If You Haven’t Engaged with the Work, Your Opinion Is Worthless

In one of the greatest works of Western literature, personifications of fear and adventure argue over the dangers of the unknown. For pages, they argue back and forth, caught at a dramatic standstill, until at the book’s great turning point, the personification of adventure (here known as Sam-I-Am) counsels the personification of fear, “You do not like them, so you say. Try them, try them, and you may. Try them, and you may, I say.”

The book is, of course, Dr. Seuss’s classic Green Eggs and Ham. Its debate over the wisdom of trying something new has enchanted children and their parents for decades.

Green Eggs and Ham has been much on my mind of late because of two recent news stories.

First, there is the story about the student at Duke who has declined to complete the assigned summer reading that forms the core of the Duke Common Experience program because he feels the work’s depiction of sex is pornographic and immoral. He wishes to “avoid any titillating content and encourage like-minded students to do the same.”

Second, there is the recent blog post at the Guardian that dismisses the late Terry Pratchett as “a mediocrity” who produced “trash” for “a middlebrow cult of the popular [that] is holding literature to ransom.” The post was written by an arts columnist who smugly confesses to never having read a word that Pratchett produced.

I would like to know when it became an acceptable critical stance to condemn a work of art without ever having engaged with it.

Even the Supreme Court, when debating whether <a href="http://smile.amazon.com/Lovers…


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