Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Andre Maurois wrote in relation to Voltaire: "It is certain that a system imbued with perfect clarity has few chances of being a truthful image of an obscure and mysterious world." This could be a motto for literary studies. Words are multivalent, and their very capacity for ambiguity is the stuff of which literature and literary criticism are made. Students love literature and are drawn to it because it involves interpretation and seldom yields "perfect clarity"; they love it because of, not despite its ambiguity. This paper argues that millennial students are no more averse than their predecessors to wrestling with ambiguity, at least in literature, because in this "obscure and mysterious world," students can find the space for their own readings, opinions, and voices. What is more, in this space, we can teach them effectively how to find and use evidence to support their interpretations and ideas. This paper will venture to suggest that millennials may actually find the realm of ambiguity even more comfortable than did previous generations. Because of the textual superfluity of the web, they learn from an early age that knowledge is fragmented and fragmentary and that there is no single consistent answer.