Is Literature Degenerating?

Edna O’Brien details the merits of literature to come to the question of whether or not literature is currently dying out. While I do not think literature will ever be dead (the only exception I see being in an apocalypse where there are no longer beings that can create or read literature), I think it is evolving.

O’Brien asks, “Will it [literature] seep into the fabric of social and political thought, will it have its faithful zealots, or will there be a falling away”. With this question, I think we have to ask, does society create literature or does literature influence society? I do not think the answer has to be only one, but that society and literature both influence each other. The way O’Brien has phrased the question, it seems like it is only literature that can influence society. Instead of seeing literature as dying because it is not changing society, we can see it as literature changing and reflecting a society that is changing.

But if Steiner is seeing society as one “in search of easier, bolder distractions and of pleasures less perplexing to the brain,” then it is not so much whether or not literature exists as to the quality of literature. In our fast paced world, with reality TV shows and latest news of celebrities, it seems the hard questions of literature are not being asked. Then is literature degenerating?

3 Benefits of Being an English Major

1. So you’re going to be a teacher…
While English majors can teach, they can also go into journalism, law, medical, or business school, publishing, marketing, and more. Wherever there is English being written or spoken, the English major has you covered. Someone writes those instruction manuals on the new iPhone 6 you bought that you never read. Someone writes the scripts for the 30 second advertisement on YouTube that you have to watch in order to see the video. Someone writes the blurb about how yummy Honey Nut Cheerios are on the cereal box you buy from Ralphs. These are mundane things you take for granted, and they show that everywhere you look there is English.

2. So you read books…
When people think that all English majors do is read books, they make it seem like a confining occupation. In reality, it is the most liberating. I can talk about anything because we write books on everything. There are classic works, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, The History of Rasselas, Oliver Twist, and The Grapes of Wrath, but there is also the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, science of Philip K. Dick, and comedy of Douglas Adams. Having a solid literary foundation means you understand references, can link ideas, know psychology as character development and interaction, and see the same moral dilemmas recur century after century in new incarnations. The messages we see on technology, the environment, and philosophy in fiction can be applied to our real world lives.

3. So you like writing papers…
Actually, I do, and writing essays means I am critically thinking about texts and putting together concepts. I think people dislike writing because it is hard, but you can’t escape from writing whether it be emails, resumes, or scholarship essays. Just because I like writing essays, doesn’t mean I think it’s easy, but I know the only way to get better is to practice. Writing is a way to organize your thoughts and ideas. Through writing, you can reach out to other people and start a discussion or spur someone to think or act in a different way. It is through reading and writing that we delve into all aspects of the things that matter the most to us with the world and human life.