Why Do We Read Literature

Topics: Literature, Literary criticism, Literary theory Pages: 4 (1423 words) Published: March 3, 2013
Why Do We Read Literature?
First, Literature Defined:
* "The creation of literature is a uniquely human activity, born of man's timeless desire to understand, express, and finally share experiences." * Literature is "a concrete artifact -- a story, a poem, or a play" * "The medium of translation, of course, is language, the written and spoken word." * "When we speak of literature, however, we have in mind a special kind of language that differs from the ordinary discourse with which we conduct our daily affairs. The term literature . . . refers to language that is deliberately structured in such a way as to have identifiable artistic qualities."  

1.) Reading for Vicarious Escape
* Literature can offer "exciting narratives that can be read uncritically simply because they allow us to escape the problems and responsibilities of our everyday lives and to participate, however briefly, in a world of experience that differs radically from our own." * Examples: the spy or detective story; science fiction; historical novels * We read for the fun of it.

* "Many works of literature, classics as well as paperback pulps, survive precisely because they succeed in temporarily detaching us from time and place and transporting us to some imaginary world that we otherwise would never know." * "Although some people tend to regard such a motive as adolescent or even anti-intellectual, the fact remains that literature flourishes, in part at least, because of the freedom and escape it affords our imagination." * And for those works which do not seem like "escape," we should ask what they have that have led them to "survive" over time!  

2.) Reading to Learn
* "Literature offers the reader 'knowledge' in the form of information . . . information that at the time is all the more fascinating because it is part of the author's re-created world." * "Literature read in this way serves as a social document, giving us insight into the laws,...
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