Booking Through Thursday: Real Life

I am paraphrasing from a friend’s Facebook wall her question:

“How would a teen-age boy who is going to work with his hands ever use Literature of England in his work?”

The age-old “How am I going to use this in real life?” question. How would you answer it?

How else are you going to learn about the world and humanity outside of your own life? Okay, that’s more of a spiritual answer, but I’ve always had a difficult time understanding people who dread reading. I mean, you get to live extra lives! (This is mostly because they’ve been reading the wrong books for themselves.) But that’s not work-related and not what the question is about.

The critical study of texts is still important to everyone—how else are you going to evaluate the information in your life, bookish or not, except by critical analysis? A text isn’t just a book (that would be a codex!); it’s any message someone crafts for public exposure. You don’t assume everything you hear or read is true, obviously, until you’ve checked it yourself. (At least, I hope you do.) Critical analysis—not just of the content but of the context of a piece of literature—helps the reader understand where the author is coming from, why they’re writing what they’re writing, and pick out from their message the things that are important to their lives and discarding what is not. You can imagine how this might be useful for anyone who is politically active, or even anyone is exposed to modern media. So while the study of fiction might not apply directly to a carpenter’s work, it’s still useful to her as a citizen and as a human being in the modern world. Work isn’t your only responsibility.

(Also? Reading is fun. Books are a medium like any other; you have to find the books that you like, not the books that are considered “classics”—always a problematic term—by old white guys. I mean, I hate Kurt Vonnegut and they still let me be an English major.)

18 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Real Life

  1. I read an article recently about how humanities majors were learning the most in college and were the best at critical thinking and writing skills. I don’t necessarily think everyone has to major in humanities, but certainly reading helps to build writing skills, and those are useful for everyone.

  2. Speaking as a science graduate who gave up studies in English Lit at the age of sixteen, I don’t question the need to read at all, because I love to read. The skills of critical analysis can be learned in most subjects, I’d say, so aren’t unique to literature studies. But I’ve learned so much from books, fiction as well as non-fiction, that I can’t imagine what I’d be like as a person without them.

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