Why Study Literature?

Posted February 18, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

Recently I posted a blog post about what I would teach if I was to do a class on English Literature 101.  The topic sparked a lot of debate and I was very happy with the post. But I was asked this week, why I read so much and why I would want to teach English literature. The short answer is the fact I love reading and it’s an exciting topic; but I’ve been pondering the question and trying to get a deeper more extensive answer.

As most people know, I never was much of a reader until recently, when I started my journey into educating myself; I discovered a real joy in reading. It’s easy to just look at reading as just an activity to do for enjoyment but I believe there is so much more to reading and there is a lot to gain from studying literature.

To benefit from others beliefs, bias, insight & knowledge

The world of literature has a wealth of knowledge we can learn from and if we take the time to study and analyse what we read, we have access to some interesting points of views. This information can give us access to many different aspects, from first-hand accounts of history, their personal understanding of the world and even a different take on the philosophy and culture we live by and in. While it’s important to remember that what we read is in the view point of someone else, this bias view can help us redefine or strengthen ourselves.

Self Improvement

I can think of so many ways reading can help you improve; from simple things like improve vocabulary, exercising our brains, learning from others mistakes and helping to define a writing style. While I think these are great; there is one more reason why reading can help you improve and I want to focus on this one. Reading encourages us to question “accepted” knowledge; in school we are taught that we have to accept what we are taught as fact, and those basic hypotheses are the building blocks of knowledge. However the human progress doesn’t work this way. When we get older we begin to question things more and more. The main problem is we often just form assumptions based on what we know and don’t take the time to analyse the information. When we read (especially nonfiction) we are forced to look at information from other points of view and while we don’t always agree with it, inevitably we are forced to look at ourselves. While people “say what they mean and mean what they say” ultimately we need to learn to open our minds to the ambiguities of world.


While most people say they read as a form of escape, it is important to remember that we are able to learn while we are escaping our world. We can be learning empathy just by reading a tragic story; we can be learning about other cultures and their views and even into the mindset of a different type of person. There is so much about the world we can discover.

Maybe we don’t take the time to analyse what and why we are reading but maybe subconsciously we are learning something new. I’d like to think every book I’ve read is teaching me something different and while I don’t take the time to analyse every book, I do try to understand and judge the books content for myself.

0 responses to “Why Study Literature?

  1. I think I’d rather just read for pleasure, rather than studying it. I think it still opens up all those things to me.

  2. I thing i read to gain knowledge from great authors and also to inpRove in my vocabulary/ Bridget

    i love your reasons, why you read literature, but for me,i read to acquire knowledge and wisdom then to improve in my vocabulary.

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