Literature’s impact on the blood sack

Anna Jaskiewicz, Op/Ed Editor

Being an English major, I often expected that an article such as this one was bound to flow out of my fingertips at some point. Thankfully, it’s happening while I still have the capacity to get it published. 

As much as we may want to deny it, we humans can’t go a single day without passing judgments about something or someone. Today I will judge the way in which people view literature for what it was, is, and will eventually become. 

If no one has ever told you this, I urge you to hear me now: you don’t recognize how deeply you’ve impacted another individual’s life whether good or bad you will never truly know how much your presence in someone else’s life has changed theirs.

You don’t get to say what you mean to someone else – only that person can decide what role you have played in their life’s story. 

Literature works the same way. People all around the globe can tell you that Walt Whitman changed the world with his poetry. 

They can say Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” altered everything we know about space and time. They can say “Pride and Prejudice” changed society’s views on women and love. But none of those books have changed anything for those who haven’t read them!

The world today can only and will only ever exist through the lens in which you, the individual, choose to see it.

If you so choose to shy away from Faulkner, that’s your call. If you’d rather read a book on the theory of economics, that’s on you. 

Literature doesn’t change the world directly; it just changes you and you take it from there.

For some odd reason, prior to today, I believed that as an English major, I had a duty, a calling rather, to share my appreciation for specific books and various literary genres with anyone who would listen. 

However, I think my philosophy about what constitutes as literature has changed drastically. 

When you think about it, you have a limited number of days in this lifetime. No one, not even the literary experts and geniuses, whom I still admire, should be telling you what counts as quality literature. 

To me, literature is any book, story, article, poem, etc. that makes you feel like you are something greater than the warm sack of blood, bones, and cells that you actually are. 

Literature is anything that pushes you to think, even for a moment, beyond your original conceptions of the life you’re living within the world you’re stuck in. 

To the professor who asked my class which books he should teach next semester, I say to you: “Whichever ones you want! Whatever book you decide to force your students to read is only going to affect them as much as they are willing to allow.” 

As I continue to read, since I have no intention of ever stopping, it will matter less to me what I have read and instead, I will place more importance on how that literature impacts my individual emotions and thoughts. 

Literature has changed my life because I have allowed it to do so and that’s all I can hope for anyone who has ever decided to read anything. 

Anna is a senior English major and Op/Ed Editor for The Voice.