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Crime and Punishment

Today on MetaFilter: a link to a report of a Pennsylvania man who, accused of spitting at a police officer, has been sentenced to read To Kill a Mockingbird. The discussion focuses mostly on those texts with some apparent punitive value, the things they made you suffer through in eighth grade. But I wonder: if, as Richard Rorty claims, the social and political value of literature is in its ability to help us build a sense of solidarity with those whose life experiences are very different from our own, is there a better way to frame such a reading sentence? If the task were not punishment but rehabilitation, what would you assign, and for what offenses? Or, conversely, what offenses would your favorite novels serve as remedies for?


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