Tuesday, 6 January 2015

In Defence of Literature

Why do we "still" read literary texts - in particular poems, stories, myths, novels, plays, etc - in today's world?

Please describe your motivation(s) for reading literature in any genre you find appropriate (e.g. short speech, letter, poem, story, dialogue, ad, etc). Be as convincing as you can :)

Please also check out the following short clip and feel free to comment on it and/or to compare the statements made in it to your own ideas.



19 comments:

  1. I believe we still read literary texts because they're a method for us as humans to escape the everyday reality tor routine that we live in. It is within literature and stories that we are able to immerse ourselves into a fantasy world where we no longer stress over the day-to-day worries we have in our own lives, and discover/interpret the world of fantasy and story. Another reason might be to relate to the characters in literature, whether they be similar or different from your true identity in real life. In this way, literature allows us to explore different perspectives
    As for my own motivation to for reading literature, I am more interested in reading short speeches. The reason for this is I enjoy when literature or spoken word gets to the point. Speeches, as literature, also have the power to convey a strong message to its audience, which I believe literature is able to do - explore a specific theme to communicate a message or piece of advice.

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  2. It is human nature that we share and convey our ideas to one another. This is most frequently embodied in literature. Literature has and always will be valuable in the world because of its ability to produce unique emotional responses from its audience. It is not elitist, as it can be created by anyone, and be felt by anyone. Literature also has a timeless quality to it, as constraints of time and space do not apply to it. Personally, I enjoy reading written literature: books and plays. I enjoy that even if one was aware of the historical and cultural background of the text, there could still be multiple interpretations behind what the author wrote. Literature grants us a type of immortality despite our mortality. Though we will all eventually die someday, literature preserves our being, something that is (arguably) more lasting than statues or paintings.

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  3. Literature gives us the ability travel beyond the bounds of our personal memories and experiences and show us what life is like from a limitless number of different perspectives. This ability that literature has to provide us with a chance to view the world through the eyes of another person is one reason why reading literary texts is so vital to the human experience and is a big part of why I enjoy reading so much. By allowing us to see the world through the eyes of others, novels have the means to trigger feelings of empathy and understand for people that we would not normally stop to think about in day to day life. Literature also allows us to take a look back in time and show us how far we have come or look into the future to see where we are headed. For me, reading literature is also in large part a way for me to escape the rush of everyday life and immerse myself in another world. Reading is a great way to experience a whole ton of emotions and events in a short period of time, and can take you all around the world without leaving your room.

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  4. "Literature is not only a mirror; it is also a map, a geography of the mind. […] We need such a map desperately, we need to know about here, because here is where we live. for the members of a country or a culture, shared knowledge of their place, their here, is not a luxury but a necessity. Without that knowledge we will not survive."
    - Margaret Atwood, "Survival"

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  5. I would say, unabashedly, that I derive greater pleasure from reading than I do from regular human interaction. This is no slight against people, or humanity, or whatever one would think it to be, it is more of a personal matter. Reading literature allows me to connect with "people" (people being the characters) on a much more intimate level than I ever could in real life. Characters in literature don't question my reading of them, characters in literature don't fight back when I question their choices, and most of all characters in literature don't read back into me. Reading in the end, is my own way of dealing with my social anxieties and I think it is this way with many people who read, whether they consciously acknowledge this or not is another topic entirely. In seems that people can critically challenge aspects of "people" or the idea thereof much more freely in literature which then, at least as I see it, relieves tension between that person and the actual physical world in which they live. I now ask that you pardon my pretension when I leave the ending of this post to a slightly more authoritative literary personality than myself.

    "Without literature, life is hell." -Charles Bukowski

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  6. I definitely prefer both reading and human interaction. Sometimes, I do feel as if reading and literature helps me understand and contextualize from literature to some of my more personal problems that I have in real life (like with regards to my relationships, family problems etc.) There are many things that I'm unfamiliar with and I may not understand particularly well, however with the assistance of literature, I am able to understand a lot more about certain things that possibly word from mouth may not. It seems a little odd, but I am a little slow!

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  7. I won’t try to claim that I know any universal truths about humankind because I certainly don’t know these things. I can only speak for myself and tell you about my motivations for reading different forms of literature but I feel like I am maybe not alone.
    My family are all readers. Reading is something we do well and find very fulfilling, although we are commonly reading more non-fiction because of the internet. I could always count on receiving a book for Christmas, and after we all opened our gifts in the morning, we would spend most of the day just reading on the couch. All 4 of us, in our own little worlds, together.
    In class we talked about the escapist aspect of literature. We leave the world and its problems and stresses and MSP bills and relationship problems behind. I think that there’s more to reading stories than that. I like alternate realities and experiences. I like exploring what another life feels and looks like. Reading is how I access that other world and it is so enjoyable and I think that that’s why we read. Those of us in this class, the people in my family, second hand bookstore shoppers – we don’t read just because of our desire to escape our real experiences. We read because alternate experiences are so interesting and enjoyable. I’m not in university as a mature student just to – hopefully – leave the retail world behind. I’m here because I love learning and being in classes and writing notes with a pen and paper and discussing what I’m learning and meeting new people and having a different life experience than what I’m used to. I love it. And so it is for stories too.

