Must literature be educational or is that some sort of conspiracy?

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Answered by: Jennifer, An Expert in the Literature and Book Basics Category
As a person who once worked in a privately owned bookstore I often wondered at the placement of Philippa Gregory's books in the literary section. Surely they were long, but did the writing style compare to that of Marcel Proust's romantic phrases that kept me yearning for more? What about categorizing books by George Orwell that have long captivated audiences and most certainly schools who abide by the mission of the Canon, to teach any and all supreme pieces of literature?

Well, as I sit here reflecting, Animal Farm did in fact have an influential impact on me, even as the sixteen year old girl I was, reading it merely to take a high mark in my English course. I never imagined, or the thought had not previously been formed in my still developing mind, that humans could be capable of doing something that was so opposite from who we most certainly are in our cores.

It is this thought and many others that lead me to the desire to answer such a question as, "must literature be educational" and if so, in what way? One could have walked into a lecture of mine during college and divided the room, asking that same question. On one hand, some of us who would've liked to believe that there is a well-thought out plan to every institution. "Of course," those in agreement might have said, "why else would generation after generation be required to read the same books?" Their reasoning than might be that we were all taught that real literature has staying power.

This means that any number of years could go by and yet students, teachers and literary enthusiasts alike would be able to find the gems within that set category of pieces. These pieces would be from well-known authors that had no doubt been copied millions of times in both hard copy and internet resources. This begs the question though, must literature be educational? I would have to retort in the most English of answers. My answer is, it depends.

In other words, what have you come across in life that can truly be classified as non-educational? Literature, to me, is just like a relationship with a religious piece of work, the Bible for example, is applicable to individuals mostly depending on their circumstance of life in the moments when they come to it. A good piece of literature, or even any book that I wish were categorized as literature, would have that sort of omnipotence. Must these books use only elevated diction? That is perchance a personal preference.

However, must these books be cultured and open to the wonders of life, to love, to joy, to experience? Yes, they must. Literature, for me, must be educational in the sense that when we learn, our horizons are broadened and our lives enriched. We become excited about the future or determined to change what lies at our feet. If this is what is meant by educational, than indeed, all literature must be educational. If that were the case though, the section at my bookstore and bookstores worldwide would have needed just a bit more space.

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