Why our students study literature.
"Creative writing has been a happy part of my life since I first learned to hold a pencil, so once I chose Gustavus, I considered my career as an English major a given. Perhaps I am a rare bird for that, being so sure of myself so soon. But I could not have anticipated how much I learned about the value of reading, in every area of life, through the English major; nor did I see its potential to shape me as a writer. No matter how straight-forward a story may seem, the search for something deeper within it leads to all kinds of insights that, while perhaps not in line with the author's original intent (who knows?), teach you more about the world and the different ways people use language. The theory taught alongside literature, in combination with this analysis, gives you the power of perspective that is so essential to finding contentment and peace in communication with people who are different from you, in a way that is unique to the study of literature. To write you have to read, and to really read, you have to think, criticize, doubt, wonder, and stand amazed by words on the page. The English major showed me how to do that, and not only has it increased my skills as a writer, it has made me a more compassionate and honest person."
— Caitlin Skvorc
"I study literature because I believe there is power in stories. Literature is both intensely personal as well as a communal experience. I love examining how words, sentences, characters, plot-lines and tropes reveal who we are as humans. Humanity is a complicated thing, and requires an infinite amount of words to describe and analyze. That's the joy of studying literature, there is always a new reality to discover."
— Mikaela Warner
"For me, the decision to study literature has been a struggle. Since I was young, I always enjoyed reading and being read to, but I always considered the actual study of literature to be made up; seriously, poets don’t actually try to "invoke" some other work. Literary devices? Some make-believe stuff that people invented to make English seem scientific. Although I enjoyed it, literature, to me, was studied only by those who weren’t smart enough to study something real, something provable. As I understand it, those feelings are not uncommon. The difference for me, though (as compared to some other people I know), is that I grew out of them. I started really looking at rhetorical devices, and the use of language. I started to see that, although it still was not science, it was art, and art is the greatest expression of that which is human."
— David Lick
"As far as my own goals in literature, they are quite simple. Admittedly, part of my fascination is for ‘great ammunition for cocktail parties.’ There is a very attractive element to being able to talk about literature—great characters, famous stories—that I think attracts most people to literature. And it is a good feeling to know a lot about it. However, that is not my greatest concern. Most of all, my goal is to learn as much as I can about the human condition, and what it really means to be human, in all aspects."
"By studying literature I find that this sense of confusion and search for self-discovery is a common theme. I am confident that my choice to be an English major is one that I will be satisfied with. Thus far, in my opinion, to be an English major entails more than just being able to read and write well. An English major must also strive to understand and interpret the importance that various forms of literature have had on the society of the past and the present. Being able to express opinions is another important aspect, as is starting a piece of literature with an open mind. These habits are also important when facing everyday life, not just literature. The chance to read and write is something that everyone should be able to experience. Literature in all forms is everywhere in today’s society, and with this idea, it is clear just how important it is. Whether it is studied in the classroom, read for pleasure or purpose, literature is a central part of many lives. It offers not only a chance to enlighten a person, but it also gives the chance to broaden one’s horizons and perspectives. In my case, having the opportunity to study literature in two different languages has helped me to find similarities in two different cultures, and to also find that although literature varies in form and content, it is important and it is a central part of many lives."
— Stephanie Conroy
"Reading and writing, the basic principles involved in the study of English, serve as the gateway to a deeper level of thought. After mastering these elementary skills, comprehension, analysis, and interpretation are learned and used to better educate ones self. Studying literature and observing personal reactions to the literature can make one more aware of his or her own values. English skills are helpful in every area of life. Reading, writing, comprehension, analysis, and interpretation increase efficiency in multiple ways including communication, documentation in other areas of study, and reflection of personal values. I believe there is no area of study that English and communication skills do not influence."
— Maria Freund
"Reading and writing, in general, are undoubtedly some of the most valuable skills one can have; obviously, having these skills makes is much easier for people to communicate and to participate in society. However, there exists a purpose for reading and writing outside of these immediate practical purposes; the written word can be used to enlighten, to persuade, to express emotion, or simply for enjoyment. In these forms the written word becomes an art form, and a way of reaching out to others through a personal experience between the writer and the reader. Reading is an excellent way to associate oneself with the great minds of history and peer into their own thoughts. Reading is surely one of the most effective ways one can expand oneself."
— Matt Beachey
"Literature is a way in which we can capture and interpret what has happened and is happening to us personally and to the world as a whole. An entire culture exists in the written word, documenting the collective thoughts of everyone who cared to share them with the world. Therefore, I believe that for one to truly be a part of human society, it is critical that one take part in the evolution and self-realization that is literature, even if only in the reading aspect. Writing, however, carries a grave importance, as literature simply would not exist in the accessible form it does without written word, and for that reason I believe all who can write should. One should take advantage of the great opportunity to be part of and contribute to the world and society in which he or she lives through writing. I see literature in the societal sense a collective struggle to understand and make the best of the lives that we have all been given. Literature serves as a way to enrich our minds, and presents a way to improve the world not only through the beauty of its presence but through the ideas and tangible possibilities it possesses."
