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Turning Over New Leaf

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why Literature – And What Is It Anyway?


Why Literature – And What Is It Anyway?



Students always approach literature like the meaning of life. For many, it is not sufficient to read the great books that have preceded us simply to acquire the wisdom of the past. I can’t say I blame them. From an early age, humans are told, especially by teachers, the term literature is used to describe the expression of emotions, the compilations of ideas, the telling of stories in written form, the dramatization of circumstances affecting individuals, and numerous other broadly constructed terms identifying a myriad of compositions.

The Guttenberg printing press is probably the invention that most greatly affected human society for no other reason than it spread the knowledge of oral traditions to the corners of the world in written form. We lump those writings into what we call literature. What literature does is bestow intellectual growth upon us.

By reading, we share the dreams of the citizens of the world. We learn about the diverse cultures that spawn on our planet. We see images of the struggles of people different from us only by appearance. Good is good because literature exposes us to evil. Philosophies differ because we are aware of them through the books we read. Likes, dislikes, talents, calamities, goals, concerns, and hopes are just a few of the concepts that would remain hidden from view absent books.

 
Generally, literature is arbitrarily divided into prose, poetry, and drama – because we say it is. How genres are categorized has little to do with the underlying meanings of individual literary works. Nevertheless, the types of literature are much like tickets to shows that make us happy or sad, motivated or passive, knowledgeable or confused. We choose our own pleasures. Yet, one thing is perfectly clear to me. Regardless of genre, literature is essential to the process of formulating answers to questions we would never know to raise in its void. We might never enjoy the actual experiences described in books, but the great ones give us a close literary experience – and we grow.

4 comments:

  1. 2 comments from prior blog:

    #167 Dad said...
    Well stated. Just figured out you have three blogs. I'm a little slow.

    March 7, 2010 2:32 PM
    My name is Lee! said...
    JJ, I can't seem to find your email address on your blog site or with your profile. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm delighted that you liked the grilled eggplant parmigiano! Lee

    March 8, 2010 4:57 AM

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lee: Sorry about that. The e-mail address is: writerjb@yahoo.com.

    ReplyDelete
  3. it's a lot like history.....jeff

    ReplyDelete
  4. jeff: Very much so when we think about the knowledge we miss if we ignore it.

    ReplyDelete

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