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Why Do We Need To Study Literature

Why do we need to study literature?

Studying literature enables one to better understand social situations, history, one's own emotions, and various cultural practices. It also makes one more empathetic. 

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proteach40 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Literature is one way for us to hear the voices of the past and work with the present.  It is a way for the present to connect to the possible future.  Story telling is one way for humans to reach out to other humans.  It is therapy, confession, entertainment, and knowledge all in one.  Why do we study it? 

We learn about history we didn't experience, customs we are not familiar with or that lead to what we do and perform now, hear voices of men, women, children, dragons, elves, slaves, aliens, and other characters in order to spark imagination. 

We learn to think outside the literal box by reading.  It forces your mind to picture places and experiences and activates our gestault thinking, which is crucial next to just spitting back information.

We can also relate to a character, real or fictional, that may have or is going through an experience like us.  Or who is going through an experience that we would like to have.  Or through an experience we would like to avoid.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write3,306 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

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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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

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starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

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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drmonica eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write700 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

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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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

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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alohaspirit eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write202 answers

starTop subjects are History, Social Sciences, and Literature

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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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write3,513 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

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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mkwriter1984 | Student

Literature can make you more smart. You'll find that as each day goes by where you read literature that your brain will get more smart. You shouldn't forget that every brain that reads will be exercising your right and left part of the brain which will improve your brain.

You can't go wrong with literature along with any other topics too. The different literature topics will keep the writing ideas flowing if you do writing as well.

You can't go wrong when you decide to read about different topics in the literature field to gain more smart qualities in your brain. The literature that you write will increase your brain power since you'll expand your mind as well.

You shouldn't ever forget about literature as being important. All of us did some sort of book report in elementary school somehow it did increase our reading levels in the brain which worked the right and left side of the brain.

aboldurian413 | Student

There are many reasons to study literature. Literature helps expand not only the minds of readers, but also their vocabulary and general knowledge. It can be difficult to relate to literature, particularly when it is difficult to access a text due to outdated language, but the challenge of understanding classic literature makes the themes and messages more meaningful to a reader. There are important lessons to be learned about the development of language just in the way classic texts are written.

It is also important to study literature to understand history and the human experience. History courses detail what happened in various time periods and the impact on various countries financially, economically, etc., but literature provides the true experiences of people throughout history. The study of literature helps readers understand the beliefs, customs, and experiences of human beings from around the world throughout history. In order to fully understand the impact of a major historical event, such as war, one should study literature written around that time.

Studying literature provides the reader with a more well-rounded view of the world. It helps the reader relate to different types of people and better understand how the world became what it is today. It is vital that a reader find literature that interests them to fully appreciate the experience offered by reading classic texts. Literature helps readers fully understand the importance of historical events and their impact on the world in a way that simply studying history books could not portray.

Check out this short article for another perspective on this topic!

amioliver1 | Student

I am glad your literature teacher has asked you such an important question; there are many answers:

Literature, in its virtually endless supply in our day and age, supplies us with an infinite instruction book on how to understand and respond to the happenings in our lives; whether it be tragedy, euphoria, love, loss, identity crises, you name it. When we are able to identify with an author who is experiencing the same thing we are going through, we are able to more fully accept this thing as a universal experience, and develop our own appropriate responses.

With either positive feelings of euphoria or heavy feelings of grief: when we read a poem or story which expresses feelings similar to those we, personally, have felt or are feeling, we are able to identify those feelings inside of ourselves and better understand that this is, indeed, how we are feeling. In addition, the feeling of relating to another individual who has experienced similar emotions or situations is a refreshing reminder that we are likely not alone in these experiences.

Another positively necessary element of literature which has persistent throughout the thousands of years that people have been drawn to entertainment is the concept of distraction. Getting lost in a book, a parallel universe, an alternate timeline in which your own problems are not of your main concern but instead, someone else's are, is quite refreshing in itself.

But most importantly, literature teaches us. It teaches us consciously and subconsciously how to act and function in our world; what we do and do not want to be. Literature shapes our very persons whether we know it or not. The more we read, the more we are aware of ourselves and the world around us.

litprof2 | Student

Reading and studying literature--whether prose, poetry, or drama--helps us to understand the world around us and gives us insights into the human condition. Studying literature also helps us to see how human behaviors, drives, struggles, ambitions and the like remain the same, regardless of when a work of literature was written. As in Romeo and Juliet, young people still fall in love and struggle with overwhelming problems, whether their families are feuding or their peers discourage the relationship. Shakespeare's Othello illustrates how destructive jealousy can be, while Macbeth shows us the ruin brought about by overweening ambition. Literature can be powerful enough to enact societal change. For example, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was the catalyst that brought about much-needed laws to improve working conditions in the meat-packing industry (the federal Food and Drug Administration was created). Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin depicted the inhuman, brutal nature of slavery and has been credited as one of the main variables that brought about the American Civil War. At the very least, studying literature provides us the aesthetic pleasure that comes from enjoying a well-written story or novel. But make no mistake--literature can be powerful enough to change the world, whether for better or worse.

thewanderlust878 | Student

Technically speaking, one doesn't need to study literature. However, it is something that, in my opinion as well as many others, needs to be studied and understood. Literature is something that has been in society since writing languages were created, and will be here until the human race dies out. In order to fully understand not only the world around you today, but also that of the past, and possibly the future, one should study literature. 

Hope this helps!

nishu2766 | Student

The word can mean somebody who does something for a living: a professional baker, a professional golfer. It can mean anyone who does an especially good job: “You're a real pro.” More formally, it means a member of an occupation with recognized professional status.

Educators have yearned to be recognized as professionals for generations, but the current drive for professionalization originated in the mid-1980s, when it became apparent to policymakers that mandates by themselves were not going to bring substantially higher achievement. Minimum competency tests and stiffer graduation requirements may have affected the quantity of students' education, but its quality depended on the quality of their instruction, and that depended on their teachers.

udonbutterfly | Student

Literature, in my opinion, really opens the mind to learning new things such as vocabulary to being able to articulate yourself well. Literature has always been my escape from reality as well. It opens a new door inside a world that becomes yours to explore and make assumptions and the best thing about is that there is never a wrong answer when it comes to literature. It is what you make it.

maria-vivanco | Student

Because it unleashes our imagination and allows us to express ourselves and learn. 

acompanioninthetardis | Student

studying literature allows us to express ourselves by viewing how other people were able to express themselves and made their own techniques to get creative and unleash their imagination

Wiggin42 | Student

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.

ahmad1989 | Student

nice way to learn habits.

iqratariq | Student

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.

hhhhh | Student

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

shamrose | Student

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


      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


      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

dominion | Student
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.


billybobberkey | Student

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?

anndinni | Student

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.


epollock | Student

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.

kc4u | Student

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.

krishna-agrawala | Student

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.
vishal234 | Student

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.