Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The moment of reading

From the Washington Post:

“Not far from the walls of Enna, there is a deep pool,” begins Ovid’s version of the rape of Persephone. “While [Persephone] was playing in this glade, and gathering violets or radiant lilies, while with girlish fondness she filled the folds of her gown, and her basket, trying to outdo her companions in her picking, [Pluto], almost in a moment, saw her, prized her, took her: so swift as this, is love.” [Metamorphoses 5]
The Greek myth has been recounted for thousands of years in hundreds of languages, scores of countries and countless works of art. It’s considered a cultural touchstone for Western civilization: a parable about power, lust and grief. 
Now, however, it could be getting a treatment it’s never had before: a trigger warning. 
In an op-ed in the student newspaper, four Columbia University undergrads have called on the school to implement trigger warnings — alerts about potentially distressing material — even for classics like Greek mythology or Roman poetry.  More...

Regardless of cultural shifts and chance mutations of public sensibility, it remains necessary to read the text with attention, thought, and contextual awareness. Without this moment, the joys and discomforts of any work of literature might be matters of pleasure or pain, but do they offer human or historical truth or ethical imperatives? Without a reading, can there be "a treatment"?