Value in Texts with Antiquated Ideas?

There is a vast array of literature that, in its time, was written with the intention of some form of social justice. An example of this is the much-cited "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe. However, as modern ideas progress and the willingness to allow every human their basic rights grows, we look back on texts like this and realize that the philosophy within it is antiquated and that its ideas on how to overcome racism simply don’t suffice.

This in mind, how should we deal with texts like hers? Should we look at them graciously and say that, given the lack of understanding about true social justice, the author did the best she could based on limited knowledge? Or should we stop circulating and supporting texts like those because they do not go far enough in their attempts at fighting the social injustices of our day? Is there a middle ground?

The writer does not have to choose "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" as their example–any older text with out-of-date social justice views would suffice.

  • I think these old texts could be used to demonstrate how far we've come in addressing these issues. Yes, they may not be relevant or even entirely accurate in today's society, but they should be presented as a marker on the road to more awareness, and they should (with discretion) be circulated. – OkaNaimo0819 3 years ago
  • I think it helps to keep in mind as well that the reason why a lot of these old texts are still read is because they were extremely influential. They may contain views that don't fit modern ideas of social justice, but it's still necessary to understand the contributions they made to literature and society, both in their own day and since. In the case of Uncle Tom's Cabin, while its views might be outdated, it contained a lot of archetypes and viewpoints that were extremely influential in their own day and that have continued to influence the culture in more indirect ways ever since (including the expression "Uncle Tom"). – Debs 3 years ago
  • I think it's important to understand the context these works exist in. Uncle Tom's Cabin is antiquated, but it did help the movement for abolition of slavery. It's understandable to be offended by old texts, but their value in understanding the history of the time is crucial, even if their ideas can sometimes be unpleasant. – ruthyf 3 years ago

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