Saturday, December 22, 2007

Literature is Useless?

Which is more useful and important to society: Shakespeare, or knowledge about the human anatomy?

You see, I've been writing earnestly since 8th grade, which made last August the 6th anniversary of when I wrote my first poem. I went to a performing arts high school where I majored in Creative Writing, and wanted to be better than Shakespeare and Hemingway. But I've recently come to doubt the practicality of literature. I've wondered if it's importance and allure is merely an illusion, and really a waste of time. Perhaps it is better to major in agriculture, or engineering. Better to read papers on psychology, and spend your time people-watching. You can learn more about people by people-watching than reading poetry by Keats.

I've pretty much made up my mind about these things. I may still write poetry and prose, but have really come to doubt its importance, and wonder if life would be better spend in some other activity.

Yet, what would be nice to know is what you think about literature.
Tell me why Shakespeare matters.
Tell me why the bottom floor of the Barnes and Noble should be comprised of paperback novels.
Tell me why we should be writing poetry and literary critiques rather than reading critiques
But what the hell do you think?


Anonymous said...

i've wondered the same thing myself, and you're completely right. absolutely right.

i hope you're not majoring in english.

megan said...

Maybe science is more important than literature, but that doesn’t mean art and music are useless and we shouldn’t bother with them. We can use practical things like math and science to make a perfectly efficient society, but what's the point of living in a disease-free, economically sound, eco-friendly world if there’s nothing beautiful to appreciate? What’s the point of making everything so convenient - isn’t the suffering it takes to get what you want the thing that makes your achievements so gratifying?
Argh go read Brave New World.

Alberto said...

Hm..."nothing beautiful to appreciate" is subjective. Granted, people have more fun with Vonnegut than with Calculus. But...I haven't read Brave New World, so I am unable to see where you're coming from, and therefore cannot, in full confidence, provide a reply to what you've state. in any case, my post was a little on the skimpy side. You definitely pointed out something important to consider: why people should want to live in the first place. What was meant by the writing of the post was that literature has no immediate purpose. You read something, you mull it around in your head. Yes, it can be mind-expanding, or entertaining, but people can get the same reaction by simply living actively IN the world. Also, it is important to note that this claim has nothing to do with the other humanities: history, psychology, philosophy.

They are just as practical and important to know as the sciences.

Anonymous said...

You can have Literature, but you can't force everyone to love it. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Some people will think it is useless, some not. The debate will go on as long as subjectivity exists. And Literature is subjective in itself.

lordmorgusk said...

To make it short, yes, I think that literature is totally useless. Math and Science are useful.

Solotext said...

i enjoy math, thank you very much. I'm currently writting an essay on how literature is useless. In my opinion literature is just for entertainment. I still haven't found anyone to prove other wise.

squidget said...

You have to examine closely what you exactly mean by 'useful'.

Engineering and Psychology definitely are more useful in the quantifiable, economic sense. These disciplines teach one to build structures or exploit hapless consumers through marketing.

Literature cannot. This doesn't mean its not useful in that sense. Not directly anyway.

The value of literature lies in its ability to hold up the human condition to public scrutiny, to examine honestly and fearlessly the flaws and greatness of the human condition. It also promotes general empathy and public discourse over the crucial humanistic issues covered in the novel.

The effects of this are multifarious. Individuals can derive great joy, self awareness and moral courage from reading great works of literature.

Entire sectors of society have launched riots, revolutions and civil rights movements using literature as a means of expressing their identity. The feminist movement for example, was fueled heavily by the rise of feminist poets and writers who popularized their ideals.

One might argue that literature might have been so then, but not now. I agree, but argue that the current literary 'recession' is due to the poor standard of literature now, rather than literature being bad per se.