What is Literature for?

We have a general sense that these sort of
places are filled with things that are deeply important,
but what exactly is literature good for? Why should we spend our time reading novels
or poems when out there, big things are going on. Let’s have a think about some of the ways
literature benefits us.. Of course, it looks like it’s wasting time,
but literature is ultimately the greatest time-saver, for it gives us access to a range
of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millenia to try to experience
directly. Literature is the greatest ‘reality simulator’,
a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you could ever directly
witness. It lets you – safely: that’s crucial – see
what it’s like to get divorced. Or kill someone and feel remorseful.
Or chuck in your job and take off to the desert. Or make a terrible mistake while leading your
country. It lets you speed up time:
in order to see the arc of a life from childhood to old age It gives you the keys to the palace, and to
countless bedrooms, so you can assess your life in relation to
that of others. It introduces you to fascinating people: a
Roman general, an 11th century French princess, a Russian upper class mother just embarking
on an affair… It takes you across continents and centuries Literature cures you of provincialism and,
at almost no cost, turns us into citizens of the world. Literature performs the basic magic of showing
us what things look like from someone else’s — point of view. It allows us to consider the consequences
of our actions on others in a way we otherwise wouldn’t. And it shows us examples of kindly, generous,
sympathetic people Literature typically stands opposed to the
dominant value system, the one that rewards money and power. Writers are on the other side, they make us
sympathetic to ideas and feelings that are of deep importance but that can’t afford
airtime in a commercialised, status-conscious and cynical world. We are weirder than we’re allowed to admit. We often can’t say what’s really on our
minds. But in books, we find descriptions of who
we genuinely are and what events are actually like, described with an honesty quite different
from what ordinary conversation allows for. In the best books it’s as if the writer
knows us better than we know ourselves. They find the words to describe the fragile,
weird, special experiences of our inner lives: – the light on a summer morning
– the anxiety we felt at the gathering – the sensations of a first kiss
– the envy when a friend told us of their new business – the longing we experienced on the train, looking at the profile of another passenger
we never dare to speak to Writers open our hearts and minds – and give
us maps to our own selves so that we can travel in them more reliably and with less of a feeling
of paranoia and persecution. As the writer Emerson remarked: ‘In the
works of great writers, we find our own neglected thoughts.’ Literature is a corrective to the superficiality
and compromises of friendship. Books are our true friends, always to hand,
never too busy, giving us unvarnished accounts of what things are really like. All of our lives, one of our greatest fears
is of failing, of messing up… of becoming, as the tabloids put it, a ‘LOSER’. Every day, the media takes us into stories
of failure Interestingly, a lot of literature is also
about failure. In one way or another, a great many novels, plays and poems are about people
who’ve messed up, people… …who slept with mum by mistake … who let down their partner … or who died after running up some debts
on shopping sprees. If the media got to them, they’d make mincemeat
out of them. But great books don’t judge as harshly or
as one-dimensionally as the media. They evoke pity for the hero and fear for ourselves based on a new sense of how near we all are to destroying our own lives. But if literature can really do all these
things, we might need to treat it a bit differently to the way we do now. We tend to treat it as a distraction, an entertainment
(something for the beach). But it’s far more than that, it’s really
therapy, in the broad sense. We should learn to treat it as doctors treat
their medicines, something we prescribe in response to a range of ailments and classify
according to the problems it might be best suited to addressing. Literature deserves its prestige for one reason
above all others: because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little more wisdom,
goodness and sanity.

100 thoughts on “What is Literature for?

  1. Of all the humanitarians in our species do we find
    that the writer, in their prose, in and amongst the lines
    Grandeur and eloquence are, to them, benign
    With their blood pouring out from their minds
    Do we see that they are seeking to better human kind.

  2. The images in the video were really chaotic for me, I could not concentrate on the story-telling. But still, great job and ideas.

  3. I do not think that those who have made Literature rise and develop and still be kept for us to learn, read about, study or even make videos as such about are a failure, it is absolutely the opposite. To make a writing, a poem, a masterpiece is to become the feeling itself. All they had endured of miseries and failures in their own lives were merely the engine, the magic portion to help them write genuine things. Some have even dared taking opium only to be at that rare state where one's soul is floating in a celestial mixture of emotions and feelings and that only wants to be put on paper. The problem with us today is that we don't understand nor feel what is true, real and genuine, feelings themselves had ditched us.

  4. The great threat to literature is from the reader; unless the reader stands for something worthwhile, perhaps contained therein to read.

  5. According to me, literature is an expression of a certain experience in an explicit or implicit way. There's no clear cut definition for it.

  6. literature removes boundaries, allows you to read minds, time travel, all in the comfort of your own room. it also fosters empathy and fuels imagination.

