Why Literature Matters.
The reason I write this post is that I had to share what I've learned from them, especially after overhearing a girl on campus state that, "Nobody cares about British Literature anyway!" I wanted to turn around and say, "Do you realize what you're saying?" Did she realize how, I'm sure, that literature, unbeknownst to her, has already changed her and will continue to change her life. Does she realize that literature creates a feeling of humanity, as it speaks to people's souls throughout the ages, how it will continue to do so for ages to come? Does she realize that by saying that literature doesn't matter, she is saying that human feelings do not matter?
Today, as we concluded on a poem written by Adrienne Rich in 2003, Dr. Hutchins stopped class and asked why we were ending our gigantic study of American Literature on this poem. It was quiet for a minute, and then someone responded, "Well, this is our life... it's today... it's our history...". Solemnly, Dr. Hutchins nodded his head in agreement and began telling us how he wanted us to never forget that literature is a living, organic thing. That literature is great, because it is our history. He reminded us that around the world, there are people writing about us – about gun control, about immigration, about all the things that affect us each and every day.
His final words will forever ring deep within my soul: "When you read, don't forget that what you read matters: it can change the world."
So, to that girl who I overheard: if you don't believe that British Literature matters, go talk to Steven Walker about "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" so that you can realize that we are all drowning in the social norms of life, or ask him to quote Tennyson's "Ulysses" and tell me you don't feel changed with the words, "The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep// Moans round with many voices. Come my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world". Go ask Zach Hutchins to read "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and tell me that you do not feel the urgency of Revere's message, or ask him about what Rip Van Winkle represents and be surprised by his answer, or try and read him Dickinson and realize that you're not understanding her usage of dashes right, and then have him read it, and understand why her crazy dashes are so important. Ask these professors why literature matters, and your life will be changed, you will understand why it matters, and you will fall in love, and never go back to thinking that literature doesn't matter. It matters so much, and it matters to every person who has ever opened a book and understood the pain, the happiness, and the trials of a character.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, "We read to know that we are not alone." This is the power of literature, this is why I'm studying literature, and why I surround myself with the best books. This is why people have turned to poetry and prose for years- to find comfort, to find a friend, to know that they are not alone. So don't say that literature doesn't matter, examine your life and realize that it does matter.
I can't believe I no longer will be able to learn from Dr. Walker and Dr. Hutchins. They will both be incredibly missed, and the English department will be missing two literary geniuses when I return. I will forever be grateful for what they taught me and the ways in which they inspired me.