What does literature do to you as a reader? Would really like to know what exactly is it within literature that affects you and how does it affect you? I'm looking to delve into the nuts and bolts of literature and their effects on readers.    

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As a writer, I tend to look upon literature in a very critical way. When I write a novel, I intend to bring about a change in the reader's view of the particular subject matter I am dealing with. I look for an 'expansion of consciousness' that may help the reader enhance her comprehension of issues that, quite often, she has already tagged, labeled, and committed to the back of her mind.

Bad literature leaves me cold, whereas good books set me thinking about issues that are either new to me or that are presented in an original form. In general, places, characters, and events depicted in literature arouse my curiosity, so one book leads to many others.

One advantage of reading is that I am free to imagine people and settings, avoiding the spoonfeeding provided by TV or movies. Reading is an interactive process. Let me quote a short paragraph from my book Reading for Personal Development (Jorge Pinto Books Inc., New York, 2011)

"Books call for intervention, in the same way as some forms of contemporary visual art appropriate an object and make a new imprint on it, thus turning it into a unique object, for every intervention is exclusive and individual. The key, indeed, is appropriation. Your copy, your interaction with the story, your conclusions. Books have an ending, but are not truly finished until readers reinterpret and actualize them."

 

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Some forms of literature force me to open my mind to new ideas or new types of language.  Literature can change the way I think about a topic or the way I approach problem solving.  In a less academic environment, literature provides an escape.  I can lose myself in a book and experience another world.  Literature provides excitement and imagination.  It is a way to experience other ideas and other places.  It is a way to get away from own life and walk through someone else's.

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As a follow up to post #2 (and I appreciate that this was admitted because I believe it to be probably closer to popular opinion than you are going to get on Enotes): literature reminds me that I still belong to an intellectual crowd that likely grows smaller every day.

Truly good books, especially modern pieces of literature, are not consumed, discussed, and praised in the way the latest great movie or TV show is, today.  I rather prefer that my mode of entertainment has been raised to a more elite status.  For one thing, it makes finding "my people" that much easier, because I find that most people aren't even pretending anymore to be readers and lovers of difficult texts.  And, as a literature teacher, it makes my job a little easier.  Enlightening a student in my classroom to the challenges that literature proposes, or even simply introducing something new and challenging to a student for the first time, often makes me seem like a much better teacher than I might be if literature were still popular.

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Literature appeals to me when it shows me a character that is going through the same kinds of difficulties and challenges that I have experienced in my own life. Every once in a while, a piece of literature will show me a new way of looking at something--but this is a rare these days. It happened a lot more when I was younger and less experienced.

I find stories that have well drawn, developed characters to be engaging. To me, that's a lot more interesting that a tight, suspenseful plot. It's like meeting someone new; someone you come to know very well.

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I love literature and reading, period.  It's probably my favorite hobby, and I guess the reason that it appeals so much is two-fold.  First, I enjoy the writer's craft, and their style and the way they tell the story is as big of a part of the reading experience for me as the action in the story itself.  Second, literature offers an escape--the books I probably enjoy the most are ones that are far-flung from my own reality--different places, time periods, extreme types of characters that I myself might never meet. 

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Literature helps to expand our world view and our idea-vocabulary. The more you read (by different authors especially), the more ways you have of looking at the world around you as each writer presents a unique perspective and mode of comprehending what it means to be human.

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I recently came across an article on this subject - "Why fiction is good for you" (http://articles.boston.com/2012-04-29/ideas/31417849_1_fiction-morality-happy-endings). 

The article points to scholarship done on the subject of fiction and how reading can help teach empathy. 

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I am mostly in non-fiction reading mode now, though not necessarily by choice. I love literature, though, and as the previous poster says, it does different things to me, which means that I enjoy different works for different reasons. Generally, though, I like literature that challenges me to think about ethical conundrums, as well as literature that I can just appreciate the craft of the writer. For example, I found The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen utterly depressing. But I was fascinated by his ability to turn a phrase and to craft a story. So different literature engages me in different ways. The important thing is that it engages me.

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Literature does different things for me depending on what it is.  Some literature transports me to another world, either in fantasy or history.  Some literature shows me characters struggling against things I hope (or know) I will never have to face, and makes me feel better about my own problems.  Some literature introduces me to characters that fascinate me, or become friends of a sort.  All literature exposes me to new ideas, and makes me look at the world just a little differently.  This is why I love to read!

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I am not a great lover of literature.  Perhaps that can help you figure out why literature doesn't "work" for some people.  For me, there are two problems.  First, literature tends to be slow and I want to have something that has more action.  I like books, therefore, in which something is always happening.  Second, literature tends to be depressing.  For example, I read Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishmentin college.  Both of those were very unhappy books.  I realize that's supposed to reveal more about the human condition, but I'd rather read about happy things (even if they are all the same).

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