Literature is All-Encompassing

I’m nearing the finishing stages of my dissertation. I am just going through it one last time, neatening up the sentences, adding a little further analysis where it’s needed. Then to go through and sort out all the dreaded references (I never do this while I’m writing, which seems like the sensible thing to do – because it feels like it disrupts the flow).

Many of my secondary sources are from philosophers, physicians, psychologists… (not that I have an obsession with occupations that begin with the letter ‘p’). My analysis of steampunk literature and its forefathers has given rise to some big questions about humanity’s relationship with science and technology, and the extent (or impossibility) of the level of responsibility needed.

I was concerned that my dissertation was not focused enough on writing or literature. I spoke to one of my tutors about this, but she said it was fine. It’s almost inevitable to seem to be on a tangent, when you are dissecting a theme instead of a method.

But that’s part of what I love about literature. It isn’t just about writing. It’s about everything.

At this time of year, GCSEs are once again scrutinized. With another year of record-high passes, people immediately attribute this to exams becoming easier, and students choosing easier subjects to study. One such ‘easy’ subject that is often mentioned is Religious Studies. Now, I am not a religious person. Yet I chose to study religion at GCSE level (in fact, we all had to – but it was our choice whether or not we took the exam). Okay, so it wasn’t the most academically challenging subject. But its worth is immense. It teaches you a level of understanding and tolerance to other religions. You analyse the dominant religion in your society, so you are more ready to make an informed decision about your own relationship to religion. These are big, important things. Does it matter that the exam is ‘easy’? Does it mean the subject isn’t worth anything?

I went on to study the Philosophy of Religion at A Level. This was much more of a philosophy course, but we delved much deeper into theological themes. It was definitely one of the most important areas of study in my academic life. I was thinking about the big questions. I was working out my own mind, and my understanding of my place in the world.

I was tempted to study philosophy at university. I’m glad, however, that I chose Literature. I took a Philosophy in Literature module during my undergraduate, and I continued to explore philosophical issues throughout my literary essays. The combination of philosophy and literature is a natural one. I’ve also studied psychology, sociology, ethics and many other areas, all through my study of literature.

Literature can be about anything. And because of this, it is all-encompassing. As with most subjects studied in education, its worth is contained in the extent at which you study it.

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One comment


  • Robin

    Sophie,
    This is a great post and very true. Literature is everything. I also took religion and philosophy in university. I’m not religious, in fact I’m very far from it (tho I’m loathe to label myself), but that course was an eye opener and a mind opener for me way back when.

    September 01, 2011

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