In an age that prizes short bursts of electronic information, Harvard English professor Marjorie Garber asks whether literature still matters. As might be expected of someone who has spent her career teaching Shakespeare to undergraduates, she answers with a resounding "yes."
Garber sets the stage for her examination of literature by citing a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that less than half the adults responding to the 2002 U.S. Census had read any novels, short stories, poetry or plays in their free time.
To her credit, she doesn't take this as a sign of the collapse of Western civilization; on the contrary, she acknowledges that someone who might not know the line "Do I dare to eat a peach?" from T.S. Eliot's great poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" may very well be fluent in the visual language of videos, film, television, advertising and rock music.