Literature is composed of those books which by their subject matter and mode of treating it are of general human interest and in which the element of form and the pleasure which form gives are essential. So literature is different from the specialised treatise on astronomy, political economy, philosophy, obviously which appeal only to a particular class of readers and not to men and women in general as men and women. The object of the treatise is simply to impart knowledge and it does not fulfil one of the ideal aims of literature which is to give an aesthetic satisfaction by how it handles its theme.
Literature lives by the life which it embodies. It is fundamentally an expression of life through the medium of languages. Such expression is fashioned into various forms of literary art. A good book grows directly out of life. In reading it, we are brought into large, close and fresh relations with life and in this lies its power. Literature is a vital record of what men had seen and experienced in life and thought and felt about those aspects of life which have immediate and enduring interest for all of us.
Literature grows directly out of life. The great impulses behind literature may be grouped under four heads. These impulses have given birth to various forms of literary expression.
- Our desire for self-expression has given rise to literature which expresses the thoughts and feelings of a writer.
- Our interest in people and their doing has given rise to literature which deals with the great drama of human life and action.
- Our interest in the world of reality in which we lived and in the world of imagination which we conjure into existence has given rise to the literature of description.
- Our love of form, as the form has given rise to literature as art.
Man is a social animal and unable to keep his experiences, observations, ideas emotions and fancy to himself he desires to impart them to those around him. The various forms of literature are only channels for men to express sociality and they testify to our paramount desire to blend expressions with artistic creation. The impulses behind literature explain not only the evolution of various forms of literature but also our interest in such forms. Just as we wish to express our thoughts, feelings, observations and experiences we are also interested in what others have to tell us of theirs. Our delight in artistic beauty will make us readily responsive to the beauty in which a master artist embodies what he has to say.
The impulses behind literature may merge in life so that different divisions of literature arising through them may also overlap. So they are distinct from one another as a lyric poem from an epic or a drama from an essay based on which the generative impulses seems to predominate in them.
Literature is an interpretation of life, as life shapes itself in the mind of the interpreter. The great book owes its greatness to its author’s personality. It is the utterance of one who has himself being close to those aspects of the life of which he speaks, who has looked at them with his own eyes, who by the keenness of his vision has seen more deeply into things and by the strength of its genius have understood its meaning more powerfully than the common race of men and who also have the artistic faculty.
The foundation of all good and lasting work in literature is its sincerity to oneself; to one’s own experiences of life and the truth of things as one is privileged to see it. Thus the value of literature lies in the measure of its authority. The first step in the study of literature is to cultivate the habit of good and profitable reading. Literature not only opens up new feelings of experience and new lights of thought but carries us beyond the narrow humanity of our everyday existence into contact with those fresh, strong and magnetic personalities who have embodied themselves in the world of great books.