The role of literary works


Sir, – A big thank you to Niamh Mulvey for her thoughtful and timely argument against the reductive application of politico-didactic criteria to literary works (“Racists tried to ban To Kill a Mockingbird. How ironic that Ireland might now shun it”, Books, January 11th).

Her line about its being “the job of literature to resist the idea it has a job” is a brilliant riposte to the control-freak utilitarians who seem to be dominating the current “conversation” in publishing, academia and elsewhere.

The article brought to mind a comment once made by a certain political philosopher in defence of an ideologically nonconforming writer friend of his: “Poets are strange fellows. They are made that way, and one must let them follow their own bent. One cannot judge them by the standards that apply to ordinary or even outstanding people.” The philosopher’s name was Karl Marx. – Yours, etc,


Assistant Professor,


of Germanic Studies,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.