High School - 12th Grade
Editor Emeritus, Debater, Expert, Educator, Whitman, Dickens, The Bard
I am sensing frustration on your part. Perhaps you don't like reading? When my students tell me they don't like to read, my answer is always, "Keep looking. You haven't found a book yet that speaks directly to you."
To answer your question, literature should be studied for a richer life. Without it, we miss out on so much. Think of all the places we get to go, people we get to meet, situations we get to experience without ever leaving our living rooms! Without reading about these people, places, events, we quite possibly would never experience similar situations. By reading about them, discussing them with others, thinking about how we would react in similar situations, we are learning. We are gathering information and tools for our life toolbox. Every book you read changes you...even if only slightly. You are a different person on the other side of it whether you recognize it or not. You are learning, collecting material, developing personality, discovering likes and dislikes about yourself. You are studying the human condition, and this is important because you are part of the world itself.
Reading provides for a richer, more fulfilling life. Can you live without it? Sure. Some of us can. I, for one, would absolutely wither and die if I could no longer read. But without the enrichment and fulfillment that reading brings, life would be considerably less luminous.
High School - 9th Grade
Literature is part of our cultural heritage which is freely available to everyone, and which can enrich our lives in all kinds of ways. Once we have broken the barriers that make studying literature seem daunting, we find that literary works can be entertaining, beautiful, funny, or tragic. They can convey profundity of thought, richness of emotion, and insight into character. They take us beyond our limited experience of life to show us the lives of other people at other times. They stir us intellectually and emotionally, and deepen our understanding of our history, our society, and our own individual lives.
In great writing from the past we find the England of our ancestors, and we not only see the country and the people as they were, but we also soak up the climate of the times through the language itself, its vocabulary, grammar, and tone. We would only have to consider the writing of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Boswell, Dickens, and Samuel Beckett side by side to see how the way writers use language embodies the cultural atmosphere of their time.
Literature can also give us glimpses of much earlier ages. Glimpses of Celtic Ireland in the poetry of W. B. Yeats, or of the Romans in Shakespeare’s plays, for example, can take us in our imaginations back to the roots of our culture, and the sense of continuity and change we get from surveying our history enhances our understanding of our modern world.
Literature can enrich our experience in other ways too. London, for example, is all the more interesting a city when behind what we see today we see the London known to Dickens, Boswell and Johnson, or Shakespeare. And our feeling for nature can be deepened when a landscape calls to mind images from, say, Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, or Ted Hughes.
The world of English literature consists, apart from anything else, of an astonishing array of characters, from the noble to the despicable - representations of people from all walks of life engaged in all kinds of activities. Through their characters great authors convey their insights into human nature, and we might find that we can better understand people we know if we recognise in them characteristics we have encountered in literature. Perhaps we see that a certain man's behaviour resembles that of Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, or a certain woman is rather like The Wife of Bath in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Seeing such similarities can help us to understand and accept other people.
Good works of literature are not museum pieces, preserved and studied only for historical interest. They last because they remain fresh, transcending as well as embodying the era in which they were written. Each reader reading each work is a new and unique event and the works speak to us now, telling us truths about human life which are relevant to all times.
Whether we choose to study it or read it for pleasure, when we look back over our literature we are looking back over incredible richness. Not just museum pieces, but living works which we can buy in bookshops, borrow from the library, or download from the internet and read today, right now.
Posted by vishal234 on June 17, 2009.
Valedictorian, Teaching Assistant, Tutor
In the broadest sense literature is any text or arrangement of words that conveys meaning. However, in a narrower sense it refers to texts such as stories, novels, poetry, and essays. In this sense a biography of a historical personality may also be classified as literature. In still narrower sense, works which are concerned with totally technical or professional issues may not be considered as literature. Thus Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith may be considered a book on a technical subject rather than as literature. Also works that are considered frivolous - from example, comics - may not be considered literature.
Irrespective of how we describe literature, the three most common reasons for studying literature are 1) Pleasure and enjoyment, 2) Obtaining Information, and 3) Developing our knowledge.
In addition to the above reasons for studying literature, we also study literature as a part of our curriculum for two reasons:
Valedictorian, Teaching Assistant, Expert, Tutor
Literature holds a mirror up to nature/life. We can see ourselves on the pages of a novel, or in the enactment of a play.
Literature offers us a lot of pleasure. It pleases by moving.
Literature also functions as a crticism of life.
Assistant Editor, Debater, Expert
Literature unlocks the culture of the time period, and in a way can give wisdom to the modern society about life. Literature allows us to interpret our own life and emotions and find ways to relate to the story so we in turn can reflect. It is also a form of entertainment and allows people to use their imagination to visualize the story within their own mind. But I find the real point of literature is the story of life, and all people want to do is to connect to other human beings so they find meaning in their own life.
Valedictorian, Teaching Assistant, Expert, Tutor, Prefect
It all depends on the person and their individual circumstances. Most people read literature for enjoyment and study. An endless supply of mysteries, horrors, comedies, and tragedies, helps people to understand their own situation in life better. Of course, not everyone benefits from reading. It also is determined by a reader's motivation.
I think literature is one of the most honest forms of art. While movies and music are subject to censorship, and often only support one interpretation, literature is a living, breathing manifestation of life. Each time we read, we gain something we didn't have before. Even reading the same text at a different point in your life offers secrets you didn't discover the first time. That's why I encourage my students to speak of the texts we study in the present tense: they are constantly changing and revealing new truths.
Literature is a resource where we can see what others have done before us. There are universal themes in literature with which all human beings can identify. Many students become frustrated with the study of literature that they don't feel is relevant to their lives. Gifted teachers can make literature selections that appeal to students, and they can also help students to see the connections inherent in the literature choices. I have used the example before of teaching Macbeth to high school sophomores. Once they began to understand the themes, they taught me about Dr. Dre and Eminem's song "Guilty Conscience." They shared the song lyrics (edited) with me and connected me with some contemporary literature I would never have otherwise encountered. Likewise, I connected them with one of the early greats of the English language.
Reading is the only activity where we see words then draw pictures in our mind of what the words are saying. Literature allows personal interpretation that reading a newspaper or most magazines do not allow. In literature, there are aspects like metaphors, weaving narratives, character points of view and irony that we have to actively sort through in order to truly understand the text. This is a specific brain activity that is exclusive to novels, short stories and essays. In essence, literature makes us smarter. Not only do we learn about the subjects that an author is writing about, but we make our minds stronger by putting the puzzle of words into coherent images in our mind.
It also expands our vocabulary. Media communication is traditionally written at no higher than a 6th grade reading level so the masses can understand. In addition, outside of academics, normal conversation is not traditionally filled with SAT type words. To put it simply, the English language is beautiful. The way that skilled authors can weave words together to make stories is like a prodigal trumpet player riffing on stage in a dark jazz club. We need literature to learn these great notes of the English language. These are words that draw the best pictures.