3 Feb

The risk of stories

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 02/03/16

George Steiner on the necessity of vulnerable imaginations

“To starve a child of the spell of the story, of the canter of the poem, oral or written, is a kind of living burial. It is to immure him in emptiness. Mythology, the voyages through Scylla and Charybdis, down rabbit holes, the turbulent logic of the biblical, the ‘gardens of verse’, are the great summoners. A comic-book is better than nothing so long as there is in it the multiplying life of language. The child must be made accessible, vulnerable to the springs of being in the poetic. There are risks. His visitants can turn ugly or hypnotic. There are adult men and women whose sensibility has not outgrown, has not ironized into self-awareness, childhood charades of mythical heroism or fantasies of the despotic. The nursery tale, the pathos of stuffed and furry things, can translate damagingly into later needs. The shock of the revelatory fable, often misconstrued, can lame mature sexuality. But such risks must be run. If the child is left empty of texts, in the fullest sense of that term, he will suffer an early death of the heart and of the imagination.”

—George Steiner, Real Presences (University of Chicago Press, 1989)

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