Ursula le Guin’s language section of her bookshelf.
Homage to le Guin, my own language section.
My favorite class in school era is Chemistry. My best class is nevertheless, Literature. It’s rather lugubrious to overheard that in the 21st century more and more schools are abandoning Lit. Class altogether. Even in college, the Lit. department is shrinking, or is merging with the Language Department.
Surely by Literature alone, we won’t know how to invent vaccine, we won’t save animals, we won’t control climate, we won’t fight for Transgender Rights, we won’t expose the evilness of religionism, we won’t fight for Abortion Rights, we won’t go to Mars, we won’t do sport for wellness, we won’t know how to play piano. But rather than the dealing with the how-to, Literature deal with one section of humanity that no other academia could do it better, Literature dealing with the why-so.
If Science is the knowledge creator, then Literature is the knowledge messenger. Of course there are tons of lousy literature that are not dealing with the truth, but that’s another story. That’s the job of Literature criticism. We ordinary Homo sapiens do not have enough time to swallow an 1,500 pages textbook to know every nuts and bolts of epigenetics. A novel on epigenetics (again, provided that it’s science accurate) would come in handy. Before we can dive into the enormous scientific journals about climate change, a green novel would be a shortcut to understand the topic (however dramatic is yet another question).
Now don’t take me wrong, Literature as an academia encounters its own “Ten-toeism”: genderism, racism, nationalism in the old-school canon is a major problem. But however backward those so-called “canon” was, this should never be used to undermine the neuro-cognitive importance of story, and Literature as large.
We are story animals because no one could possibly read every single scientific journal at this very minute to understand every single truth of the Universe. Story, or Literature at large, would then be a short-cut gate to understand the topic. Using lies to tell the truth is what Literature does. Even Lit. class is no longer a fashionable class, I encourage school students to take it even in the future you won’t do anything close to this subject. It’s way, way, way more than just improving verbal skill. If just for the verbal skills’ sake, a language class could sufficiently handle it. The joy of Literature is exactly the opposite of escapism. It’s the activism of humanity.