There was a time when the study of literature and philosophy formed the basis of education. Knowledge of science gradually became indispensable in man’s daily life. The question then arose, should literature continue to occupy its privileged position in our scheme of education, in schools and universities?

There is no doubt that in the modern would we cannot think of doing without science. No one, therefore, would object to giving to science a place of prime importance in our curricula of studies. But that should in no way affect the position of literature. It is something as important, and there is no inherent enmity between the two.

Literature deals imaginatively with the stuff of which life is made. The study of what the men letters have thought and felt has permanent interest for men. Literature gives us the unique experience of being in contact with distinct personality, which expresses itself through some ‘familiar matter’ of real life or some fantasy. Science, on the other hand, deals with impersonal generalization of universal principles’ Literature studies from a personal point of views. It humanizes every fact of life.

Literature by bringing us into contact with the deepest reaction of the human mind elevates our minds; it helps to refine and enrich our feeling. The study of literature ends in an improvement of sensibility and a certain depth of perception. Its best gifts are freedom of the spirit and enlargement of the mind. It may thus be said ‘to free, arouse and dilate the human mind’. The study of literature consoles and braces us up in our hours of gloom, stimulates and ennobles our morality. Literature makes the reader more forbearing and forgiving by widening the outlook and liberalizing the spirit.

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But exclusive preoccupation with literature may not be altogether wholesome. It may make one sentimental and unrealistic in one’s habits of thought. It thus promotes an escapist tendency, a desire to withdraw oneself from the realities of life and take refuge in dreams and fancies. Literature creates its own special world-‘the land of one’s heart’s desire’ with no basis in reality. The traditional poet dwells in the ivory tower, away from the broad currents of life, as ‘an idle singer of the empty day. But the poet today is a social being dealing with realistic experiences.

In the medieval Universities of Europe, the study of literature was classed under what were called ‘the humanities’. The object was the development of the human personality. Literature was supposed to bring about this harmonious development of the human mind, to create a balanced personality. There is a tendency these days to make education utilitarian in character. But its evils must be corrected by avoiding too much of specialization.

It is significant that in the most technically advanced country in the world, the USA, the study of the ‘humanities’, as it is called, is compulsory in the science and technological streams. We are following this example in our country also and provisions for the study of literature or ‘current orientation are being made in the curricula of technological institutions. If the aim of education is the creation of a balanced personality, the study of literature is bound to play an important part.

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