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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Education Theme

Are you a jaded grad student? Then If on a winter's night a traveler is the book for you. Throughout the novel, Calvino satirizes university education without mercy. Lotaria's political, feminist reading of books is often scorned, contrasted against Ludmilla's innocent desire to simply read for pleasure. Shmoop is all for literary theory and analyzing great books (duh), but we agree with Calvino that there should be pleasure in reading, too. Professor Uzzi-Tuzii gets the royal Calvino mockery treatment, too, because he shuts himself up in a dusty office and studies stuff that no one else care about. Bottom line: no one associated with the university is getting out unscathed in this one.

Questions About Education

  1. In this book, does Calvino suggest that all university education is stupid? Why or why not? How does this relate to the fact that he's clearly had his share of education?
  2. How does the book make you feel about Professor Uzzi-Tuzii? Do you have any sympathy for his situation, or is he just a sad little man who studies boring things?
  3. Frankly speaking, is this book too bookish? Do you find Calvino's philosophical rants effective or just irritating? What might he be trying to accomplish with some of his more highbrow passages?
  4. Based on your reading of this book, do you think that too much education truly ruins your ability to read for pleasure? Did you enjoy reading before you were forced to start doing it for school? Is there a "fall from innocence" that happens when you start analyzing books too closely?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In If on a winter's night a traveler, Calvino is essentially telling us to torch all of the institutions of higher learning so we can live in a world where we can read completely for pleasure.

Calvino's approach to education in this book is socially irresponsible, since our ability to question what we read is what keeps us from falling under the spell of propaganda.

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