What Literature Can Teach Us

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Literature is a term used to describe written and sometimes spoken material. Derived from the Latin word litteratura meaning "writing formed with letters," literature most commonly refers to works of the creative imagination, including poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and in some instances, song. 

What Is Literature?

Simply put, literature represents the culture and tradition of a language or a people.

 The concept is difficult to precisely define, though many have tried, but it's clear that the accepted definition of literature is constantly changing and evolving. 

For many, the word literature suggests a higher art form; merely putting words on a page doesn't necessarily mean creating literature. A canon is the accepted body of works for a given author. Some works of literature are considered canonical, that is, culturally representative of a particular genre.

Why Is Literature Important?

Works of literature, at their best, provide a kind of blueprint of human civilization. From the writings of ancient civilizations like Egypt, and China, to Greek philosophy and poetry, from the epics of Homer to the plays of Shakespeare, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Maya Angelou, works of literature give insight and context to all the world's societies. In this way, literature is more than just a historical or cultural artifact; it can serve as an introduction to a new world of experience.

 

But what we consider to be literature can vary from one generation to the next. For instance, Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick was considered a failure by contemporary reviewers. However, it has since been recognized as a masterpiece and is frequently cited as one of the best works of western literature for its thematic complexity and use of symbolism.

By reading Moby Dick in the present day, we can gain a fuller understanding of literary traditions in Melville's time. 

Debating Literature 

Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author writes or says, and how he or she says it. We may interpret and debate an author's message by examining the words she chooses in a given novel or work or observing which character or voice serves as the connection to the reader. 

In academia, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory using a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approaches to better understand the context and depth of a work.

Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze it, literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us on a deeply personal level. 

Quotes About Literature

Here are some quotes about literature from literature giants themselves. See what their perspective on writing is!

"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." --Robert Louis Stevenson

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." --Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.

“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” --Rumi 

“I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind.” --William Shakespeare, Henry VI.