Why Literature?

(The Value and Benefits of Literature in a Screen-Obsessed World)

As public education undergoes a major paradigmic shift and reinvention with multiple agendas (e.g., e-media literacy, chamber of commerce¬†interests–financial planning, making money as the ultimate goal in life) crowding the plate to replace traditional school subject offerings (such as English), some quotes review on reasons why literature and literature-teaching are valuable and beneficial in the development of people, young people especially.

  • “Literature is a fundamental element of identity and culture.”


  • “For the citizen to be conscious of the underlying myths and imaginative patterns that operate in our lives rather than being unconsciously controlled by them, is an asset. To have many such citizens is an asset to a country.”

–R.D. McMaster, “Why Read?”

  • “The consequence of such expansion of consciousness [through the study of literature] is liberation, from the many insularities–spiritual, social, racial, or political, that compete with sullen malice to claim and narrow us.”

–Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination

  • “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

–Ray Bradbury

  • “Remember/ First to possess his books; for without them/He’s but a sot as I am.”

–Caliban speaking¬† in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest

  • “Surely of all the arts, literature is most immediately implicated with life itself. The very medium which the author shapes the text–language–is grounded in the shared lives of human beings.”

–Louise M. Rosenblatt, Language, Literacy and Values

  • “Learning to read books…is not just a matter of acquiring information from texts, it is a matter of learning how to read and write the texts of our lives.”

–Robert Scholes, Protocols of Reading 19

  • “For literature remains the unexcelled means of interior exploration and connection-making.”

–Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies

  • “Reading a book ¬†and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage in imaginative processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode.”

–Ken Pugh

  • When students read literature, ‘horizons of possibility” come to mind, moving them to reflect on and interpret ideas at hand; students raise questions, recognize problems, seek causes and solutions, and make connections. They explore multiple perspectives and imagine scenarios. This type of thinking is at the heart of literate thought.”

–Judith A. Langer, “Literature Acquisition through Literature”

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