Why do so many people shy away from books? Not only books but poetry and drama too, to disregard the study of literature is to be deprived of a plethora of beautiful works of literature. I know I know, this is beginning to sound like some bizarre form of propaganda intended to coerce readers into feeling guilty. I assure you, however that this is not my intention here whatsoever. Although then again, if you’re currently scrolling through this article then we can assume you must have at least some interest in literature. Digressions aside, the intention of this article is to simply share my own experience of reading and studying literature.
There is a sense of great fear and intimidation when it comes to literature. How do I know this? Because I have experienced these feelings of anxiety and intimidation first-hand, to answer my own question of why this seems to affect so many people I find it necessary to examine my own literary journey thus far. As I’m sure many other people have, I gained an interest in reading from a young age, I can recall memories of trying to read and to comprehend words and sentences around me as a child. This interest then naturally progressed and extended t books, small books of course. My interest in reading began to truly flourish when my aunt bought me a box-set of the first four Harry Potter books for Christmas one year. I burned through as many books as I could get my hands on for the next several years. Then, midway through secondary school this interest grinded to an abrupt halt, my interest in reading seemed to vanish, disregarded in exchange for pre-occupation with all the shallow superficialities of teenage life, an experience familiar to many others, no doubt. I grew to dread literature, I hated having to struggle through long, wordy works of fiction and poetry, having to spend hours afterward trying to decipher what on earth the author was attempting to convey.
Flash forward to sixth year, studying Macbeth I grew enamoured with Shakespeare’s rich use of language and his beautiful storytelling. Then one day while reading poetry in preparation for an exam, a thought struck me. I realised just how long it had been since I had found myself enjoying the study of literature. Rather than viewing it as some sort of menial chore, I found it immensely fulfilling attempting to uncover the hidden meanings and inter-textual relationships within texts. I found myself once again being swept away into mysterious, far-off worlds, transfixed by imagery and language entwined into one. Skip forward once more to university and the spark is burning brighter than ever, the study of English has laid a path to a multitude of incredible authors whose work I otherwise may have never encountered.
As this article now comes to a close I want to underline my point that reading should never be viewed as a chore. The fear that is felt by many readers upon attempting to read large, highly regarded works such as Middlemarch or Ulysses appears oftentimes, to be a fear of not being able to comprehend the text at hand, or a feeling of pointlessness, that there will be nothing gained or lost by not reading a work of literature or leaving it unfinished. Edgar Allan Poe once remarked that ‘Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.’ This quote, I feel mirrors the overall sentiment of this article, in which I encourage readers to seek joy in the comprehension of literature. Which in turn allows readers to overcome this fear of reading which is so pervasive today, rather than attempting to struggle through a book, or poem allow your mind to be encompassed by the narrative and to find enjoyment in reading.