Literature and Society

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Literature is intimately related to society. Viewed as a whole, a body of literature is part of the entire culture of a people. The characteristic qualities that distinguish the literature of one group from that of another, derive from the characteristic qualities of that group. Its themes and problems emerge from group activities and group situations, and its significance lies in the extent to which it expresses and enriches the totality of culture. It is an integral part of entire culture, tied by a tissue of connections with every other element in the culture.

Society influences literature in many ways, and the connections of literature with society are integral and pervasive. In fact, the range for social influences on literature is as broad as the entire range of operative social forces: the prevailing system of social organization—including the class structure, the economic system, the political organization and the deeply rooted institutions; the dominant ideas; the characteristic emotional tone; the sense of the past and then pattern of the contemporary realities. There is nothing in the compass of social life that does not play its part—small or large, directly or by deflection, giving literature the impress of its surroundings. The relation between literature and society is highly complex, and it is very difficult to determine which element of society has exerted what influence on literature. We cannot, therefore, afford to isolate a single element in society—whether economic or ideological—and assign to it a causal role in the final determination of literature. The whole of the social process—including material, conceptual, emotional and institutional elements—may be regarded as containing the potential influences determining the direction and character of literature of a period. In each period in the history of a nation, a certain social situation is brought into the area of operative influence, which is different from any other social situation....
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