Figuratively speaking Smith is an old, old man, at least three-hundred and fifty years old, a reincarnation of Matthew Arnold who established the field of liberal-humanist cultural tradition between 1852-1882. At that time, English literature carried into the school curriculum was an act of faith whereby the great works of literature would have a civilizing influence on the nation. They could do for the masses what the classics had apparently failed to do for the privileged: to provide a bulwark against rising materialism (akin to the leisure and apathy of our youth today); compensate for the failure of religion to socialize and to humanize the nation (akin to the call that America has lost its spiritual values and is thrown into the pangs of nihilism). In this liberalist humanist scenario, culture rested in the centrality of the text. The role of the reader was that of an acolyte- uninformed, yet earnest and studious, with the desire to come into contact with the great minds of the past and with the cultural artifacts which existed as repositories of the world around us.


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