The Importance of Studying History of English Literature: A Post-Study Reflection

Literature is part of our cultural heritage freely available to everyone, and that can enrich our lives in all sorts of ways. We find that literary works can be entertaining, beautiful, funny, or tragic. They convey the depth of thought, richness of emotion, and insight into the character. Literature takes us beyond the limited experience of our lives to show us the lives of others at a later time. It leads us intellectually and emotionally, and deepens our understanding of our history, society, and each of our lives. English Literature is part of an important subject for study for students majoring in English education. The study of English literature allows students to develop new ideas and ethical standpoints, and can help them to describe English society. English Studying literature can be an enriching, eye-opening experience. The following will explain some points why it is important to learn English literature.

Firstly, we can find the occurrence of philosophical movements when studying English literature. In great writing from the past we find the England ancestors, and we not only see the country and the people as they were, but we also soak up the climate of the times through the language itself, its vocabulary, grammar, and tone. We would only have to consider the writing of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Boswell, Milton, Dickens, and Samuel Beckett side by side to see how the way writers use language embodies the cultural atmosphere of their time. English literature allows us to understand the philosophical movements and ideas that permeated a particular culture at a particular time. For example, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” shows us the ambivalence the British felt toward empiricism.

Besides understanding the philosophical movements, English literature gives us a new way of thinking about the world. For example, Jane Austen presents a different writing in her era, because she is interested in the moral, social and psychological behavior of her characters. Mary Wollstonecraft, for instance, presents the idea that women should not be subservient to men, giving birth to modern feminist theory. Literature works of Sir Walter Scott in circulation since the eight-tenth century, presents his work with the theme of revolution, historical changes and social and character of all circles in society. Perhaps we see that a certain man’s behavior resembles that of Antony in Antony and Cleopatra through the drama of Shakespeare, or a certain woman is rather like The Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Seeing such similarities can help us to understand and accept other people. Therefore, we can find literary scholars write their literary works with a variety of viewpoints.

In addition to presenting the different viewpoints of the literary scholar, we can find English literature is a form of English art. It is capable of bringing about differing emotions and a general sense of “spiritual” well-being. Poets William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley write about this power of poetry in “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” and “A Defense of Poetry,” respectively. Shakespeare presents a lot of his work in drama. Then, John Milton presents the genre of religious and politics poetry after Elizabethan period. In the romantic period, people incline to like novels. Thus we know that English art is various depending on the political and social situation in each period.

When we dip into the rich variety of novels, poems, and plays which constitute English literature, it is possible to understand how contemporary western culture has developed into what it is today. We are reading works which have lasted for generations, or centuries, and they have lasted because they are good. Well, we don’t need to visit a country if we want to learn their culture. London, for example, is all the more interesting a city when behind what we see today we see the London known to Dickens, Boswell and Johnson, or Shakespeare. It will save time, money and effort by reading literary works than to visit the country.

Except reading literary works is more efficient, we find reading new words and new phrases can increase English lexicon. Literature is also crucial to learning stylistic and artistic conventions for English communication and writing. It does not mean we are going to read every literary work. There may be times when reading a critic can be more interesting than reading the actual work. Reading the work of a good critic can be edifying in itself. Making the effort to shape our own thoughts into an essay is also an edifying experience, and just as good literature lasts, so do the personal benefits that we gain from studying and writing about it.

In my opinion, studying English literature is very important, especially for English education students. We may understand the philosophical movements, different point of views, capable of bringing about differing emotions and general sense through the various types of literature works, understand today’s culture, and increase vocabulary, grammar and writing ability in English. I hope, beside English literature, students can also develop their interest to other literary works. Considering the importance of literature, it will be very interesting if we could study American literature also, as we know that American country is the most advanced country currently, which perhaps we need to understand their culture and and learn positive things from their culture as well because by studying literature, we become “cultured”. (895 words)


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