Why Do We Study Literature

Why do we study literature?

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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We study literature because it feeds our souls. Great works of literature treat timeless themes that resonate with readers across centuries. The human condition remains fundamentally the same today as it was when the printed word was first produced. It is comforting to read of the travails and the joys of characters who struggle with the same issues that we encounter.

Here is a video about why we study literature:

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think it was Leo Tolstoy who argued that all of literature, quality literature, revolves around two central issues:  Who are we and how shall we live?  These two questions strike at the heart of literature and provide answers to why we study literature.  If we take Tolstoy's paradigm and study it, we understand why a study of literature is vital to our understanding of ourselves and our world.  All literature does, to a large extent, address both questions in different ways.  The answers derived help us understand our identities and purposes in this life.  The manner in which these questions are answered may vary from text to text, yet the underlying premise behind why we study literature comes back to Tolstoy's predicament:  We seek answers to who we are and how we shall live.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The best metaphor I have ever heard on why we read literature is that literature acts as a window or mirror (or both.) This is expressed so often in education that I am not even able to tell you who said it originally.  But the idea struck me the first time I heard it several years ago.  Literature as a window allows us to peer out from our lives to learn about what is going on in the lives of people in other times and places.  A mirror is literature that we use to hold up and learn something about ourselves. Sometimes literature allows us to do both, learn about another world and learn about ourselves, too. 

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sharrons | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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We study literature for the following reasons:

1.  It helps us learn about the world around us.  It takes us to new places, different time periods.  It broadens our minds and our horizons.

2. By studying literature, we discover ourselves.  We see ourselves and our lives reflected in characters.  It is amazing that we can see ourselves, glimpses of our own experiences that was written centuries before our birth.

3.  Studying literature also fosters higher order thinking skills.  We do this through analyzing themes, characters, symbols, motifs ets.

4.  We also read literature for the same reason that we watch movies and television.  It is entertaining.  It is downright fun to peak into the lives of others.

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hero5 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Most people study literature within the confines of an academic setting. Outside of that setting, most people read literature because they enjoy a good story, or a good poem. I don't know too many people that annotate a book outside of an academic setting. There might be some that do, but even in social settings, the ones that do annotate do so in relation to a particular use or question they have.

I disagree somewhat with the comment

many people that annotate a book outside of an academic setting. There might be some that do, but even in social settings, the ones that do annotate do so in relation to a particular use or question they have.

I know many people who annotate books that they read for pleasure. That begs the question though, how do we define reading for pleasure? If we read to learn or gain something, is that not still for pleasure? I think it is. It is a pleasure for me to learn something new. It gives me pleasure to discuss findings from my readings with friends and colleagues.

Outside of academic settings I think people read in order to experience something that they may not otherwise have a chance to experience. That may be a connection with another person or an understanding of something about other people. It may even be experiencing a place and time beyond their own.

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wanderista | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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Literature is studied because is enables people to equip themselves with better communication skills. Analysing literature, and writing about it allows for someone to express their points of view, and to elaborate why their point of view is correct as opposed to another's. These skills are important for everyone, as it cannot hurt us to be better communicators!

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Most people study literature within the confines of an academic setting. Outside of that setting, most people read literature because they enjoy a good story, or a good poem. I don't know too many people that annotate a book outside of an academic setting. There might be some that do, but even in social settings, the ones that do annotate do so in relation to a particular use or question they have.

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impeccable | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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To understand as to why we should read Literature effectively it is necessary that we delve into the evolutionary aspect of literature, if not in detail at least in it's brevity.

Though from the nascent stages of human evolution, the man's quest for gaining an insight into the arts and culture was prevalent, the main thrust upon this quest had got substantially triggered off with the advent of the Renaissance period of europe.  This instinctive quest was basically propelled by the man's curiosity to understand the causal factors responsible for the individuality and the uniqueness among the the sections of human beings.

If we take a look at the vedic period wich has its roots in the East, this quest presumably had germinated much earlier to many of the other cultures the world wide.  The Vedas segmented into Upanishads [i.e. vedic treatises dealing with the broad philosophical concepts and problems] had their basic focus upon the necessity of socialization of the human beings, by debating issues pertaining to moral, evil and of good, necessary for peaceful and hormonious co-existence.

Similarly when we take a look at the western culture, we find that literature was dominated by the religion with church prevailing at the helm of the human affairs.  With the advent of the Renissance period the quest had got highly accentuated by the humanist concepts and socialization.

The field of literature had foused its attention mainly on History and politics.

At this juncture it would be more appropriate to take a look at the master piece of Spencer's "The FAERIE QUEEN"  produced during the Renaissance period.  The first book personifies the Holiness, the second one Temperance, the third one Chastity, the fourth one Friendship the fifth one Justice and the sixth one Curtesy.

Now if we take a look at the cardinal virtues we have seven of them  1.Justice 2.Prudence 3. Temperance 4. Fortitude 5. Faith 6. hope and 7. Charity. It is well settled that if we keep all these virtues which when instilled among the people would lead to proper socialization and socially hormonious co-existence. But if we keep these in mind and launch a search for them no science or no other art would be as complete and useful as the art of literature.

The different generes of literature in the form of poetry, prose,drama or any other form of literature are the manifestations of this good social order.  As Mahatma gandhi had observed that of all the arts that a man tries and learns to cultivate perhaps the most difficult art of accomplishment is the art of living.  It consists in true understanding of the life and so regulating ones conduct to reach that goal nearer and nearer everyday.  Let us learn that art and that literature which speaks to millions and millions of people, it is justified that literature is the main source usefull to learn the art of living.


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user4831862 | eNotes Newbie

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Three reasons why we study literature anyone.?? Need answers asap, I'm in class and don't have much time.!!

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Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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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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tjedmom | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Other than observing actual people in our own lives, studying literature is by far the best way to learn about human nature and how we will or will not emulate various humanistic traits.  The study of literature is somewhat of a lost art, and has resulted in a dearth of fully educated, literate leaders who are capable of heading up the difficult problems and circumstances of our day.

All of our world's great leaders and thinkers were deeply steeped in the classic literature available in their day.  We must carry on the responsibility of first edcuating ourselves on the classics and then passing on that education to the next generation.  Some would argue that this type of education is absolutely essential to maintaining free societies. And I would tend to agree.

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neela | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Literature is an extraordinary  communication of the literates. It is a refined communication. The communication may be through the characters, stories, essays, poetry or the fiction or any other kind of of it.It is an art. Not all people can reach up to it . It is as special by itself as the science is. It is liked by the common man to well literates for the value of it.

Literature mirrors the life,culture and civilsation of the people.The thoughts of the great becomes part of the literature. The feelings of happiness or pain of common man also may becomr its part.The ideals of the history,science or the society can can also be a glorified as exemplary through literature.

The language probably attains its ultimate through literature.It  thus can take everyhing in its range and create a world of us within itself. Therefore, before making any study of mankind, we go through the the literature it created.

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dorothy17 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Best help in studying for you: http://www.superiorpapers.com

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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I am sure different people study, or should I say read, literature for different reasons. I read literature for entertainment. It gives me great pleasure to read a good story, poem, or essay of my liking.

Of course I read many things for other purposes also, such as for getting information, spiritual development, and so on. Many of the things I read for such purposes may be good literature also. But I would have read them even if these were not good literature.

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