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  8. Reading is a way of learning, understanding, and experiencing. When we read, we are able to read about things we may not have known of. We can read about a person's life that is nothing like our own whether it is a fantasy life or a more realistic life. By reading about this different life, we can understand the differences that exist in life and form opinions on what we read about. We are able to experience something that we may not have been able to experience while living our own everyday life and I think that is what intrigues us and gives us a sense of enjoyment when we read. This enjoyment further pushes us to continue reading.

    I think that reading and being able to learn from it and experience something new is what truly interests myself. By reading, I am able to gain opinions on different situations which helps me tackle my life with more preparation emotionally and also helps me look at things in different perspectives. In short, I enjoy reading because I am able to learn more about my own feelings and opinions by reading about different lives which helps me interact with others better. It is also a great way to make friends because choice in books are often seen as common interests between individuals.

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  9. For me, I can find something to enjoy in every genre of literature. I can’t pick one genre that I love the most. What I do love to read are novels and anything with a story that really makes me interested in what I’m reading. I believe that even today humans are still reading literature, stories, and myths because we love to imagine and explore thoughts and ideas in our minds that we can’t experience physically. I was talking with an old teacher of mine the other day about how there is something that we can experience in literature that we cannot experience in an other form of art. I believe that what that experience is is our own imaginations.

    We could all read the same novel, play, story, etc. and still picture parts of the work completely differently. Our own life experiences make us feel and relate to what we read in our own unique ways. For example, while reading the Jade Peony, I connected with a lot of the myths in the story because they were ones that I got the chance to hear too while growing up from my own grandma. It made me much more interested and connected to the text. Humans have a lot of emotions and feelings and wide imaginations, I think it’s a combination of those things which make literature something that will never go away.

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  10. In today’s fast-paced world, I feel that by reading literature, one can take time to relax and take a break from the stresses of daily life. It can, in a sense, be a way for one to escape the real world/reality and enter the world of literature and fiction. As well, the world of literature can also be seen as a reflection/mirroring of the real world. Despite the scenarios being fictitious, it is very easy for one when reading literature to find parallels between one’s own world and the world of literature. It’s interesting to see how different characters in literature react to situations and events that occur in their world and compare it with one’s own. Thus, although reading literature can be seen sort of as a way to escape reality, sometimes reality exists in the world of literature and fiction as well.

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  11. For me, the fun of reading comes from the numerous interpretations that form as a result of reading! If 10 people read a poem, its highly possible that there will be 10 different interpretations of what each person thought the poem meant! What's even greater is that none of us will ever know what the poet truly meant, thus nobody is wrong or right! Reading also allows us to escape briefly from our fast paced, pressure filled lives and indulge in a world of relaxation and imagination (unless you're reading a textbook) thus we are able to put our minds to rest. When I was younger, I would spend half the day reading because I loved falling into the world that I was able to create within those novels. I would become so attached to the novel world, that it would almost depress me when the book or series was over, that I wouldn't eat dinner. Unfortunately, I haven't the time to read as novels as I wish could anymore, but whenever I'm given the chance I try to read on my commute to school, or during my work breaks.

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  12. Reading works of literature allows me to transcend through history and feel connected to those who have fought for our rights and liberty today. It is a way for me to ask questions of my identity, my beliefs and values, my dreams for the future and ultimately what my purpose in life is. I am simply in love with Jane Austen and Aphra Behn, pioneer female writers of the 18th century who fought through for women’s liberation of literacy. In particular, “Northanger Abbey” and “Oroonoko” both hold ulterior meanings of salvation (one to the enslavement of women, and the other to the enslavement of Blacks). I find myself not only immersed in the time era of the literary work, but also cultivating emotions and sentiments that I would have difficulty developing on a normal basis – soul-searching self-reflections, awareness of the self in society, and this overwhelming sense of empathy and inspiration that tends to take over my mind. It is a feeling of complete euphoria, and to realize that it is a privilege to be exposed to such beautiful and empowering works is a gift in itself.

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  13. I echo the idea that reading allows to me to connect with others throughout time and space while also allowing me to withdraw into a different world.
    Something that I've done more and more recently as I go through school and pick up more skills to do so is bringing analysis into media that I'm reading "just for fun". It's still nice to be able to read some things with my brain shut off and just enjoy it for the story, but I've begun to see the potential of really popular modern books as a way through which to approach pressing questions. Some, like Thomas King's, are kind of "obviously" politicized, and there are always those who like to avoid such topics. However, others, like the A Song of Ice and Fire series, seem like a general sort of fantasy series (and are extremely popular) but are just as fantastic for bringing up relevant questions about race, war, leadership, etc. Especially since conversation about literature can happen so easily these days with the Internet, it's become even more important as a means to consider questions and offer answers.

