literatureDefine literature and its impact on mankind. 

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a wonderful question!  I am reminded of my own students when they ask me, "Why do we have to study this?"  My answer to them is this:  We study literature because it humanizes us.  It helps us to live, however briefly, in other people's shoes and to consider what we would do in that same or a similar situation.  It helps us to become better people by "feeling" for others and empathizing with people who have suffered great losses; it teaches us to be genuinely happy for those who have experienced great joys and successes.  Literature helps us to live in other countries, time periods, and even as another gender for a little while.  It helps us to understand ourselves and to become comfortable with our values, traditions, and the unspoken rules of society by which we live.  

Aside from all the joy and understanding we get from literature (which also includes movie scripts, TV episodes, internet blogs, etc.), we also get more practical skills.  From reading often, we become better readers.  We learn almost by osmosis how to become better writers.  We pick up spelling skills and are exposed to countless words which eventually become part of our own vocabulary.  By reading, we become smarter.  We are able to communicate better with one another which will definitely come in handy in treaties and trade negotiations, future elections, job interviews, etc.

We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by reading.  As Mark Twain once said, "The person who does not read is not better than the person who can not read."

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we back up (historically speaking) and think of literature not just as printed works that most of us consume for entertainment in our spare time, we may perhaps better see literature's  enormous importance to humanity.

Creative literature is storytelling, first and foremost. (In a fuller definition, we might think about the arrangement of the narrative and the teller's consideration of the audience, among other things.) The earliest oral histories of a people, stories that we now generally classify as mythological and religious texts, are literature.

The storytelling elements of creative literature are still very much with us today. Print sources are slowly and steadily losing ground to electronic sources (just as oral cultures have been at least partially eclipsed by print cultures), of course, but the principles of storytelling don't seem to be changing all that much. Take the example of Beowulf, which has mutated from an ancient Germanic tale to handwritten manuscripts to numerous printed modern English versions to a recent performance-capture film. Details of the story change along the way, but many of the elements and mythic conflicts stay the same.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love literature because it reminds me that I am not alone and that what I live is common to all mankind. The times, places, conditions, and circumstances change, but the condition of the heart does not. The struggles of people in biblical times, in medieval times, in more modern times are all, at their core, the same. For example, people in each of those time frames may covet different things, but they all covet. It just does not change. While it's a little depressing to think the human race has not learned much in spite of the amazing advances we've made in nearly every area of life, I find it somewhat comforting to know there is a commonality we all share. I am not alone, and literature reminds me of that.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wow - a very massive and broad topic you have come up with here. I guess in terms of the impact of literature on mankind you can think about how it immortalises certain experiences from certain time periods. You can also think of how literature has been used to instigate action. For example, the novels of Dickens and in particular his presentation of the poor were used to successfully start reform movements.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literature, unlike history that records facts, is the recording of the human heart.  Indeed, it is the true history of humanity, its struggles, its loves, its ideals, its idealogies, its virtues, its vices, its beauty, its ugliness.  So often history is edited by whoever is in control.  But the ideas recorded in literature remain as they have been written, thus making literature more veritable than history.

copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literature is an exploration of the human experience. Reading literature allows us to see ourselves and our experiences reflected back to us--mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially--and also to experience vicariously through the lives of others. By reading and reflecting upon what we read, our lives are broadened and expanded; in short, wisdom is created.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you will be able to find lots of evidence supporting the fact that literature has had an impact on mankind. As someone else has mentioned literature has not only been written for the enjoyment but also to make important points and even to inspire change.

sssserr | Student

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epollock | Student

There are many definitions according to various glossaries of literary terms. A very broad definition is any thin that is written that has a universal theme that can be applied to people in general and that it has an evocative power of feeling, thought, or emotion, in allowing someone to believe in something that the person would not have thought of otherwise. Literature has caused people to take up arms, countries to fight one another, and people to appreciate each other all at the same time. It can provide real life lessons on how live better.

gnilofer | Student

define literature and its impact on mankind

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