Literature and Society | BA English Semester 1 Notes

Literature and Society: Literature can benefit society, provided it is studied or applied positively. Still, it can be very detrimental to society if what is contained within it is used with malice. I will be focusing on how literature is helpful to the community. Literature means something that is written to refresh and inspire the mind. Literature is vital in our lives and is more important than just a historical or cultural artefact. Reading such great literary and poetic works makes one understand life. They help a person take a closer look at the different facets of life.

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Literature & Society
Literature & Society

Literature and Society

In many ways, it can change one’s perspective toward life. Literature appeals to people’s hearts and souls; hence it can be a powerful tool for change. Karl Marx and Engels’s literature had a significant effect on many nations in the world; while Marxism is an abused term today, we see that Karl Marx laid down the ideologies that were imperatives of a society that was moving from agriculture to industrialization.

The importance of literature in our life Literature represents a language or a people: culture and tradition. But literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artefact. Literature introduces us to new worlds of experience. We learn about books and literature; we enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays; and we may grow and evolve through our literary journey with books. Literature is the foundation of life. It emphasizes many topics, from human tragedies to tales of the ever-popular search for love. While it is physically written in words, these words come alive in the imagination of the mind and its ability to comprehend the complexity or simplicity of the text.

Literature enables people to see through the lenses of others, and sometimes even inanimate objects; therefore, it becomes a looking glass into the world as others view it. It is a journey inscribed in pages and powered by the reader’s imagination. Ultimately, literature has provided a gateway to teach the reader about life. Experiences from even the saddest stories to the most joyful ones will touch their hearts. The Role of Literature for Individuals and Society Literature has two roles: active, engaging, and passive, reflective. The functional role represents the very act of reading. This role is a significant part of an individual’s development. From reading, an individual forms ideas and concepts about the world in which
they live. These ideas and concepts form together into an ideology of sorts.

From this ideology stems individual motivation, action, and engagement. For example, one’s decision to become a social activist may derive from a reading of Karl Marx, his discussion of the alienated worker, Gayatri Spivak, and her musings about the subaltern. One’s decision to become a Christian – be it a ‘born-again evangelical or a traditional Episcopalian – is heavily influenced by the act of reading. The second role is distinguishable from the first in that it is observed rather than done.

The reflective role of literature is to “show” society the history of ideologies, thoughts, and actions. It reveals what people thought during a particular time and how they thought about it. It allows the individual to understand how society functions and why it works. For example, an individual reading through Ernst Bloch will see into the hearts and minds of the German people during the early 19th and late 20th centuries.

There, one can find the ideas of the German ideology and how it functioned in central Europe during the given period. Or, returning to the Judeo-Christian example, the principles upon which ancient and classical societies were built can be inferred from reading the Bible – Hosea’s rebuke of an immoral nation or Paul’s condemnation of discrimination based on class. The social function of literature takes on many forms. Literature’s primary role is to inform and arrange words into a meaningful format, yet the social process has far more significant implications.

Mythology can be defined as the study and interpretation of myths and the body of myths of a particular culture. Myth is a highly complex cultural phenomenon portraying a culture’s symbolic language, fundamental elements, and hypotheses. Therefore, mythology’s social function is relative to many periods in history.

The study of mythology, as previously intimated, is complex as it is interdisciplinary, encompassing both religious and philosophical beliefs: “A serviceable image of the physical environment and daily life of a society remote in time and place may be conjured up by the fragile and well-furnished mind, but it is very much harder to apprehend its religious beliefs. Whatever the degree of our attachment to our traditions, it is almost impossible for us to step out of their: framework and strip familiar.

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