If it stands that we cannot give what we do not have, then we should come to understand that literature is a reflection of all we are as society. Litrature is not the work of some supernatural being outside our world; it is a product of the human creative thoughts— yes, those that have been affected by the society in which he is raised.
And, as a matter of fact, permit me to add that if some deific literature are revealed to man by supernatural creatures (as some religions will propose), those revelations reflect the society (location) in which the said being stays or that of his receiver. What have together make that literature possible will always be evident, whether or not we notice it.
So, it is no news that literature and society are profoundly connected, but the question now is how does society affect literature?
First, By Reflecting Cultural Norms and Values. Quite inevitably, literature mirrors the beliefs, values, and norms of a society. It can provide insight into the prevailing ideologies, social structures, and cultural practices of a particular time and place.
Through its narratives, characters, and settings, literature conveys the collective consciousness and moral compass of a community. For instance, the Victorian era’s emphasis on propriety and social class distinctions is vividly portrayed in the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
Also, by addressing social issues. Authors use literature as a medium to comment on or critique social issues. This can range from topics like inequality, discrimination, or political unrest to more personal matters like identity and belonging. In any case, society must be seen as the fuel that pushes them to write.
The works of Harriet Beecher Stowe, such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” played a pivotal role in galvanizing anti-slavery sentiments in 19th-century America, ultimately influencing the course of history.
More importantly, society can affect literature because it influences author’s viewpoints. An author’s experiences and worldview are shaped by the society they inhabit. These perspectives, in turn, inform their writing style, themes, and characters.
Another notable way society affect literature is through market demands. The commercial aspect of publishing is heavily influenced by societal preferences. Bestsellers often reflect what is resonating with a large portion of the population. The rise of the cyberpunk genre in the late 20th century can be attributed to the increasing influence of technology and the emergence of a digitized global culture.
Some other quasi-significant ways in which society affect litrature include but are certainly not limited to:
- Literacy Rates:
The level of education and literacy in a society can determine the complexity and accessibility of literature. A more literate society is expected to produce more diverse and intellectually challenging works.
- Censorship and Regulation:
Societal norms can lead to censorship or restrictions on certain types of content. This can shape what gets published and what themes or ideas are explored in literature. In journalism, this may be regarded as democracy. There is a boundary—point to which you are allowed to express yourself. Anything beyond that may cost penalities.
- Inspiration from Historical Events:
Major historical events, such as wars, revolutions, or cultural shifts, can serve as inspiration for literature. They provide a backdrop against which stories unfold.
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is a familiar example of this.
- Diversity and Representation:
As societal awareness of diversity and inclusivity grows, literature is increasingly expected to reflect a broader range of voices and experiences.
In a nutshell, literature is deeply connected with society as it serves as a powerful medium for understanding, critiquing, and celebrating the human experience within the context of a given cultural and historical milieu.
Read Also: How Does Literature Affect Society Today?
In a previous publication on this platform, we examined how American literature and American identity are interrelated, and that is very much like the topic at hand now. Who knows, you may also want to check it out, but that’s not the point. I aim at drawing a lesson from that piece for the purposes of further illustration here.
While we wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the point that literature varies and may come in different forms, there is a very slim to no chance at all of any literary work appearing independent of society.
With regards to the recommended article, we saw in that composition that all American literature of all ages or eras speak about the identities of the country one way or another. With this, it is reasonable to conclude that literature not only works depending on society but also hinging on time factor. The literature of this age—anywhere in the world, is not the same as the literature of ages past. The more reason there are several literary periods and movements.
For a crisper view: If an author who has spent all his life reading American literature writes a book, he cannot sound like another author who knows no other literature by China’s. You may want to narrow it down to level of exposure or literacy, but society is the primary barrier here.Share