The function of literature

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The function of literature Does it really have a function? What is reading literature for? • A exact teacher in high school: what is reading literature for? • It is imaginative writing: not really true • Life is too short to read such writings? • In short, literary book is a “BIG ZERO” • Let’s read books on religion, philosophy or engineering, which are more useful The function of literature: a long history • Plato: “many contend that literature’s primary function is moral, its chief value being its usefulness for hidden or undisclosed purposes” • Aristotle: “Literary work is a “work of art” that can be analyzed and broken down into various parts, with each part contributing to the overall enjoyment of the work itself” The basic debate • Is literary function is to teach? Or to entertain? • Can we read a text for ‘merely” pleasure? Or we have to learn and think about what we read? • Such questions might have some possible answers (this belongs to literary theory) • Theory answers: ontology and epistemology Read the text! • This is the only way to understand whether we read for pleasure or to learn something • Two methods: – Academic – Non-academic • Same epistemology but different Understanding a text 1.Join the class, read the text, appreciate the text, criticize it using particular perspectives to come the an interpretation on the text 2.Stay up late, read the text, page by page, get involved with the plot, the characters, get drowned in the secondary world (or finally find the murderer in a mystery novel) Understanding a text is not a simple question • ‘underlying our private and public relations and our scholarly critiques and analyses is our literary theory, the fountained of our most intimate and our most public declarations’ • ‘the formal study of literary theory therefore enables us to explain our responses to any text and allows us to articulate the function of literature in an academic and personal way.’ Some tentative ideas on the function of literature • Educative function • Entertaining function • Experience of life • Language function • Cultural function • Ideological function • Add other functions: • _ • _ • _ • _
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