It’s a truth universally acknowledged that once you study literature, you will never escape its effect however it may differ from one reader to another.
Before becoming an English Major, I simply read for the sake of reading, to escape, to let my mind wander into invisible territories. However, afterwards, my reading process started to change, it no longer stopped at exploring other worlds, and it begged the question of “Why?” This method slithered its way into real life; people became characters, obstacles became plot twists, and life just became a never-ending story.
It changed the way I perceive the world around me, it had me question the most basic given truths in life; it altered the way I read for pleasure profoundly. No matter which genre I’m reading, there’s always this inside voice that questions the hidden meaning behind every line, wondering if this fictitious world reflects a real part of our world, if this line is aiming to point us towards a bigger issue; the act of reading itself became a mean to view the world in a different light.
I was lucky enough to interview a few English Major Fellows on how studying literature altered their lifestyle and their replies are a deeper insight into how literature tinkers our brains in a million way. On one hand, Professor Menna El-Dawi said,
“After studying literature your whole view of everything changes. You start to see things in a text you never saw before. Stories tell us how to live and why and when you see what is beyond a story you connect the dots and make out the link between the fictional and the real. Your mind is always aware of a parallel universe where every text is an experience that is carried to you and in turn, you carry it to others. Reading is no longer a simple act of entertainment, pleasure or to just pass away the time. It became my agency for development first as a human being and second as a teacher and I hope later on as a mother.”
As for Lara, who has been studying literature for five years now commented, “I have become a more conscious and critical reader. I often read sentences and think of wider contexts that we consider in school, like gender or identity. Something that I rarely did before starting to study literature, was actively thinking about what I read after I finished reading, but it has become part of the process and often makes reading even more interesting”.
However, she had a different approach when it comes to reading for pleasure, she said, “I actually find more pleasure now in reading books in my free time than I did before and I appreciate it more. I recently read Lolita for instance and I think what I enjoyed the most was not thinking about it too much, not having to underline things, but just fully immerse myself into the story and the experience of reading”.
And finally, Boushra who studied literature for four years said “Literature, in all its forms, is always about a story, and if you think of life, you’ll realize that it’s all about stories. In some of these stories, you are the protagonist, in others; you are just a minor character. Life is made up of many stories and somehow, all these stories are connected. Studying literature taught me how to appreciate them, how to see through the many layers of each story, and marvel at the fact that we, human beings, have so much in common, so much to learn from one another, and so much to share…Learning how to analyze a story gives me the chance to fully live this experience (mentally and emotionally) and discover more about the beautiful and mysterious ways of life”.
In the end, I believe that when one studies literature, life turns into a myriad of magical, exciting and a thought-provoking adventure. As we study literature, each day we put on different lenses; historical, analytical, psychological, philosophical, and literary. We become a multitude of personalities, a Hamlet, trying to make sense of the non-sense world around us.