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  14. In my opinion, reading literature is a way for us to understand each other's ideas. It is a means through which people can communicate and be able to express ourselves. It is a method that connects ideas from the past to the present, and possibly later into the future as time goes by. Not only are we able to learn from the past and ways of thinking, but it also brings us joy to learn and educate ourselves with ideas worldwide. It is a means of recreation that is peaceful especially when one is able to read something they enjoy out of entertainment of out of being able to learn something new they were not aware of. There are so many ways to express these ideas, books, plays, myths, poems, plays, and they are all part of one big thing, literature.

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  15. Literature has many different uses such as entertainment, education, expression, etc. Humans are very creative beings. Our creativity and drive to learn new things provides an outlet for literature to develop. In today’s age, I believe many people use literature to escape their day to day lives. Literature allows a reader to imagine, and imagination can relieve an individual of stresses and hardships or provide inspiration and goals. Writers as well as characters can become role models to admire and peers to relate to. Literature can also teach important lessons. Reading takes us out of ourselves and allows us to travel through time and across distances. Literature allows an individual to live on after they pass through their written works for many generations to come.

    Chantel Wright

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  16. I think we still read literature because we are able to understand and learn about new ideas through it. Literature is a reflection of the ideas and perceptions of the person who wrote it. Therefore, I think literature provides readers with a different way to view life. Through reading, we are able to escape into the world that the author has created. I think that this allows us to challenge our ideas and beliefs based on what we read. Reading literature allows readers to have an open mind and continuously think of topics in a different way. Even pieces of literature that talk about the same topic have different views and opinions about it. Therefore, reading allows us to explore multiple perspectives and gain more knowledge about the world.

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  17. There is something infinitely more satisfying about being able to take something, experience and interpret it subjectively before having the choice to look into others' interpretations, or even the author's original intent. The allure of something that is written down and published to the world (whether it be through traditional paper means, or electronic) is that it can reflect both the original author's ideas and your own.

    Literature is also extremely important in that they last. Oral traditions and stories change easily with time, as does literature, but there are many more originals that we can find in print. It's always interesting to see how a piece has changed over time due to various influences.

    But more importantly, reading has always been an escape for me. None of my family really engage in reading, (apart from my dad, but he reads extremely slowly and not particularly often). It was a way for me to pass time and yet as I read more and more I found myself becoming addicted to what I could learn and how different life was outside of my house and this one small city on the west coast of Canada. Literature helped widen my perspective, and unfortunately, I can say that I have met many people who dislike reading and actually are much more close-minded than those that enjoy it. Suffice to say, not all, but many. Literature speaks truth, whether it be your own, or someone else's truth.

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  18. Reading literature is my way of living thousands of lives that I could never have lived in this lifetime; it is not just a way of escapism for me but a way of exploring the infinite multiverses—the infinite possible realities of a person’s life—without having to destabilize my own. As a kid, I thought reading literature was a way to get ahead of my peers, to always have something to say in conversations, when they talk about tales of origins and mythological creatures like the Sphinx and the Minotaur. But the more I read, I learned that it wasn’t for other people’s own interest; it was for mine. Mythologies present a certain way the world look to people of different cultures; they reflect portions of histories that we don’t have much knowledge of. They also exhibit man’s curiosity about supernatural phenomena and how we try to make sense of them. Growing up, I learned that I loved reading sci-fi and fantastical stories more than I liked reading non-fiction books, and I think the beauty in that comes from how much the imagination stretches the limits of consciousness. I love how fiction books always challenges reality, always tries to bend narratives so that they even urge us to take a closer look at our life, maybe “at the corner of our eyes” and look out for monsters. I found that reading books also helps reading people and situations easier; most of my interpretations of people’s behavior (which are often right) are based on what I learn from books. By empathizing with fictional characters, I also learned not to judge so easily, to always ask for the other side of the story. Reading literature is important to me because it keeps me curious; it keeps me wanting more explanation to things. It’s like, “read one book? Great, now it’s time to read 27 theories of how the plot line might progress.”

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  19. Reading is illuminating in the sense that it effects the brain differently as a stimulus compared to an interactive medium such as a television or theatre. The comprehension factor combined with the ambiguity with which words, rather than a visual medium - presents is what stimulates the brain. The following study is of particular interest:

    Berns, G., Blaine, K., Prietula, M., & Pye, B. (2013). "Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain." Brain Connectivity 3(6): 590-600.
    doi:10.1089/brain.2013.0166

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