The Psychology of Literature

Where does Psychology come from? What is Psychology and how does it relate to Literature? Before the answer to that, the meaning of Psychology will be explained. Psychology is the study of the mind and how it thinks; in a nut shell. There’s basically two types of Psychology; one is the research in Psychology and the other is the applied part of Psychology. One where we think about the behaviour of the mind and one where we then apply that knowledge to solve different problems and confusions.

The critical thing over here is the ‘thinking’ aspect. In Psychology, we think about the mind, in order to gain knowledge about the mind. We investigate the mind’s behaviour; which we term it Cognition. This should give a hint to where the subject and art of Psychology comes from? Psychology is directly linked to a bigger and more vast subject, Philosophy. There’s two parts to Psychology. It comes from Biology and Philosophy. We think about the mind/brain and then we focus on the parts of the brain and which part does what; in the thinking process.

Literature is the art of writing down notable words and thoughts, which become classics and are read and acknowledged by everyone. Literature does not only have to be memorable, anything written in poetry or prose form, can be literature. Even if the quality of the literature is bad and this is why we have coined the term ‘trashy literature’. There’s good literature and bad literature. Literature has less to do with how famous, someone’s written work or thought/quote got, but how memorable it was and what an impression it has left. This is why, you have the artsy films and the less commercially successful novels, but are really good none the less and are termed as literature.

Not to say, there can’t be pieces of work that haven’t received their fair share of recognition and acknowledgement. Just to give an example, would be the works of Jane Austen. Her classic pieces of literature like Pride and Prejudice, are widely acknowledged in the scholarly world, as well as by the general members of the public, so much so that, artsy films as well as even commercial film adaptations have been made. Few works of literature get all the glory, while the rest of the greats are refused the honour.

Literature comes in two basic forms. There is poetry and then there is prose. The difference between the two is that, poetry is formed in to a rhythmic structure and it flows well, while prose is general grammatical structure and continuation of speech. Both kinds of literature are studied, but the prose is the more popular form; since, it includes things like articles, novels etc. which are read by far more people, than poetry. Poetry is more restricted to enthusiasts and ardent lovers, or students of literature in Schools or Universities.

Basic reading develops certain skills. Skills like obtaining a good vocabulary, being able to write well – yes, reading does help in that – and having a vivid imagination. Delving in to the world of literature is like an extension to reading and we develop even more skills, than when we read just for pleasure. Not to say that, literature should not be enjoyed. It should be. If you do anything with your heart set in to it, you will feel that you can do that easily, rather than do something which feels like an obligation to you.

While enjoying literature, one should also study it. By studying, it does not mean learn it by heart or be ready to answer in depth questions about it, but rather think a bit deeply about it. When you will think deeply about literature, or what the words say, you will broaden your minds and develop the habit of analysing. Analysing words is a great quality, that can be then applied to the real life.

Analysing literature, gives us a new skill to master. Along with learning new vocabulary etc, we also start to critically think. What all of this leads to is, is the betterment of our understanding. We understand why the author might have written that, we understand what the purpose behind writing a particular quote or the literature piece was. Along with reading, the understanding aspect is really important. There is no point in just reading a book, it is imperative that you understand it too.

If you understand something, what that leads to is basically that, you learn. You learn something new, every time you read and understand a book. A big example of this theory would be the reading and understanding of religious doctrines and books. You don’t only have to read the text, but actually understand it and learn from it. There is no point in just skimming through the words and being oblivious to what they say.

Reading is not a competition. When you read, be it a short poem or an 800 page novel, it takes up a part of your time. Time is of the essence and it shouldn’t be wasted. Why read literature, just for the sake of reading literature. If you are going to spend time on reading something, then you might as well use your mind to actually analyse, think and try to understand it too.

It is important to understand and learn, because if you love what you read and understood, you will surely would want to pass on that newly found information to others too. It contributes to the sharing of knowledge and collectively increases general capacity to absorb knowledge as well and creates a desire to gain new knowledge.

The main thing is to read and understand. If you read good things, they will keep recurring in your mind and will generally give you a positive feel. You will quote lines that you thought were the best out of a book for example, or a poem written by some author will become the topic of discussion with someone. True lovers of literature, those that read and understand it – know of its importance as well – would know that, literature and reading gives them immense happiness.


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