Literature — a reflection of age | By Zainab Nazir

53

Literature — a reflection of age


A literary man is as much a product of his society as his art is the product of his own section to life.

The time spirit is the quintessential acceleration of all the social, political, scientific and religious changes of a particular time period or age.

Every man, in Goethe’s words, is a citizen of his age as well as of his country.

Thus literature always expresses the sentiments and thoughts of the human mind which are closely interconnected and conditioned by the age in which one is living.

The influence of the age on the people living in it is due to the fact that the human mind is constantly influenced by the spirit of the age and reaches to it vigorously and vividly.

The function and purpose of literature is different from that of history or philosophy.

Literature is the revelation of aesthetic beauty in its true sense. Beauty is the expression of emotions.

Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer in his book “What is Art,” defines art and literature as the communication and connection of emotions. Tolstoy took beauty not to be inherent and objective in works of art.

It is a subjective experience; literature and works of art produce a sense of being beautiful and an aesthetic sense in the people who view and read it.

The study of English literature takes us into another world; into the vast field of English history, by which we mean the history of English society and politics, philosophy and religion, customs and manners, culture and learning etc.

Our goal must be to link and correlate the literature of any period or age to all the important aspects of the national activity of the period.

In understanding this, we must remember that the age inquisition grew out of that which preceded it.

Its own ideals were never settled or fixed; but were in a continuous process of transformation; and those conflicting tendencies are found together in the civilization of any period.

We not only have to study or investigate the literature of any given period in connection with the existing society, but also have to study the movements of literature in their connection with contemporaneous movements and thoughts.

It is important to know that a writer of an age is not an isolated fact but the product of the age in which he works.

His idea of life is pervaded with the influence of his age, thus; literature is simply a mirror of life, a social document and reproduction of intellectual ferment.

Literature is a progressive revelation, age by age, generation by generation of a nation’s character and mind.

The famous German philosopher Marx says: “Certain periods of highest development of art stand in no direct connection with the general development of society.”

Taking the other side of the picture; behind every book that is written lies the personality and mind of the person who wrote it.

A man of letters always expresses his own ego which is very predominating and powerful.

The individual approach of the writer creates what we call real literature, otherwise literature becomes the social document of a period. Literature is not a driving force, but an expression of a class viewpoint.

The major task of literature today is to reestablish its tradition, to break the bonds of subjectivism and bring the writer closer to his revolutionary task of inhaling the knowledge of truth and reality.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.