The Book Thief

By Alice Hutchins

As you click on the usual GSAN blog and sit down to read it, you realize that something is out of the ordinary. This is a page full of words that don’t fit your Great Expectations, of an academic piece on an academic page. You might be in a Room that is filled with sunlight, illuminating the faint hair on your eyebrows as you frown at the writing you read, or on a bus somewhere occupying the time. You might be Looking Forward to your weekend, or just taking a moment for yourself, but wherever you are, you stop for a moment to look at these words that fall across the page like Charlottes webs. You have already realized that this is not a ‘usual’ GSAN blog after all. Your eyes scour over the words, combing through them with joint precision and curiosity, until they reach the quote –  

‘ I think literature (and other arts) shape how we see the world and how we imagine ourselves in relation to it. Literature (etc) can give us new ways of imagining how the world might be formed’ 

-by Clare Connors. You start to understand the change that has taken place, and why this blog is different. You are both at War and Peace with yourself, jarred by the form of this strange piece, but intrigued by it all the same. It’s not quite lyrical, like the Fairytales most associated with creative writing, it has none of the eloquence that talks to your Heart of Darkness, or the part of you that yearns for adventure. But it is a companion to your thoughts, suggesting a Brave New World where Writing can be used to transport knowledge and explore ideas, in the same way as math’s and science and politics. You ruminate on this, it is hard to compare such different subjects. Those are typically associated with Academics, whilst Writing is something artistic, something creative that sits in another category. But the more you read of this blog, the more you will discover the Pride and Prejudice of this train of thought, the distinction that doesn’t need to be enforced. For Creative writing can be academic too, it can have all the Impact of facts and figures, and provoke thought like an essay or a political debate. There is a set of boundaries between ‘academic subjects’ and ‘creative subjects’, a line that need to blur. For some of the scholars here at GSAN are academics in creative fields, like Karen Von Veh who states:

“Creative subjects are probably the only subjects that will be of value to us in the near future, if we consider the much-vaunted importance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will probably result in many of our current jobs being taken over by computers. It is imperative to nurture creative thinking and creativity in general as these are the things that cannot be done by a machine.  Moreover, the creative impulse is critically important for future development as it generates original thinking and problem solving.  These skills are what feed into all future endeavors, in every field, including science and technology.  Our creativity is what differentiates us from machines and is probably the most valuable aspect of our humanity in the light of current trends in digital technologies”. 

When you read her words, Things Fall Apart in your mind, and you start to see beyond the constraints of the labels we associate. You start to think of all of the ways that writing, and literature and art and music, all of the ‘creative subjects’ have impacted the world, as much as science and technology. Like the books in bold scattered across this writing. Each of these books have bought about a major change in the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. From instigating poor laws in the time of Oliver Twist, to warning us of the dystopian futures that might be possible in 1984, literature and other creative subjects have presented us with new ways of creating the better worlds we want to live in. Arts can create pivotal moments in our Pilgrims Progress towards equality, they can fight for our rights like politics, and teach us lessons like history. They bring about change, like the change in our thinking towards ‘academic’ vs ‘creative’ subjects, and why they are all as vital as each other. But it is not a change that happens over-night. We cannot create a Clean Break from our labels and associations. But as you come to the end of this blog, whether that’s getting off your bus ride, leaving the office or sitting up in bed, carry these thoughts in your pocket. Relax, get some sleep. You might have work to do tomorrow, and like you, The Sun Also Rises, but for now, the thoughts that have sprung from this blog will aid you in your dreams, and usher in another morning. 

‘Part of how we are ruining the world (borne in on us very acutely now with this unnaturally hot weather and the fires on the heath) is by thinking of everything as usable, and functional, and as useful in particular in terms of generating new capital. Literature itself – perhaps precisely because it makes nothing happen in a functional way – can help us imagine new ways of being in the world. There are also more functional defenses of it – studying it can make us more eloquent, better communicators, open up more vivid possibilities for how we use language. It can give us a sense of our cultural histories (plural) – of the stories by which we have lived in the past, and continue to do so.’ 

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