The Field of Imagination: Thomas Jefferson on Fiction

3 thoughts on “The Field of Imagination: Thomas Jefferson on Fiction”

  1. What an interesting post! I had no idea Jefferson gave book recommendations. (Though I took a look, and you are right; most of them are beyond obscure. I have heard of the Iliad and Odyssey, though, and read one of Jonathan Swift’s books, so I’m not entirely behind Jefferson. :))
    I think Jefferson is quite right about fiction as a moral tool. I know if I read about a character doing something good, I think, “My, how inspiring,” and vice versa if I read about evil acts. Basically, Jefferson hits the nail on the head. Great post!

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    1. There are certainly some recognizable names in there (Homer, Milton, Swift, Shakespeare, etc.) to assure us that we do in fact dwell in the same literary universe. It amazes me that so many influential works have since been buried in the sands of time. Of course, we also have much literature today that wasn’t created in Jefferson’s time, but we would do well to remember the influences of our influences.

      Isn’t it fascinating how fiction stirs us? I think it’s impossible to put forth a compelling case that we aren’t impacted by what we read, when humanity is so universally attracted to stories (and when science indicates its neurochemical effects on the brain). Even tyrants throughout history recognized its influence and sought to manipulate with it, whether by omission or commision.

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