“Instructions about ‘moving on and cheering up’ are not always the right things to do. This can make you disloyal to your own experiences. People are under too much pressure to ‘grow up and find a new place’. It’s an outrageous imposition,” declares Prof Davis.
“The subject of literature is not meant to be academic, it’s about the lives, troubles, possibilities, hopes and stories of human beings.
“It’s the worst kind of inverted snobbery to say that people should only be given popular books, when they want to be stretched and can have a go at the best.”
Having proved through scientific measurement that reading Shakespeare can excite the brain, he is keen to promote the idea of the power of literature.
“The first book that most moved me was Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge. It’s about a man making a lot of mistakes without meaning to.
“It appeals to adolescents who can feel very clumsy and ill at ease. They identify with these sorts of large suffering figures.”
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