Why I Study Literature


My immediate answer as to why literature is worth studying is simply because someone wrote it. This response is probably because I enjoy writing more than I do reading. During my free time as a kid I preferred to create, build, or write something, rather than to read. As I aged this changed a little, because I began to love reading books, stories and poems at school. Learning about the author, history and process of each piece, and then analyzing and discussing the work with a group led me to appreciate literature more. I worshipped the concept that someone had something to say, and then had the ability to put together words in a way that other people could understand or feel what they wanted them to. I struggled with this a lot growing up. I wanted my parents to know how much I loved them, or I wanted someone to grasp the excitement or fear I felt when I told a story. Then, in high school when I started writing more essays and creative writing pieces, I began to understand why people spent their lives writing. When I was able to sit and ponder the exact words I wanted for as long as I wanted to, I was often able to achieve a final product that expressed my thoughts or a story to another person. I still enjoy writing now because it is cool that I can translate something from myself onto paper for others to see. I like to believe that all or most literature is written because the author has something they want to say, something they think should be heard, a story that should be told, or an idea to be expressed. If those reasons are even slightly accurate then I think literature should be studied for the sole reason that someone wrote it on purpose, it was an accident, and they had the intention of someone else reading it and taking something, take anything away from it.

I think the thesis that most embodies many of the effects for justifying reading literature is Lye’s representation thesis. This thesis seems to also encompass or overlap in some way with almost all of his other theses, I think this is because it is hard to write something without it reflecting or embodying some piece of reality, since the human experience is the only experience we have. For example, even when a work of literature falls under the category of the exploration thesis and explores other possible worlds, it will still have some representation of humanity or basic elements of the world. Since so much literature represents some aspect of the real world, it makes sense that we should desire to read because it provides opportunities to think about different views and consider not only our participation in the world, but also the lives and experiences we cannot or will not have. The only thesis that I did not feel completely fit in and did not seem to have overlapping aspects with the other theses is the cultural function thesis. Lye says that literature “functions within the culture as a whole.” I do believe this is true, because literature is a key part of education and a largely appreciated form of art. That being said, he concludes this thesis by saying that literature can also be seen “as a form of discourse controlled by the elite.” While I understand how that statement alone can be argued, I do not think that it is a worthy justification for the study of literature.