"The best of my English teachers taught us literature because they wanted the art of it to expand our minds and help teach us new ways of seeing the world. I was taught to both see a work of literature as a way to understand the time it was written, and the people who produced it, and to find the parts of that work that spoke to me in my time and place. While I am skeptical about whether or not anyone can ever really understand a culture or a time prior to their own, I do know that many times literature and art provide insights that cold hard facts do not. Most of all I find that literature makes the differences more manageable, and highlights the similarities between people. I can read a Greek tragedy two thousand years later and agree with things that some older white man was saying because he was a human being, and I am a human being. Although it may sound trite, I have had reading experiences that taught me more about what it means to live in this world."
— Sybylla Yeoman Hendrix
"Not everyone loves reading enough to do it in their spare time, but the people who do are the ones who get the most benefit out of what they read, because they want to be there in that world that literature creates. I have met very intelligent people who do not read. But all of the interesting people I know read, whether or not they are particularly intelligent."
"I read literature for a number of different reasons. Literature is an art full of passion and heart; it transcends the ages. Great literature hits on many different levels. Over the years authors have accomplished unfeasible tasks through the use of their words. Literature has prompted political and social change in societies and continues to do so to this day. It can be a battle cry for the proletariat to rise up and make a difference, and it can also provide personal counsel. Literature sets me free from the responsibilities of this world, and at the same time it ties me down to those same responsibilities. Some literature I read for an escape; to journey to a far away land and go on a grand adventure with creatures beyond my imagination. Other literature has much more serious subject matter, and I read it to remind myself that life isn’t all cupcakes and ice cream."
— Ryan McGinty
"To me, literature is about the obsession with ideas. We read literature to discover and to learn about ideas and we write it to discover and to cultivate our own ideas. No lover-of-ideas can go without either reading or writing. For me, if I go too long without one or the other, I get this huge build up of confused and jumbled ideas that suddenly overcome me and I just have to write them out in some form (philosophic prose, narrative, poetry, scribbled phrases, etc.). That must be why literature can appear in a multitude of forms: be it poetry or prose, the sonnet or the novel, the sestina or the short story, etc. All literature shares the common theme of the idea. Ideas explore, probe, inquire, and inspire. The reactions to such are all that become a part of the learning process. There is a great deal that literature can teach. Literature can teach to the individual and to all of society. It can teach us about the past and the present and even about the future. Subjects can be broad and far-reaching, but can also be specific. Literature teaches us about laughter and love, about remembering and forgetting. It can create emotion and warn us against our many human faults. It can attempt to disprove other ideas or attempt to find truth. I think we are all looking to find truth in some form or another. Oftentimes, the uncertainty of a specific meaning of a piece allows for its interpretation to be for the reader to decide. What is certain, however, is that there are things to be learned from literature that are specific to it, that cannot be attained through any other medium. To gather this knowledge and to experience its beauty all pertain to the importance of literature to me."
— Abby Travis
"Another reason that I enjoy reading so much is the places you can go to when you read. I know that that sounds pretty corny, like something on a PBS commercial, but I feel that there are a vast amount of experiences and people the reader gets to encounter in any work of literature."
— Stefan Kolis
"When I pick up a fantasy novel and fly through it in an hour, I do it for enjoyment, pure and simple. But I read things like The Grapes of Wrath or Heart of Darkness because they are more than just a moment’s diversion. What they contain that dime novels do not is a window into the things that make human beings tick, the methods behind our madness, so to speak. I go through life experiencing different situations and learning from them, but not always being able to put into words exactly what I have learned. I read literature because its function, as I define it, is to illuminate some aspect of the human condition. Not only is the uncovering of these truths significant in and of itself, but the revelation process also provides a common experience through which the reader can relate to every person who has discovered that same truth before him. One way that literature communicates the human condition to readers is that it brings the truths it contains to life."
— Rebekah Schulz
"Although I concede that it is not absolutely necessary to major in English in order to gain perspective from literature, I feel that English is a good lens through which to view the world, both present and past. When I study a great work of literature, I not only gain insight into the universal truth about which the author has chosen to write, but I also, in my attempts to understand, can learn about the culture in which the author lived, the history surrounding the country of his origin, and the various intellectual, political, and artistic movements of the time. Thus the window to humanity that lies at the heart of all literature can act as a sort of connecting portal to the culture surrounding each individual author. The reader stands on the common ground of the universal truth around which a work is constructed – the point at which the reader’s world and the author’s meet – and begins to understand some of the motivations behind the author’s own quest for truth. Once someone has become more experienced in the ways of the world, or in the ways of literature, it falls upon that person to begin to light the way for future explorers. Some may write literary works of their own, using words to illuminate their views on the truth about humanity. Others may decide instead to act as teachers, helping prospective explorers learn to traverse the dense and sometimes bewildering forest of novels they will encounter along their journey. No matter the manner in which people choose to serve, the task itself remains as timeless as the truths that humans have sought for centuries: As the great thinkers and authors of the past have marked out paths in the wilderness for we who have followed them, so we must serve as guides for those who will come after us. Great literature provides its readers with a window into various aspects of the human condition and a guide to the way we, as a species, relate to one another and to our surroundings. Literature gives us a mirror in which to examine our collective reflection as a people. It does not gloss over the pimples and blemishes of humanity, but exposes them quite openly. No concealer, no cover-up, only the truth. Literature is the reflecting pool into which every person that ever existed can look and see both his own face and the faces of all his fellow people. It enables each human to not only find the humanity within his own heart, but also to connect him to the generations of other people who have been doing so since the beginning of time."
