What Literature Can Do

But what literature does, which formal philosophy for example commonly does not – and what literature can hardly help doing – is yield more than its writers know. In thinking about human life, it offers as much excess, untidied material as it can by not only thinking but re-creating the very objects of thought—offering more from within the very middle of things, I will argue, than a more secondary discipline can provide with more formally set starts and goals. Writers offer this by creating not so much a line of argument as a resonant space for thinking. In a book on his reading called A Dish of Orts (1893), the Victorian fantasy writer George MacDonald speaks of Wordsworth as a poet not so much offering ideas as putting the reader into the places (physical, mental, and situational) from which such ideas originally arise so that they come of themselves.

Davis, Philip. Reading and the Reader: The Literary Agenda