True confessions – I used to be a teacher of literature. But that was a long time ago, and now my job is to help people throughout Indiana find delight in reading, discussing and understanding literature.
Humans are naturally curious about other humans. When we encounter characters in novels, short stories, biographies, memoirs or plays, we want to know who they are and what will happen to them. And we want to know about their lifestyles, what it was like to live in their times and places.
This is just as true whether these people are fictional or real. A brilliant writer can create characters so fascinating, invent plots so intriguing and depict settings so vivid that we are drawn into their world. As we visit with them, our own day-to-day lives fade into the background and the dream almost seems to replace reality.
At the same time, literature can evoke the greater story that we all participate in – the cycle of life. Northrop Frye in Anatomy of Criticism explained this story-beyond-stories in terms of literary mythoi:
- The mythos of spring – comedy
- The mythos of summer – romance
- The mythos of autumn – tragedy
- The mythos of winter – irony or satire
Given the right time, place and mood, we enjoy reading all these types of literature. And finally we can lose ourselves in other genres – lyric and essay. In poetry, we share the visions and emotions of others, and in the essay, we discover their thoughts and opinions.
Looking ahead to our state’s Bicentennial in 2016, Indiana Humanities has teamed up with the Indiana State Library and Indiana Center for the Book to present The Next Indiana Bookshelf, a very special collection of literature. Learn more about this program on our website.
This blog is part of a blog series, All Good Things. The series, written by Nancy Conner, will run throughout the year and reflect on topics that have been central to our work at Indiana Humanities.