English class almost always proves to be quite thought provoking. Today, in the second half of the class the professor proposed two questions:
Why do you read and value literature?
Why do you study literature?
I did not get a chance to answer during class, but I still have thoughts about these two questions in conjunction with one another. I see them as very different questions. I began reading at a very young age and continued probably to fill time. I was also interested in the story and the people in the books. I remember as a young reader having the bad habit of reading only the dialogue of novels and skimming the rest. Thankfully I’ve grown past that to appreciate all of the text. Now when I read for leisure, I still enjoy the story and the characters but for slightly different reasons. Now, the enjoyment comes from living another life, if even for a brief few pages. For example, a few weeks ago I was reading The Fault in Our Stars (John Green). It was one of those books and nights where I just could not stop reading (I knew that if I didn’t finish it that weekend reading for class would take over and I would never finish it). By the time I came up for breath, I was startled to find I was still in my bed. It was such a well written book I felt that I had actually traveled with the characters. Those are the moments I read to experience.
Studying literature did not become a passion of mine until late high school maybe even early college. I knew I wanted to teach English but I didn’t truly appreciate studying literature until a while after that. Now I enjoy my English classes because I enjoy the puzzle of figuring out a good novel. I find myself trying to make connections to other works and analyzing characters even when I’m not reading for classes. I can’t read a book without a crayon in hand (or paper and pencil if I’m reading from a library copy). Anything I read, I find great passages that speak to me or that give me some clue and I want to annotate it. It excites me to figure out what social statement the author is really making with a piece of fiction. I even have an unfinished timeline of literature hanging next to my bed (it was there to study for the Praxis but now I just like to look at it). Studying literature has taught me much more about history or science than I have learned in those type of classes.
What can I say? I’m a book worm.