Saturday, May 02, 2009

Becoming a Dinosaur

The other day as I walked across campus a startling thought occurred to me: what if the analysis of literature soon becomes archaic? I was contemplating the challenge of bookstores lately, thinking of the heavy promotion of Borders books in the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Borders’s current struggle to survive. So, if books are no longer a viable product, how will the analysis of literature be viable or relevant? Well, of course, there are many reasons why the analysis of literature is relevant. It helps students develop critical thinking, and also exposes them to the canon of literature, works that form our culture. Eventually, though, studying literature might only include the study of ancient literature. It does indeed seem very likely.

Where then, I wonder, will that leave me, an English major and an English instructor? I guess we will be like Latin teachers that still teach a dead language that has limited relevance to the real word and limited connection to other studies? Do students learn Latin to help their English skills? Possibly. What will be the worth of studying literature? It already seems like I have to convince students of the value of reading and studying literature. In many ways, also, studying literature is like studying art; readers analyze how and why a writer constructed a story. Perhaps that’s how the study of literature will be used. Either way, I think literature becomes more obsolete by the minute.