For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Why study literature

A book can be a life-changing event that alters your sense of existence
12:00 AM Apr 25, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
why study literature

“A good book is an event in my life”, says Stendhal in his novel, ‘The Red and the Black’. It is not necessary for someone to present a logical justification for why he or she does not read; all that is required is for someone to be lazy enough to avoid reading literature. With the advent of technology, the book, which has reigned supreme in the realms of information and amusement since the dawn of civilisation, has been dethroned.


Who wants to go through the laborious, time-consuming process of reading words when movies and documentaries can entertain and inform you passively while doing absolutely nothing? I am not writing this piece of article to argue why reading literature is preferable to viewing films or documentaries, other than the fact that they are overlapping but distinct modes of enjoyment and knowledge; rather I am writing it to revive the lost tradition of reading literature.


I believe it is important to state here that when I refer to literature, I am referring to all written works that have artistic or educational value. Reading is not the focus of attention here because it was a tradition for us, just as practicing racism was a tradition for us, but rather, to remind you of an exercise that can be a source of optimism and assistance that we lack. A book can be a life-changing event that alters your sense of existence and other aspects of your life.


It is nearly universally human nature to want to be remembered after death. People had figured out a way to pass on their ideas to the next generation, since they were living in caves. In a sense, the first man who painted on the cave walls lived longer than his cave companions. Only a small number of people have written down their ideas on pages, paintings, or walls; the majority have died with their thoughts. According to Banksy:


“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing, and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time”. These books are the echoes of our ancestors’ voices, who attempted to tell us about who they were. Unfortunately, as we develop habits of squandering our time on endless newsfeeds, these echoes are dwindling away.


There would be no Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, or any other intellectual figure without literature. We would undoubtedly die anonymously without contributing anything to the world if we continued to study literature as we do now, and those philosophers, artists, and scientists who lived thousands of years before you would live on in perpetuity.


Aside from our first-hand sensory experiences, reading literature is one of the most important sources of learning, not just of the past or present, but also of the future. The past is the torch that guides you through the present so that you can overcome the dark and unexpected future. Those nations and civilisations that possessed this wealth of information had a distinct advantage over others. They were well aware of their forefathers’ mistakes, which resulted in turmoil, as well as all of their actions, which brought them prosperity and happiness.


The situation has not changed much since then. Books come in a wide range of subjects and can teach you about everything. As a result, everyone or any organisation that wishes to achieve a goal can benefit from their experiences. In terms of both time and energy, it is cost effective. You don’t have to waste time or effort to find out whether smoking causes cancer. This topic has already benefited from extensive research, which has been documented. So, you can start from where people before you left the quest rather than starting from all the ways back from, ‘does smoking cause cancer?’

Reading literature for the purpose of enjoyment is also fun. All these novels, poems, and dramas will take you on a voyage to a world you have never seen before. According to Longinus, these worlds are constructed in the minds of novelists, poets, and dramatists, and their good use of words and word order has the potential to “transport” you to these realms.

This reminds me of the Virtual Reality (VR) technology, in which you put on a headset and virtually go and catch sight of anything you desire. Everyone who wears the headset will see the same image, yet two readers reading the same novel will experience two different versions of the imagined world.

This is due to the fact that when a writer creates an image by describing details, he or she cannot tell you about every bit. As a reader, you also contribute, resulting in multiple versions of the same novel. Furthermore, from my personal experience, in the long-term, I can recall many scenes from a novel that I read rather than a movie I watch. This might be for the reason that I actively contributed to make those scenes in my mind.

Reading literature should not be considered a monotonous hobby in which you sit there and stare at the pages of a book. It is the activity that saves your time and energy, educates you on issues you are interested in, and entertains you by letting you momentarily escape the artificial and mechanical life.

When you close the book and put it on the shelf, the tale does not stop; rather it begins. It evolves you slowly yet steadily. It motivates you and teaches you a valuable lesson. At the conclusion of a book, a reader who begins with the preface emerges as a better person than before.

By Eyram Hamid Khan, research scholar in life sciences, Glocal University, Saharanpur India.