas before others. Great Books is a
synonym of an alliance of civilisation because it helps communication
between cultures”. Such synthesis of a novel reading course seems to me an
eloquent confirmation of what Martha Nussbaum states “I defend the literary
imagination because it is an essential component of an ethic position which
asks us to preoccupy ourselves about the good of the others whose lives are
so different to ours”.

When we face the subject of literature we might not think about its
relationship with reality or of the cognitive value, or even its
educational value. However, I believe that one of the most remarkable
results one has when one reads a good story is the very development of a
thought and of a pro-social, empathic and comprehensive attitude. Such
allows us to know a personal world in a way that it helps us to live a
fully human life.

A literary work, is in actual fact, essentially about human experience and
as, in philosophy and science, helps man to live. But the way in which it
helps has an exclusive specificity and that is by putting the reader in
touch with a concrete and singular viewpoint of personal lives. I would
like to briefly mention two essential aspects here as the others will be
subject to discussion in the book.

From one point of view, the narrative revolves round characters belonging
to historical eras, to a variety of cultural traditions, and by letting the
reader from the inside: motivations, intentions, fears, doubts, and
resolutions. Such knowledge among other things allows the reader to
understand the behaviour of the characters and sometimes our own. In this
way, novels do not just supply a new form of knowledge but also a new way
of communicating from those who are different to us. Such regards moral
aspects rather that scientific ones. “The last horizon of such experience –
states Todorov- more than the truth is love, the supreme form of a human
relationship”. This is in synthesis what the student understood perfectly.

From the other point of view, quite unlike scientific and philosophic
knowledge, the narrative work do not impose judgments to the
readers, and leave them free to accept ideas or not. In actual fact, the
argumentative structure of science and philosophy works in a way that once
a few premises are accepted one can deduce the evidence of the conclusions.
Literature, conversely proposes a story which invites the reader to
reflect. “Describing an object, an event, a character, the writer does not
formulate a thesis moreover, he stimulates the reader to do so: proposing
or not, leaving the reader free and at the same time inviting to
participate more”. The reader here does not find himself facing abstract or
apodictic truths, but a possible life; he is free to compare it with his,
to accept or not that thought, that motivation or that behaviour. It is
like Alice behind the mirror: she is not forced to look inside nor
enter; yet she looks and enters.

In my opinion, these two aspects permit the reading of novels and promote
communication among people, cultures and alliances between civilisations.
It is by looking through these people, by loving them and encouraging their
freedom that this is possible. Literature is extremely effective because it
helps us to familiarise ourselves with the human world. It permits us to
have a better knowledge of mankind and helps us to engage with these
people. It is also a way which each and every one of us would like to be
treated: where there is genuine attention for one’s own inwardness and a
sacred respect for concrete personal freedom. Literature may help us to be
familiar with the world of a person in exactly the way they would like to
be treated. In this way a book comes to life, in short, it is the sap which
animates it. The knowledge that literature is one of the most sublime forms
can only but help to make the world civilised. Writing and reading
literature is therefore an act of homage to the human being; an expression
of trust which divulges the truth about man which is precisely love.

In this humus, the book proposes a collection of essays some of
which have already been published in other languages with different
disciplinary perspectives which aim to stand out the role of literature in
human life. It is subdivided in three parts: the first being The power of narration, which analyzes the subject of literary
fiction in an almost dialectic approach with reality; the second, Literature and personal reality, aims to highlight the strict
relationship between literature and existential reality of the human being,
the third Literature and Identity offers reflections on the
communication and formation through literature.

The reader can discover how it is possible that literary fiction is
absolutely indispensable for human knowledge and for philosophy too (Llano)
and maybe surprised to see the presence of literature where one would only
expect to find factual truth (García Noblejas) and see how they can give
“false facts” and “real fiction” (Presilla). Not only this the reader will
comprehend that certain realities of our lives are accessible only through
a narration (Bergamino) and that Christianity can have an influence on the
relationship between everyday life and literature (Wauck). We hope that the
reader will also find answers to the disorientation and bitterness that
sometimes we perceive at the end of some novels (Malo) and that the reader
will discover a powerful ally in literature to elaborate an adequate
formation regarding human needs (González Gaitano).


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