Article by: Mary Diver, Alumni member of AMU/APU
What is literature?
By definition, literature is “writings in prose or verse especially: writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest” (Webster 2019). So, what does literature do for us as individuals, families, as a society?
On the most basic level, literature entertains us. We have all enjoyed being on a fantastical journey to real or imagined places with characters whose journeys make us smile, laugh, cry, we even feel their frustrations and heartbreak. Literature makes us feel.
On another level, literature brings people together: friends, family, even strangers, can bond over a love of literature. From a shared favorite novel or author, literature creates connections in human beings we often don’t know are there.
One of my fondest memories is my mom reading to me when I was a little girl. Now, we connect through sharing what books we are reading and like to talk about things like the plot, the characters, hidden meanings, etc. Just about anything we can find!
Recently, I was in a coffee shop with a friend. As we were talking, I looked past her and noticed a man sitting drinking his coffee and reading a book. He looked content and the title seemed both interesting and very familiar, so I tucked it away in my mind to read another time. I made a connection with that stranger without even talking to him, through literature. I subconsciously formed ideas about him based on his demeanor while reading and the novel he held. Had I not been in deep conversation with a friend, I would have struck up a conversation. These are just a few examples of the many ways literature connects us with family, strangers, and society.
Perhaps the most important thing literature does is educate us. Literature is writing in an excellent caliber. At this level, literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, has educational opportunities. The growth or struggle of a character can teach us the importance of self-awareness, empathy, and/or determination. A novel I read in middle school, “Annie Between the States” not only taught me these things through Annie’s struggle but it also gave me a greater historical, geographical, and conceptual understanding of the American Civil War.
The books we love stay with us, the lessons we learned are remembered and embraced for a lifetime.
What more can literature teach us?
So, what has literature taught you?