The Importance Of Literature

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James Austin ENGL111 – Spring 2014 Essay #1 What is Literature? Answering the question “what is literature?” has most certainly been a debate over time immemorial. When posing the question, several aspects come to play, and not all of them deal directly with the question itself but the asker as well. It's a question that could be answered multiple ways, and have conflicting yet valid conclusions based on the perspective that was taken. By today's standards there can be a distinction made discerning what would be considered literature and what is not, by examining not only the authored content, but how that content is received by the public. Ultimately we will find that true literature represents a higher quality of writing that has lasting impact and influence on its readers. It has the ability to shape society and to improve on the current spoken word of a culture. This is a distinction that most written work does not achieve. So then the question arises: what would be literature and what wouldn't be? If we use the gauge of social impact as a measuring tool then today's novels like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey would qualify as equals in literary significance as classic novels like Moby Dick and Ulysses. However, I believe this to be a superficial approach and does not truly capture the depth of quality for lasting impact a literary work requires. The argument to validate a novel like 50 Shades of Grey and equally compare it to Ulysses would be a monumental endeavor and would ultimately fail. Although 50 Shades of Grey is socially popular today, where will it be in 100 years? It won't have the staying power to become a truly great work of art because its literary quality is mediocre at best. That novel, and novels like it, do... ... middle of paper ... ...ut one person’s meaningful impact does not make enough significance to influence society and change perspectives in general. Multiple people would have to have a similar reaction, or as significant of a reaction, for the literary work to be begin gaining recognition and notoriety. Literature can be presented in many forms, and each form can be read a different way and with a different gravity. The overall impact on the reader remains the same: it shapes the way a reader (and thus, society) thinks and behaves. This shaping is also the clarifying tool in determining what is worthy of literary praise, and what is “junk writing.” It’s a tool that each reader wields, and will use it to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. This is why we find that true literature represents a higher quality of writing that has lasting impact and influence on its readers.
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