Literature Is Literature

1183 Words5 Pages
What is literature, and why should people read it? These two questions normally surface on the first day of English and literature classes. In fact, as one Introduction to Literature class ended the 2017 Spring semester with student presentations, the final presenter, a middle-age auto mechanic with oily stained hands and a battered countenance, exclaimed most eloquently, “Literature is an alive and breathing thing. It gives life to the past and the present. It makes me know, feel, and love. Without literature, I would be nothing.” Juxtaposed appearance versus thought shows the power and impact of literature. Without literature, we would be nothing; we would have no thought, feelings, or life. By reading, sharing, discussing, and writing, literature breathes life into the breathless. Students are not the only ones who grapple with these questions. What is literature? - is the very question Terry Eagleton opens with in his book Literary Theory: An Introduction. Moving away from the nontraditional student, how does a prominent professor and esteemed literary critic answer the same question? Remarkably, he dittos that of the mechanic. In Eagleton’s opening chapter “The Rise of English,” he responds in much the same way by asserting literature’s “task is to transform society in the name of those energies and values which art embodies” (17). Eagleton adds further elaboration to his view of literature’s development and definition; in his chapter “The Rise of Literature” he
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