Since its emergence in ancient Sumeria, literature has served as one of the most powerful societal artefacts that we produce as a species. The writing we produce tells us much about the different values that each society holds and the particular struggles they face. Literature has developed alongside society, and as such, acts as a mirror. Therefore the study of literature for students in many ways is a study of society itself.
The evolution of literature is something that many students will focus on throughout their time at university. The standard literary education includes literature spanning different eras and societies to demonstrate how writing reflects society. Writing about the differences that occur throughout literary history is an assignment that a teacher will assign almost every student at some point for their literature classes.
To write about the evolution of literature, it’s crucial to understand the major differences between older and more modern examples of writing. Many handy online essay services provide information on this topic and can help if you have a ‘write my essay’ request. Using resources such as these can help provide broad oversight of the development of literature and the way it reflects society.
One of the major things to consider when reflecting on the thematic evolution in literature is exactly who the texts were being written for. Prior to the last century or two, only a very small percentage of the global population went to school and could read, meaning that accessing the written word was something reserved only for the most highly educated in society. This means that writing often dealt with grand concepts tackled only by high thinking intellectuals. Questions of morality, duty, and the battle between good and evil forces are often to be found in examples of classical literature.
The benefit of studying the different eras of classical writing is seeing the evolution of social norms throughout time. Looking at the portrayal of different social groups in classical literature helps us to better understand how far our own society has progressed. For instance, the representation of women in ancient literature, such as Homer’s epic poems, differs greatly from the role that women play in the Romantic era novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.
In this case, the question of who was being written for again comes into play. In the era of Austen and Bronte, it was becoming more common for girls to attend proper school, and so more of the literature being produced was designed to allow women to reflect on their place in society. This fact brings us to one of the major reasons for which contemporary literature is so important for us to engage with.
Modern books are written to be read by all kinds of audiences, as the ability to read is no longer reserved for the elite and privileged in society. Literature is now free to cover a far broader range of topics than in the past, with prominent contemporary writers coming from just about all walks of life. Contemporary literature often tends to focus on personal experience and identity, something that is a far more pressing issue of our time, given the rapid acceleration of globalisation.
Contemporary writers tend to offer more personal, stylised accounts of the inner experiences of their characters, with notable examples being Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Haruki Murakami. In a world like ours that is so marked by the interaction of different cultures and classes, having access to these inner thoughts and experiences is an invaluable opportunity to learn empathy. Gaining a better understanding of what it’s like for the other members of society who live alongside us helps us understand the world we live in on a broader scale. Possessing this kind of understanding offers a lesson as to the type of change we wish to make in the world.
With this in mind, it is more than worth taking a dive into the world of contemporary literature, as it offers one of the most powerful mirrors we have of our society.