Within the world, there seems to be a disparity around philosophy. Part of philosophy is a study of how we live and die. It infiltrates every part of our lives, from how we choose to interact with others to the way our governments are run. For this reason, everyone should be well versed in it. However, the study of philosophy is restricted to a few. The reasons for this are vast, varying from elitism in academia to the complexity of philosophical writings. In particular, philosophy can be seen as becoming separated from the issues it was initially made to address.
How is this problem being solved? By philosophy slowly being interwoven into culture. For instance, films, books and easily accessible blogs. These explain complex ideas in bite-sized chunks.
This is where After Dinner Conversations and their literary anthology comes in. After Dinner specialises in creating media, ranging from podcasts to short stories that explore philosophical ideas. I had the pleasure of receiving a free copy of their season one anthology in return for writing a review. I was not disappointed.
The anthology has a series of short stories written by different people on a variety of themes, from free will and God to prejudices around society. At the end of each story, there is a series of questions aimed at encouraging people to discuss the problems involved.
The writing style varies a fair amount but is mostly high quality, with new worlds being created that still scrutinise the norms within our society. I personally fell in love with The Rainbow People of the Glittering Glade by David Schultz. Styled as a 1800s colonial-esque explorer diary entry, it uses the ingenious metaphor of people turning into statues to explore what free will looks like when we believe in God. In it, all those who do not believe in certain values are turned to stone. It digs deep to ask: if we are punished for choosing the option that goes against society, is that really a choice? Also, do we only prioritise certain values to make ourselves better than other people? This beautiful, well-written multi-layered story will have you thinking for hours.
A place where this could thrive in particular is within schools as a way of getting students to engage with philosophical or societal issues. Full PSHE, RE and English literature lessons could be planned around this anthology easily. The content is accessible to students, but challenges the way they think about the world. It mixes imagination with reality in perfect harmony, leaving an opportunity open to inspire their own creative writing to examine their beliefs.
However, the anthology at points does contain some mature content, so would do best with young adults or teenagers over 16. It is possible though for teachers to select the stories that do not contain sensitive issues to be used with younger audiences. Something for After Dinner Conversations to think about is whether they could create different anthologies aimed at specific age ranges or provide age ratings on the pieces. This would benefit their audience better and possibly widen it. The anthology does deal successfully with sensitive topics, but it is something for them to be aware of.
Overall, I was blown away by this anthology. It’s the right mixture of taking someone through a new adventure while challenging our norms.
You can purchase a copy of the anthology here.
After Dinner Conversations also do a monthly magazine which you can purchase here. By using the code “Dinner” you can get your first month free.