To define literature in one definition may not be possible. But, literally and literary speaking, to me, that shows its vastness and aesthetic value of this subject. Every new book adds something to its evolution, as TS Eliot’s maintains ‘when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it’.
Every book goes through criticism and counter criticism resulting in deep-rooted impact over literature and society.According to Oxford Dictionary literature means ‘Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit’. While dictionary.com says “writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.” Yet, if we need to be rather specific, we can say, ‘Literature is the mirror of society’.
Literature and society go hand in hand. Literature is the foundation of society, which is an undeniable fact. One example that can be put forth to corroborate the point is the two states of ancient Greece i.e. Athens and Sparta. Sparta, where focus was on war, believing that boys must make warriors, while girls mothers of warriors, was once invincible. On the other hand, Athens believed in values, where a man could serve in military but was not forced to do so. Ancient Greece, especially Athens, placed considerable interest in literature, bestowing the entire world, especially the western world with the best of the literature. Athens, the birth place of western civilization, was the biggest Grecian state with the most glorious past to be proud of. Greeks gave the world the concept of democracy. Athens had one of the Seven Wonders of the World i.e. acropolis of Athens. Athens was the centre for the arts, education and philosophy, where Plato’s Akademia enlightened people, where Aristotle’s Lyceum existed.
Athens, where Socrates, the father of western philosophy, was born; a birth place of pericles, Aeschylus Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Hippocrates, and many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world to be proud of. Above all, what makes Athens prominent from all other states of Greece is its being the centre of art and literature. It encouraged philosophers and writers to flock to her. To be more specific, Athens was such a glorious state, where thought and freedom was encouraged. Those interested in learning would go the Athens. Today, the world reveres Athens for endowing it with thought, while the warrior Sparta goes into oblivision.
It’s literature that reflects society, its vice and virtue, while a literary intellectual points out the ills of society. He shows the mirror to the society through his faculty of thought for people to realize their faults and mend their ways so as to form a ‘civilized society’. Without literature, society is just a group of people going nowhere. Modern Europe laid down its foundations on renaissance movement during 15th century. Renaissance was an attempt to revive literature, art and knowledge.
Literature basically makes you think. The philosophy of literature is to teach people how to think. Literature teaches you what a mother is, literature teaches you what a family is, literature teaches you what a state or patriotism is, and so on. Precisely speaking, literature is sacred concept, for it is a bridge between us and society. As we believe, this world is reflection of God and his attributes. If that is true, literature is reflection of this world so in a way we can reach God through literature. Even Holy scriptures, contain stories from the past and god has given a number of connotative examples to explain his commands, God says in Holy Quran in Surah Baqarah verse no 20: “Or (another similitude) is that of a rain-laden cloud from the sky: In it are zones of darkness, and thunder and lightning: They press their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunder-clap, the while they are in terror of death.”
As Albert Einstein says, ‘Imagination is everything. For a child, imagination is a very powerful source of learning. From a toy to colorful title of a text book, everything fascinates a child and leads him to imagination. He learns to visualize things. children with an exposure to literature, perform well in their fields, for they when read literature, besides being in the process of becoming good humans, are enhancing their capacity to visualize and their retention and cognitive faculties develop.
It is very important to give a child access to varieties of quality literature. Be it picture/wordless book or poetry or prose. It provides the child with an opportunity to develop his/her own opinion, while at the same time the child starts to look into the things at a deeper level rather than superficially. Literature as a teacher teaches a child how to think, and when a child learns to think, he himself will figure out what to think. It leaves space for debate, so as to allow for different opinions.
Connection with ones cultural heritage is natural phenomena. It is the concept of pivotal importance in an individual’s life. It develops sense of belonging and provides better understanding of one’s ascendants as well as others. The best way to transfer the culture and heritage is via literature.
Emotional moral and rational intelligence, parents want their children to have. When a child read a story beginning, the rise of conflict/crisis, climax and denouement, he goes through several types of training i.e. moral decision, decision making, conflict management etc.
Creativity is the philosophy of self, and the philosophy of life. Osho is of the opinion that ‘To be creative means to be in love with life. If you are in doubt with yourself, you are not creative’. Sylvia Plath puts it this way: “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt’. Literature provides a child with the world of creativity, opening the doors to understand life.
The importance of literature is an undeniable fact. Despite the fact, not every book of literature is worth reading. Yes, we should know the idea of ‘good literature and bad literature. Literature is like food. There are good foods and there are bad foods, so is the literature. A good food makes you healthy, while bad food causes you illness; the same way, good literature endows you with awareness, while bad literature spoils. The responsibility lies on parents to be careful in what they provide their children with. And for that, parents should have literary sense.
In order to avoid disarray in life or situation like Gulliver in Gulliver’s travels where he becomes a misanthrope at the end, at the early age, parents should suggest books to their children so they can enjoy literature and make up their mind for the bumpy and thrilling ride and embrace modern ideas with open arms. In this way, every new book would open a door of knowledge for them and they not only digest it but ‘to vex the world’ as well in swift’s words.