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De lichtheid van literatuur: Engagement in de multiculturele samenleving

De lichtheid van literatuur: Engagement in de multiculturele samenleving (The Lightness of Literature: Engagement in the Multicultural Society) is a plea for the social relevance of literature. The book delves into an age-old debate about literature and social engagement, which has recently been reinvigorated in Dutch literary studies. But it centers specifically on literature’s function in the current debate on the multicultural society – one of the most pressing issues in Holland and Belgium.

Sarah De Mul, Liesbeth Minnaard, Isabel Hoving, Maria Boletsi
15 June 2015

The authors argue that literature can play an indispensable role in this debate precisely due to its ability to convey complexity. Discussions about multiculturalism often resort to simplification. Certain stereotypes and rhetorical strategies recur: the theme of menace and doom, the figures of the ‘common man’ and the barbarian, the desire for an uncontestable ‘truth.’ Through analyses of recent Dutch literary works, this book offers an insight into the background and implications of such stereotypes and modes of thinking. 

Is there an alternative to populism and oversimplification? The authors of  De lichtheid van literatuur believe there is. To convey our multicultural realities, literature uses a language that is figurative, playful, and produces multilayered meanings. The non-serious language of literature marks its force in the social field. Its transformative character takes effect not  despite, but  because of its difference from public rhetoric: its unbearable lightness, which can have dead serious implications for society without being serious or making truth-claims.

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