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Infusing Key Issues of Sustainability in the Teaching of Literature

Publication Date: 
January 2003

"Medicine, law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sus tain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for." 
(Ong Sor Fern 2002) In the quotation above, Ong Sor Fern argues the case for literature as a reason for living, as a purpose beyond sustainability. She tells us that we “have learnt to sustain life. Now we need to find the reasons for doing so." Fern's quotation raises two important issues. The first is the issue of literature being necessary for our living as it takes us beyond sustainable living, beyond mere existence. The second issue is that of sustainability itself. Fern assumes that a desirable level of sustainability exists and will continue to exist. However, our present reality is of a world in crisis, that is, a world experiencing major threats to its sustainability. It is against that background that this paper examines the value of literature as a means of ensuring a sustainable world—sustainable not only in terms of basic existence but also in terms of the quality of our lives.

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