Friday, December 30, 2011

What is the value of literature?

One of the most important values of literature is that it nourishes our emotional lives.  An effective literary work may seem to speak directly to us, especially if we are ripe for it.  The inner life that good writers reveal in their characters often gives us glimpses of some portion of ourselves.  Besides, human emotions speak a universal language regardless of when or where a work was written.

In addition to appealing to our emotions, literature broadens our perspectives of the world.  It allows to move beyond the inevitable boundaries of our own lives and introduces us to people different to ourselves, places remote from our neighborhoods, and times other than our own.  Reading makes us more aware of life’s possibilities as well as its subtleties and ambiguities.  Put simply, people who read literature experience more life and have a keener sense of a common human identity than those who do not.

To discover the insights that literature reveals requires careful reading and sensitivity.  It is true, of course, that many people go through life without reading imaginative literature, but that is a loss rather than a gain.  Reading literature encourages a suppleness of mind that is helpful in any discipline of work because it enhances and sharpens your perceptions.  —The Bedfore Introduction to Literature by Michael Meyer

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