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- Importance of Literature: Essay
Literature is the foundation of life . It places an emphasis on many topics from human tragedies to tales of the ever-popular search for love. While it is physically written in words, these words come alive in the imagination of the mind, and its ability to comprehend the complexity or simplicity of the text.
Literature enables people to see through the lenses of others, and sometimes even inanimate objects; therefore, it becomes a looking glass into the world as others view it. It is a journey that is inscribed in pages and powered by the imagination of the reader.
Ultimately, literature has provided a gateway to teach the reader about life experiences from even the saddest stories to the most joyful ones that will touch their hearts.
From a very young age, many are exposed to literature in the most stripped-down form: picture books and simple texts that are mainly for the sole purpose of teaching the alphabet etc. Although these are not nearly as complex as an 800-page sci-fi novel, it is the first step that many take towards the literary world.
Progressively, as people grow older, they explore other genres of books, ones that propel them towards curiosity of the subject, and the overall book.
Reading and being given the keys to the literature world prepares individuals from an early age to discover the true importance of literature: being able to comprehend and understand situations from many perspectives.
Physically speaking, it is impossible to be someone else. It is impossible to switch bodies with another human being, and it is impossible to completely understand the complexity of their world. Literature, as an alternative, is the closest thing the world has to being able to understand another person whole-heartedly.
For stance, a novel about a treacherous war, written from the perspective of a soldier, allows the reader to envision their memories, their pain, and their emotions without actually being that person. Consequently, literature can act as a time machine, enabling individuals to go into a specific time period of the story, into the mind and soul of the protagonist.
With the ability to see the world with a pair of fresh eyes, it triggers the reader to reflect upon their own lives. Reading material that is relatable to the reader may teach them morals and encourage them to practice good judgment.
This can be proven through public school systems, where the books that are emphasized the most tend to have a moral-teaching purpose behind the story.
An example would be William Shakespeare’s stories, where each one is meant to be reflective of human nature – both the good and bad.
Consequently, this can promote better judgment of situations , so the reader does not find themselves in the same circumstances as perhaps those in the fiction world. Henceforth, literature is proven to not only be reflective of life, but it can also be used as a guide for the reader to follow and practice good judgment.
The world today is ever-changing. Never before has life been so chaotic and challenging for all. Life before literature was practical and predictable, but in the present-day, literature has expanded into countless libraries and into the minds of many as the gateway for comprehension and curiosity of the human mind and the world around them.
Literature is of great importance and is studied upon as it provides the ability to connect human relationships and define what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, words are alive more than ever before.
Author: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2023 | Creative Commons 4.0
literature is a mirror; a true reflection of our nature. it helps us see ourselves in a third persons point of view of first persons point of view. it instills virtues and condones vices. literature forms a great portion of fun and entertainment through plays, comedies and novels. it also educates individuals on life’s basic but delicate and sacred issues like love and death. it informs us of the many happenings and events that we would never have otherwise known about. literature also forms a source of livelihood to thousands of people, starting from writers,characters in plays, editors, printers,distributors and … Read more »
Indeed literature is the foundation of life, people should know and appreciate these kind of things
I believe that life without Literature would be unacceptable , with it i respect myself and loved human life . Next week i am going to make presentation about Literature, so i benefited from this essay.
Thanks a lot
First year student who wants to know about literature and how I can develop interest in reading novels.
Literature is anything that is artistically presented through writtings or orally.
This is the first time i am presenting on a literature and i am surprised by the amount of people who are interested on the same subject. I regret my absence because i have missed much marvelous thing in that field.In fact literature is what is needed by the whole world,it brings the people of different culture together and by doing so it breaks the imposed barriers that divided people.My address now goes to the people of nowadays who prefer other source of entertainment like TV,i am not saying that TV is bad but reading is better of.COME BACK TO … Read more »
I agree with the writer when says that Literature is the foundation of life. For me, reading is the most wonderful experience in life. It allows me to travel to other places and other times. I think that also has learnt me to emphathize with others, and see the world with other´s eyes and from their perspectives. I really like to read.
its very useful info thanks
I have learnt alot thanks to the topic literature.Literature is everything.It answers the questions why?,how? and what?.To me its my best and I will always treasure and embress literature to death.
you may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold, richer than i you could never be, i know someone who told stories to me.
there’s a great saying that “the universe isn’t made up of at atoms, its made of stories” i hope none will argue this point, because this is the truest thing i have ever heard and its beautiful…….
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