Literature professor tells us why we should care

Shakespeare Voltaire Dickinson Thoreau perhaps beloved names to you may be barely recognizable names from an English high school class but regardless of the familiarity that you have with literature we can't deny the importance and the impact of the written word on our lives so today I welcome Ron wheeler professor of literature to discuss the importance of literature in our lives Ron thank you so much for joining me today I appreciate it professor wheeler whenever I think of literature maybe mistakenly I think of only those written pieces that have become famous or notable somehow how would you define literature Carrie I think a lot of people think of literature as an end product a story a novel a poem but in reading literature we need to think of a literature more as a process it's a way that writers express the human experience you could even describe literature as a specific kind of language for example practical use of language is to communicate information where the persuasive use use of language is to convince somebody of a position but the literary use of language is to give someone else the experience that they have received and they do that through the written word or sometimes the performed word how important do you feel it is for somebody to have a grasp of literature well I think it's very important it's one of the few real means first of all that we have to travel through time literature is real time travel now archaeology can give us elements of a snapshot of time but literature is more of an energy showing us what people hundreds or thousands of years ago believed and behaved and what they experienced in literature this gives us a chance to broaden and to deepen the human experience and how does that happen then how do we broaden and deepen deep in that perspective well to Braun experience is to have a representation of an action outside of say your normal course of events for example not many people have ever been in World War one right and experienced a mustard gas attack but in the poem by Wilfred Owen you okay at decorum s cat a sweet and befitting and he describes what a gas attack is like and what death on the front was like well that's broadening our experience on the other hand literature can also deepen our experience it can it can take those experiences that we have and give us a different vantage point a different facet to think about them for example in Shakespeare's poem winter many people glamorize the beauty of winter that Shakespeare brings the difficulty of winter and he talks about how hard it is to live through that and that adds a dimension to the experience of just that particular season literature does seem to deal with every aspect of human experience just as you were kind of speaking to but do you think there's one particular or prominent human experience that most authors find inspiration from when I'm teaching literature to my world literature classes in particular and also to the intro to Lit classes III kiddingly say if you don't know the answer try love or death these are two of the most intense human experiences to be in love in that whole range of both sexual attraction to family attachments friendship much of literature deals with the the love aspect of the human experience and then everyone dies it is an experience that we are looking to not with great anticipation but it is an experience that we know is coming and do you think it can be used even so far as to break down some social barriers and things that we're really struggling with in today's age yes yeah during the Civil War before the Civil War slave literature in America did a tremendous service to the abolition movement in making a majority white culture aware of slave experience authors like Sir John Serge owner truth Frederick Douglass in his life of a slave very poignant Lee captured an audience because they were seeing through the eyes for the first time what it meant to be an enslaved person and therefore that moved the country into a broader sense let's change gears a bit I want to ask you a little bit about your love of literature how did that all begin and how did you become a professor well I I really consider myself an average reader I I do not I think come to reading what as some people do naturally and enthusiastically but I did grow up with a love of hearing story my family would tell stories at family gatherings I I grew up Saturday afternoon going to movies listening to songs that told stories and I think that all of those experience combined sort of opened up an interest and an expression for me as a professor I'm assuming you feel that literature is an important subject of course or you wouldn't teach it but how important you really feel it what the what is the role that it plays in a student's curriculum is it necessary especially in college well I think in the college level it's necessary uh just just on if if for nothing else on the level of vocabulary and on language acquisition because we are all going to have to explain ourselves through language to the society around us but I think that that's a very minimal importance I think far more important is the fact that all human endeavors whatever they are history economics religion they all form stories and it's in the literary use of language and the literary experience that those stories become alive without literature we really minimize our ability to understand others and to express ourselves effectively I love that idea and really that's why I know for young children it's so important for them to develop that love and I've got three little ones at home and I know you probably have a view on what's the best way to get them you know going really with a love of literature read read to them and and read often reading to them especially not just when they're at home but making a kind of family time of exchanging reading is a marvelous thing and professor wheeler just finish out our time by summarizing what you feel is the intellectual benefit that literature plays in somebody's life literature provides a variety of experiences we are all limited in time and space so we cannot do everything ourselves firsthand some things we don't want to do firsthand we don't want to know what it was what it was like to be pursued by Nazis because of our religious affiliation we don't know we don't really want to know what it was like to live in the gulag system under Stalin but we really have an interest in these kinds of experiences that others have and although I'm emphasizing the rather gruesome at this point the the opposite is true I really have no intention of going up into a perfectly good plane and jumping out but I would like to know you know from a skydivers point of view what's that storyline what's that energy and release of the plane and that and the feeling of falling and so literature intellectually stimulates and homes for us and ability for ourselves and understanding our neighbors and it helps us see the world more clearly good thank you so much for joining us professor wheeler and thank you for joining us in today's age of technology and video I hope you can take some time to recognize the value of literature in all forms and in all time periods really so dust off your library cards and take some time to challenge your mind with some literature you

18 thoughts on “Literature professor tells us why we should care

  1. Mark Twain in his book Letters From Earth in a rather funny way picks apart the redundant & clunky writing style of James Fenimore Cooper.

  2. I'm an undergrad.But I will not stop to reach my goal to become Literature Prof,thank you so much for this video.

  3. I did like his explanations. Who's the professor? I'd like to see a lecture by him

  4. Literature in school can give us eyes into the human experience. Reading great literature gives insight into a multitude of lives. See through their eyes, feel what they felt, learn what they learned.

  5. The interviewer clearly seems nervous and seems to rush the interview and does not seem to give him, ie… the speaker, the essential response in order for him to truly complete any train of thought that he articulates

  6. It's shocking that even Monkey D. Luffy thinks Literature is important! 🙂

    I love Literature because English is the only subject in school that I understand and like. I write all of the time, and read a lot too.
    I use the correct your/you're and know all of my they're/their/there's too.
    These are small things that students in my class struggle with.

  7. wow, didn't expect that from someone with a blastoise profile picture :p i agree though

  8. Literature, to me, brings even high school students who might not really care, to certain heights. Small poems, long books, enhanced words, all of these build on a certain standard that helps maintain special circumstances in modern culture. It's very important that we learn more about literature each and every day.

  9. That voice. Very pleasant: A mingling of Carl Sagan and … a smidgin of Dr Phil? A good combination!

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