History and Culture Musings

Some interesting thoughts on what it means to be “well-read” – by Morgan Jerkins of Book Riot

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Here is an excerpt from a short article, Is Our Concept of “Well-Read” elitist by Morgan Jerkins:

“Let’s face it: we place value in certain works more than others. Not many people may have read Things Fall Apart, but they have read and will most likely praise Romeo and Juliet. This is not to take away from either of the two works, but it is arguable that because of this imbalance, our discussions are the results of inequality. Therefore, this image of a well-read person becomes compromised. The very concept of being “well-read” begins to crumble because the focus is centered on a particular kind of literature being created in a particular part of the world, i.e. the West.”

I agree with much of what Jerkins says apart from her use of the word inequality. She says: “because of this imbalance, our discussions are the results of inequality”. Even though I understand that inequality, in this instance, is meant to mean something negative, her use of the word is still ambiguous and sadly carries little to no meaning. Why? Because inequality (i.e. difference or distinction) between things isn’t always negative.

For example, a chef needs to distinguish between good and bad ingredients to make really tasty food. Discrimination or distinction (i.e. inequality!) in that sense is good. In fact, we would want more of it! Perhaps a more complete expression would have been cultural superiority/inferiority or one-sided history. 

Apart from that, I think it’s a brilliant short article. Whilst I read “Western literature”, I very much love literature from other cultures too so her thoughts resonate well with me. Here is her article in full. 


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