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Why do we need to study literature?

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fuj | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 17, 2009 at 4:54 AM via web

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Why do we need to study literature?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:06 AM (Answer #2)

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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.

Check out the link below to see what others have said about this topic.  Thank you for using enotes, and keep reading!  Good Luck!

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vishal234 | Student, Grade 9 | Valedictorian

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:11 AM (Answer #3)

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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.

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted June 17, 2009 at 12:29 PM (Answer #6)

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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.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:19 PM (Answer #7)

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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.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:21 PM (Answer #8)

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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.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:42 AM (Answer #4)

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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:

  1. To develop the ability to understand, appreciate and enjoy literature.
  2. To develop the ability to express ourselves well, and if we are inclined to do so, create good literature ourselves.
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kc4u | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:32 AM (Answer #5)

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In his Poetics, Aristotle called Poetry superior to History, for History deals with the particular, but Poetrydeals with the universal. Literature elevates the particular to the universal.

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.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:43 PM (Answer #9)

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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.

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anndinni | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 18, 2009 at 10:49 AM (Answer #10)

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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.

 

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 18, 2009 at 2:11 PM (Answer #12)

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Studying literature requires more than reading literature. When students study literature, they are studying an art form, like painting or music. Think of music, for a minute. Almost everyone enjoys music, but those who have studied music can appreciate it to a much greater extent because they understand what goes into writing and performing a piece of music. And so it is with literature. After studying the various forms of literature (plays, stories, poetry, novels), students begin to recognize literary elements (such as irony and symbolism) and to understand how they contribute to the work. Studying literature will make it possible for you to enjoy what you read to a greater extent because you will understand the artistry that created it.

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shamrose | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 13, 2009 at 10:16 AM (Answer #14)

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      what is literature ? nobody knows what it is ; you can't smell it ,hear it , eat it ,see it or touch it .

      but

      the only sense of the five senses wich can be applied to literature that you can feel it

      by feeling ,it turned to something you can smell it ,hear it ,eat it ,see it ,touch it ,cry at it and laugh with it.

      Literature is the most invisible with the five senses and the most visible with

      Feeling

      Literature is always realistic.

      It is about life .

      It is life when we get involved in it .

      Even if it is legendary ,unbelievible ,and whatever it talks about ,

      It is life because it is created and produced by people from this life

      Human beings

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hhhhh | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2009 at 9:36 PM (Answer #15)

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Your discourse gave me such motivation to focus my self toward reading .....I enjoyed every single line that i read.Thank you! :)

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 3, 2009 at 11:08 PM (Answer #16)

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Why study literature, or any of the arts (painting, music, etc.)? Literature is just stories. If studying science, math, and computer engineering is, by far, more applicable to practical applications, technology, industry, and so on, it would seem to be a waste of time to study (let alone be forced to study) literature. Not to mention, you're bound to have a better shot at getting a job with a degree in engineering than if you have a degree in the humanities. You can count on life's experiences to educate you about the human condition. Armed with all this practical knowledge, having wasted no time on trivial subjects like reading and writing, poetry, or any philosophically-related field in the arts, you're bound to be much more successful; and certainly less distracted by whimsical pontifications about life. You're also bound to appreciate life a lot less; and you're probably bound to be a bit behind on history and doomed to repeat its mistakes, since knowing history requires reading (you can only get so much from the history channel). You're probably (although not certainly, there are exceptions to every case) also bound to be more intolerant, less profound, less literate, less inspired, and in the grand scheme of things, less moved by the stories of people's lives who are affected, for better or worse, (building schools vs. building bombs), by the useful applications of math and science.

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billybobberkey | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted June 18, 2009 at 11:42 AM (Answer #11)

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Studying Literature is what lets us get creative with model stories to go off of when you are writing your own .

It also lets you  paint your own minds' pictures. How cool lis that?

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dominion | College Teacher | eNoter

Posted June 24, 2009 at 3:03 PM (Answer #13)

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Why do we need to study literature?

Why do we need to study literature?

I don't think we need to study literature. We are given literature as part of our education, so to some degree we don't have a choice. Though it is up to each individual as to how much one learns from studying it.

 

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iqratariq | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted July 9, 2012 at 11:22 AM (Answer #17)

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by studing literature we come to know about the lifestyle of specific people. we come to know about different cultures, their customs. their laws etc. we know about the behaviours of people by reading novels and stories. literature is important because it is the mirror through which we can see the lives of others. their good deeds, their bad points and by compairing them we can make ourselves better. we can learn alot from the characters placed in novels. so we can groom our personality and inner self through literature.

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ahmad1989 | College Teacher | Honors

Posted September 25, 2013 at 9:04 AM (Answer #18)

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nice way to learn habits.

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Wiggin42 | TA , Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted July 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM (Answer #19)

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Literature is what makes us human. There is an immense satisfaction from reading a novel that speaks to you; whose very words touch your soul. Its an amazing relief to know that you and your doubts, dreams, and concerns are not alone in this world; that there were people before you who struggled just as you do now. It alleviates the feeling of being alone in life. Studying literature exposes us to new ideas, cultures, and people which can broaden your mind.

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