Literature examines the declining influence of the literary arts in America particularly during the last half century and attempts to analyze the problem by calling attention to four particular threats which appear to be besieging them. They are: (1) the replacing of the authority of the imagination by the authority of the sciences; (2) the rise of certain literary and critical theories in recent decades which have seriously weakened the study of literature in both the schools and the colleges; (3) problems in producing fully literate high school graduates, largely as a result of faulty methods of teaching reading and doubtful philosophical principles which have seriously weakened the study of literature in the schools; and (4) the threat of the electronic age to the preservation of the printed page upon which literature depends for its very survival. All of these forces have served to trivialize literature and are on their way to destroying it as a major cultural force in modern America. This book also attempts to redeem literature, and to help restore literature as a major discipline, superior in importance to other disciplines, by offering a theory of literature which will demonstrate that literature is in fact, as Sir Philip Sidney insisted, "the highest form of earthly learning."
Arther Trace is Professor Emeritus of English at John Carroll University, Ohio.