Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme which poses a question or a thought for participants to discuss centering on the subject of books or reading. The question for this week is one that I submitted:
I am paraphrasing from a friend’s Facebook wall her question:
“How would a teen-age boy who is going to work with his hands ever use Literature of England in his work?”
The age-old “How am I going to use this in real life?” question. How would you answer it?
As a wanna-be English major (I minored in English) who has always loved reading, I can’t help but think, “How can you not want to study literature, just for the enjoyment?” But obviously someone wasn’t enjoying it (interesting the question was asked by a mom rather than a child. She may have been looking for reasons to share with him, but I think she was just frustrated herself). And, honestly, not all literature is enjoyable. Some answers to the question, “Why read anything?” would apply, but why read literature in particular if you’re not going to be an English teacher? I am very interested in other people’s answers to this question, but here are a few that came to my own mind:
1. For personal enjoyment. Obviously no one will enjoy every piece of literature and some will enjoy it more than others and some teachers wring the life out of it in the way they teach it, but surely there would be portions of it that would appeal to anyone.
2. To broaden one’s horizons beyond one’s own experience, to learn of other places, times, cultures.
3. To broaden one’s understanding of one’s own culture.
4. To understand cultural references so that when someone quotes Dickens or Frost or Shakespeare you have some idea who they’re talking about. If someone mentions “Two roads diverged….,” knowing the poem and its subject enriches your understanding of what the person is referring to.
5. To have a point of contact with one’s fellow man or woman. This particular mom is a missionary and felt that her son’s time and mental powers would be better employed just reading and studying the Bible. But even the apostle Paul quoted poets and took time to understand other people’s culture as a way understanding them as a people and having a point of reference from which to share the gospel (Titus 1:11-13, Acts 17:21-23).
6. To become a more well-rounded person. Few people have just one interest, and if they don’t, they can tend to come across as a little dull to others who don’t share that interest. I’ve always been so glad that my alma mater was a Christian liberal arts university which taught a Christian worldview of all the arts.
7. To become more creative.
8. Exercise in thinking about issues, points of view, behavior, etc.
9. Exercise in language use. Someone who might be having trouble with grammar or spelling or general language use can get a feel for it almost unconsciously by reading.
What are your thoughts? What are the benefits of studying literature?