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Using Classic and Contemporary Literature to Explore Themes in Law and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  within the discipline with its own organized section under the American Political Science Association and regular conference panels and publications. 5 There are important differences between the methods of the novelist or playwright and the political scientist. Whereas the social scientist is dedicated to objectivity and rigorous statistical methods, the novelist is often deliberately subjective. 6 If the works are intended as a political instrument, as were Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, balanced attention to the claims of the other side will often weaken the emotional impact and political worth of the novel. For example, as a muckraker Sinclair’s goal was to describe the difficult life of immigrant families and the terrible working conditions in turn of the century meat-packing plants. He did not spend time discussing the needs or family problems of the wealthy owners of the slaughterhouses. Sinclair wanted to shock the reading public in order to bring about labor reform. 7 Literature that has a political message rarely presents that message in a balanced, objective fashion. Instead, political literature attempts to engage the sympathy of the reader for a particular idea or position. The methods of the novelist or playwright offer more latitude with subject matter and fewer formal restrictions. A political scientist is limited to generally accepted methods of scientific inquiry, especially if he or she wants to get published in a peer-reviewed journal. For literature, however, time and space are not restrictions. Literary writers can create an ideal society as a way to promote reforms in this world toward a better life or they can identify or 5 Whitebrook, Maureen. “Only Connect: Politics and Literature 10 Years Later, 1982-1992.” PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 26, No. 2 (June 1993), pp. 257-262. 6 Blotner, Joseph. The Political Novel. Greenwood Press (1979). 7 Upton Sinclair is quoted as saying that his novel The Jungle, aimed for the hearts of readers but by accident ending up hitting their stomachs. The novel led to passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act but it did little to improve the plight of the immigrant worker in the meat-packing plants. Page | 6

Authors: Fliter, John.
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within the discipline with its own organized section under the American Political Science
Association and regular conference panels and publications.
There are important differences between the methods of the novelist or playwright and
the political scientist. Whereas the social scientist is dedicated to objectivity and rigorous
statistical methods, the novelist is often deliberately subjective.
If the works are intended as a
political instrument, as were Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s
The Jungle, balanced attention to the claims of the other side will often weaken the emotional
impact and political worth of the novel. For example, as a muckraker Sinclair’s goal was to
describe the difficult life of immigrant families and the terrible working conditions in turn of the
century meat-packing plants. He did not spend time discussing the needs or family problems of
the wealthy owners of the slaughterhouses. Sinclair wanted to shock the reading public in order
to bring about labor reform.
Literature that has a political message rarely presents that message
in a balanced, objective fashion. Instead, political literature attempts to engage the sympathy of
the reader for a particular idea or position.
The methods of the novelist or playwright offer more latitude with subject matter and
fewer formal restrictions. A political scientist is limited to generally accepted methods of
scientific inquiry, especially if he or she wants to get published in a peer-reviewed journal. For
literature, however, time and space are not restrictions. Literary writers can create an ideal
society as a way to promote reforms in this world toward a better life or they can identify or
5
Whitebrook, Maureen. “Only Connect: Politics and Literature 10 Years Later, 1982-1992.” PS: Political
Science and Politics
, Vol. 26, No. 2 (June 1993), pp. 257-262.
6
Blotner, Joseph. The Political Novel. Greenwood Press (1979).
7
Upton Sinclair is quoted as saying that his novel The Jungle, aimed for the hearts of readers but by accident ending
up hitting their stomachs. The novel led to passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act but it did little to improve the
plight of the immigrant worker in the meat-packing plants.
Page | 6


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