  7. Should literature be for service, Guru explains, http://proutscandinavia.blogspot.com/2017/04/rawa-artists-serving-humanity_4.html

  8. I would appreciate a bigger focus on what you're saying than the animated video and the background noise. The text is interesting enough, we don't need to be entertained by funny videos.

  9. xZeno…summon me for chat anytime. This presentation is sublime and perfectly summarizes the important function of literature…bravo as always to SOL.

  10. Literature is the reason why Filipinos revolted against Spain in the 1800s. So I think literature is more than what it is in the video.☺☺☺

  11. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you!
    I don't agree with your anti-religious bent on many tubes, but I greatly appreciate you great work in setting all these tubes up.

  12. Not really a literature inclined person but this video enlightens me and gives me insights on how wonderful literature can be.

  13. Hey School of Life, I keep hearing about authors who are considered great story tellers but not good literature. Tonight I heard it said of Michael Bond (RIP) the creator of Paddington! I mean a kid's book, who cares whether it's great literature. What are people actually talking about? What do they mean, really? Are they saying sentence structure wasn't as good as it could have been. What makes great literature compared to great story telling? I have also heard it said that great literists are not always good story tellers and vice versa. Who needs great literature if the story isn't any good? Thanks, I am but an ignorant peasant who seeks to be enlightened!

  14. Please reply to these questions causing me confusion.
    is it possible for literature to be false and misleading?
    some literature for example would program you to be aggressive or supporting toward certain objectives and means, by making you falsely afraid, desiring some what sounds to be a reward and afraid of some punishment, a heaven and a hell. Based on a given scenario or ideas for example.

    Also is a book for giudance, science and advices considered literature? I really dont get the bounded meaning of what literature is.

  15. I wish this video was available when I was in high school, 30 years ago. Literature never made sense to me and I’ve been trying to learn how to read it. Note: I can read a physics book all day, but literature still gives me fits like Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’.

  16. I never knew this before..it looks different from my class literature but,I think this could help me learn lots more about it. ? (^_^)

  17. Well, I don't know anymore. It's natural for me, a reader and a Lit major, to preach reading to people, because it's the thing I love the most, just as a sculptor would preach sculpture to people. And people wouldn't care much, or take suggestions at best. Which makes sense, because I know not all people read, like I don't play any sports. So then again, what is literature, or all art, for? I could provide a million reasons, which make perfect sense to me, but not to most people. The only thing I can hope is they listen at all. Just keep in mind that the minds behind Game of Thrones or Batman Trilogy are literature majors.

  18. Literature the number 1 i hate of High school. It is boring and usually very idealistic which from a rational view is dumb because it creates people basing on feelings rather than concrete facts and truths plus the fact that is so irrelevant. Most of the stories are written in a way that i can barely understand due to so many unnecesary stupid words that make the comprenhension of the reading a pain in the ass. At the end of the day i gotta look up to summary because i can barely get the point after an hour of adjectives and weird "artistic" metaphors. Math forever.

  19. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  20. Really interesting video. One of my favorites. But just an observation. When you said " a Roman general ", the statue that appears isn't a roman's. It's the statue of the Greek Spartan king Leonidas who fought the Persians at Thermopyles.

  21. I'm watching this third time and I can't get enough of it. It's too good and filled with wisdom for my little brain to digest.

  22. Literature really? That’s what it’s all about. All I can understand are words I spoken throughly, I read some of it and yet I learn other languages as well and not only that. But I understand hand work. Not paper and words written in it and doing more paperwork over and over again. But I do hard work with my damn bare hands only. That’s how I live through. Now what about you?

  23. I just can't understand how a book can wake up any emotions or put you in any situation. It's just some useless story written by a homo sapiens, no matter how beautiful the words can be.

  24. Engineering Interview:
    Your Interviewer – tell me quotes from Romeo and Juliet?
    Me – why the fuck would I need to know that to do Engineering!

  25. After spending days.. solving mathematical problems n learning new scientific discoveries. …
    I decided to start reading other stuffs …
    So which book do u suggest ?

  26. Isn't movies and television shows also reality simulators? Don't they also depict History,Fiction and other people's points of view? What makes it unique?

  27. Anyone know of theorists or philosophers whose opinions on literature this video builds upon? Can't find a source list anywhere.

  28. I just started a new channel that is a very specific audience. It is a reader/analysis educational English literature subject.
    My biggest goal is to find people who are interested in literature and want to start a conversation. Give it a try.

  29. I guess it's the slow paste of dedicatingly reading literature that makes immersing into it one of the most unique and efficiently working ways of experiencing stories, emotions and true wisdom.

  30. I'm the 1D freak who came to watch this bc I'm probing the entity of literature, but instead I have multiple issues now.

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