Letting go of literature

Many students like myself recount the billions and billions of moments throughout our studies in which we were shackled to read the utmost unnecessary and obsolete literature.

I found myself pouring over books as instructors insisted that they were important, meaningful and an expression of the transcendental relationship with humanity.

Well, dear readers, fellow students and comrades: I for one believe literature is useless. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot, but let me continue: Why should we read literature?

In the contemporary world, networking and socializing are key. Literature asks us to sit at home alone and muse over a lackluster philosophy written by deceased individuals. To be successful today, one must do the opposite. Going out with friends, living in reality: That’s what’s important.

Reading books and name-dropping authors aren’t going to help one build a solid network of relationships, get a job and grant success. Sure I might read "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Twilight" to be a part of the scene, but what meaning does a Dickens or Hemingway novel have for me? Honestly, nothing. Nothing but wasted time that could be put to better use by being fully present in one’s own life.

It’s devilishly unpopular. The social life of our modern culture simply doesn’t fit with reading and literature.

Reflection and refinement are not pressing values.

I understand the necessity of reading for class. Of course we have to read literature. How else are we going to pass our English class requirements?

Being a student at a university makes reading equivalent to a grade. We are taught that’s all reading is worth. If I read for class, I get a better grade, and then I put the book away. You don’t have to be Pavlov to realize the message schools are lending us.

Students don’t take it seriously. Literature is not a part of their interests. The motivation simply isn’t there, and the university only dilutes it further through egregious course requirements.

Nothing is taken less seriously than a course requirement that has nothing to do with a student’s course of study. How can you blame them? Literature has been thrust onto students as a painful, percolating poison since they began their studies. I was taught to read, but if I’m not going to be taught why and how I should read, then I feel as if I’m wasting my time.

People say that reading literature can help one reflect on one’s life and bring about new frameworks of understanding.

I don’t need a book to tell me having a good time is what I’m here for and to graduate so I can get a job. As an individual, I attend university to get my degree. I shouldn’t be expected to take reading seriously when the zeitgeist of the culture I exist in doesn’t value literature.

My life is not going to be altered by perusing a few words on a page. I can’t even begin to comprehend why people would read, even for fun or entertainment.

I once read something called "The Divine Comedy" for an English class — It wasn’t even funny. We’re in the golden age of entertainment precisely because we escaped the dredges of classical literature.

Why should I stop and look in the past?

I really do think we need to cast off the chains of literature and reading. Without wasting our time on such bumbling nonsensical absurdities, imagine what we might accomplish. You might think I’m disingenuous, but I think I’m realistic — and I promise, I’m being totally candid.


Reach the columnist at maevan11@asu.edu or follow him at @MatthewEvansSP


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