The reasons why a student should study English Literature - By Sue Smith

English Literature Dictionary/Glossary for Students

    English literature

    In this day and age there seems to be a move towards secondary school subjects which have a strong link to a tertiary course of study. For that reason, some parents and some students feel that the compulsory study of English Literature, especially among the international syllabuses offered in the majority of Hong Kong’s International schools, is misguided and disadvantageous to students, particularly if they are second language learners of English. However, there are still good reasons for the study of English Literature.

    Students who study only English Language, with its emphasis on reading and writing skills, sometimes fail to see the point of studying English literature, especially if they have no plans to study English or Translation at university. But English literature can introduce students to a range of aspects, not only of the English language but also of English culture.

    There are aspects of English culture that are encapsulated by English literature. Of course, this is quite obvious when studying the works of Shakespeare or of writers, poets and playwrights of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is, however, also true when studying other works of English literature. Students can learn about allusions and references to different aspects of English culture. They can also learn the context and meanings of famous quotes and phrases.
    Studying Literature does not confine the students to the traditions of England but includes the possibility of introducing them to traditions which inform English Literature, such as the study of Ancient Greek drama, and to literature in other contexts, such as American literature. It also provides the students with an alternative to the pervasiveness of “television culture” with its immediacy and, often, its shallowness.

    An enjoyment and appreciation of Literature will give students the ability to develop this into an interest in books and reading as they move away from their studies and into their adult lives. They will have the confidence to approach and tackle new forms of books and writing, since they were exposed to a range of literature during their school days.

    When studying Literature, students can learn not only language aspects such as vocabulary items but also that language can be used for specific and aesthetic purposes. Familiarity with the concepts of beat, metre and rhythm can improve their own writing as students are able to appreciate and apply these ideas. Finally, the study of Literature can provide students with a fresh and creative angle with which to approach their studies in particular and their lives in general.

    So the next time you are reading a newspaper article lamenting the lack of creativity and initiative in the local workforce, remember that in a small way the study of English Literature can help to add a refreshing and further dimension to a person’s life.

Related Article: Reading and Studying the “classics’ of English Literature

 
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