Tuesday, February 01, 2000

Why literature matters

“When other people tell your story, it always comes out crooked” quoted a Chippewa tribe elder. The introduction from “Norton's Introduction to Literature”, is in line with the quote from a Chippewa tribe elder. In summary, the introduction addresses why literature matters, what is literature, and why thinking critically about literature can affect us in how we view life in itself.

Literature matters, because it challenges your potential thought process by enhancing your imagination in the realms of emotions, history, views, interpretations, and comparisons with other works of its genre. Literature interweaves yesterday's concepts with today's concepts and future concepts. This can be derived by how it is interpreted by oneself and others. It can promote a wonderful escape mechanism for oneself from our hectic daily life. The canon of literature can be far reaching, which not only is included in this book, but expanded outside the book with experiences not yet realized by oneself or others. The great writings of these prominent people are just a starting point. What one does with this knowledge is up to the beholder in how far he or she wants to go with it. Literature can have a powerful political implication in itself. For example, literature held a very important place in Harriet Beecher Stowe's life. In 1852, author Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the book “Uncle Tom's cabin”. Stowe was quite involved in the anti-slavery movement prior to the civil war; therefore, she inserted many anti-slavery elements into her book. In 1862, while the civil war was still in progress, Harriet Beecher Stowe visited the white house, at which time, President Lincoln reportedly announced her as “the little lady who started the big war.” The introduction exposes some of these concepts; therefore, one can conclude that literature does have an impact on us. (AmericanCivilWar, 2010) (Introduction to Literature, pp 1 - 4, 2006)

What is literature one may ask? “Literature is not things, but a way to comprehend things.” This quote, by Norman Ann Hallman, has encompassed what literature is all about. It has no boundaries. It involves writing that creates beauty, and emotion. Literature can take many forms, such as, oral, film, video, drama, and written. Literature is timeless. It crosses all cultural form of expressions. (Introduction to Literature, pp 4 -5, 2006)

Literature can help you develop critical thinking by developing literature signals. According to the introduction, signals that spark questions are the following: “is this fiction or a novel”; “is the style moderate or funny”; “is it satiric”; “who are the characters trying to symbolize”; and “what form does it take, stanza, metaphor, or narrator”. These are just some examples one may ask himself/herself. Critical thinking may arrive by a collection of interpretations of yours along with others which may change your interpretation. Interpretations can be created by exposure to life and how one reacts to that exposure. It crosses both social and cultural boundaries. Interpretation is a factor in all that was mention above, which may also include facts, imagination, and history. Jelling of the total picture creates a critical thinking interpretation. It is like making soup, mixing and dissolving all the ingredients to give it a good taste. (Introduction to Literature, pp 5 - 10, 2006)

The introduction in “The Norton Introduction To Literature” has as its main goal to involve literature as one of life's pleasures. It can challenge your thought process. It can promote emotion and beauty if you let it. It can take you on a journey to which you haven't been before. Lastly, literature can unfold past, present and future. The reality is how it may influence you and what you take away from it. Oscar Wilde may have said it best; “Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but molds it to its purpose.” (Introduction to Literature, pg 9, 2006)


Anonymous (2010). Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896.

Retrieved April 9, 2010, from American Civil War website


Booth, A. & Hunter P.J. & Mays K.J. (Ed.). (2006). "Introduction"

The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Ed. (pp 1 - 10) Indianapolis, IA: North, Inc.

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