Why Is Literature Important and Why Do We Study It?

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia; Daderot/University of Chicago/Wikipedia; Goodreads

For many folks, the word "literature" conjures up memories of high school English class reading lists. While the Western literary canon is expanding to include, and elevate, stories outside of what white, Western readers have dubbed "the classics," there are still some works that crop up in every student’s career, from Frankenstein and the Epic of Gilgamesh to Beloved and The Great Gatsby. So, why is literature important — and why do we study it?

Merriam-Webster defines literature as poetry or prose that has "excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest." While it may sound trite to say, the world’s greatest works of literature have changed minds, sparked rebellions, and helped to alter the course of history. While it would be impossible to contain all of literature’s contributions and multitudes here, we’re going to take a look at some of the landmark moments in this art form’s history.