Today, I’m going to introduce our course on literature by asking you: Why do we study literature? Which is closely linked to the question What is literature? Why don’t we study the telephone directory? I guess you’ve dealt with literary texts for years now but every time I ask my students the above question I see, from their reactions, that somehow it comes as unexpected and it puzzles them. What is our teacher talking about? Of course we study Shakespeare and not the telephone directory but … WHY?

Well, I’m pasting here and on the walls some definitions of Literature and I would like you to choose ONE that suits you & you like best.

litertureis7 litertureis6 literatureis5 literatureis5 literatureis3 literatureis1

  3. The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive (prosperare) in a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.   Thomas Moore
  4. Literature is the exploitation (sfruttamento) of words (…) Music and literature have a great deal in common: they both use the temporal material of sounds” A. Burgess author of A Clockwork Orange
  5. If a nation’s LITERATURE declines, the nation atrophies and decays.
  6. Great Literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. Ezra Pound 1885-1972, American Poet, Critic
  7.  No two people read the same book. Edmund Wilson 1895-1972
  8. Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart  Salman Rushdie  (Indian born British Writer, b.1947)
  9.  Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become C.S. Lewis  (British Scholar and Novelist. 1898-1963)
  10.  What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote E. M. Forster  (English Novelist and Essayist, 1879-1970)
  11.  Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds (modella) it to its purpose. Oscar Wilde  (Irish Poet, Novelist, Dramatist and Critic, 1854-1900)
  12.  The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect (colpire) your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish. Robert Louis Stevenson
  13.  So you may ask what is the use of studying the world of imagination where anything is possible and anything can be assumed (immaginato), where there are no rights or wrongs and all arguments are equally good. One of the most obvious uses, I think, is the encouragement of tolerance. Northrop Frye, The Educated imagination.

Here’s a video I found you may like, created  by a student like you.

Now look at the following lines of a poem we’ll read in class without telling you who wrote it and when.

“ Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more; it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

  1. Who do you think is the writer? A contemporary poet? A poet from the past? A young man/woman or a mature one. Why?
  2. Does it communicate a universal truth to you?
  3. Can you consider it literature?

Like Dante who said “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,ché la diritta via era smarrita. (When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,I found myself within a shadowed forest,for I had lost the path that does not stray. Canto I, lines 1-3) couldn’t he just write When I was 35? Am I confusing you? I guess so because even today there’s a huge debate on what literature is. Since it is very difficult to define what literature is, critics speak of LITERARINESS: deviation from conventional daily language.

  • Daily language: life is not worth living. Literary language: Life’s but a walking shadow …
  • Daily language “when I was 35”. Literary :”nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita.”

Meaning is conveyed through Sounds and often has to be inferred.

That’s why you may sometimes  find it difficult to understand and decode it. Nevertheless the SOUND of poetry, like the music of a song, helps you grasp some meaning. Even if you don’t understand French I’m sure you will “feel” the atmosphere and the general tone of the following line.

Les sanglots long des violons de l’automme blessent mon coeur d’un languer monoton”    (P. Verlaine)

The same happens in music. For instance in rap music or ballads.

So, to cut the long story short, in literature



That’s why we’re going to study literature:

  • to master and understand the CODES of literariness;

  • to appreciate literary texts;  🙂

  • to be able to give your personal response; (in a creative way!)

  •  to acquire a certain knowledge of the social & historical context of some authors & be able to compare them to the Italian literature.

“So you may ask what is the use of studying the world of imagination where anything is possible and anything can be assumed, where there are no rights or wrongs and all arguments are equally good. One of the most obviuos uses, I think, is the encouragement of tolerance. “Northrop Frye, The Educated imagination.

Do you agree with the final statement of the following video?

TASK 1) WRITE YOUR COMMENT BELOW:  why do you want to study literature and what are your expectations for our course on Literature in English? 

TASK 2) WRITE IT IN THIS PADLET: by clicking the embedded Padlet or using the Qrcode.

Cannot wait to read your comments.



  1. I want to study english literature to know another culture,how is the english culture ,specially i want to study how thought some authors like Shakespeare…and i don’t remember other authors names,but i i hope this cours will be so interesting and helps me to know another culture.

  2. I want to study literature for improve my English and for the knowledge of another culture. I think that if we study different culture, we expand our horizons and we can have different kind of thought. I hope that the next lessons will be interesting like the first.

  3. I don’t really like studying Italian literature, because I think is boring and difficult to understand but I want to study English literature because obviously is different than the Italian one and I want to know more about Shakespeare and other authors.
    I hope the course will be interesting and funny.

  4. I want to study literature because I think that the authors makes you feel the emotions they felt when they wrote their poems. My expectations are to know about English writers, especially Shakespeare and Austen. I guess that the lessons will be very interesting and full of entertainment!

  5. I don’t really like Italian literature but I know that it opens a lot our mind. I’m sure that the English one will be better cause I really like English. This year I am expecting to learn it having fun but putting effort on it. I will study literature to learn something new knowing that it will be helpful in the future. I am very curious to experiment your method of teaching beacuse the first lesson was interesting and it inspired me.
    P.S. I found the right place where I am supposed to write 😉
    Elena C

  6. I would love to study literature for many reasons. First of all, it reminds me my grandparents that used to repeat me some common phrases of Leopardi, Shakespeare or Dante. For example my grandfather always told me “love looks not with the eyes but with the soul” or “we know what we are, but not what we may be” from Hamlet and he explained me the meaning of his point of view and every time I was without words. I think that literature is not only about the life of the many authors or their poems, it is a kind of communication between the author and the reader. It is also a way of art and you can see things form another point of view. The first lesson of English literature was very amazing because I learned the reasons we study it and the importance of the sounds and emotions.

  7. I want to study English literature to learn more about the history of the language and to be amazed from the tales of Shakespear. Of course I even want to improve my english and to know more about the ancient traditions of England and US. I want to fall in love whit the readings that we are going to read.

  8. I think that study Literature could be important to improve our English and also our knowledge about the past and the most famous english authors.
    Honestly I don’t like very much Literature but I find interesting discover the different ways in which feelings and emotions are described and how some simple words can express something for us indescribable. I don’t have much expectations but I’m sure that this journey together will be great!! 😉

  9. I’d love to study English literature to understand in a deeper way its culture, from the different points of view of all the authors that have been and are a part of it. Literature can help us in many ways: to describe feelings we cannot describe with our own words, to make us feel part of a group with similar emotions, to discover new things or even just to have a good time reading it. I personally think literature it’s an amazing treasure we need to appreciate more and that’s why I’m excited to study it. I think that this new course will make us learn so many different things that are somehow going to change us, who knows. For sure It’s going to be an interesting experience.

  10. I want to study literature because I consider it important for our personal culture and because I find it interesting to see how people from different periods thought and lived. It can make us time travel, think about and express ourselves. I’d love to learn more about the English culture and I’m sure our lessons will be very interesting.

  11. I want to study literature because I’ve been interested in it since ever.
    I’ve read for years and I think in a way I grew up a lot while reading books.
    Literature has always been my favorite subject at school and I honestly can’t wait to study the English one because it inspires me the most. I started to truly love and appreciate literature when I read for the first time “Sonnet 18” by Shakespeare and then I kinda fell in love with this incredible artist. During this course I hope I’ll learn more about feelings and emotions and how they can affect people’s lives.

  12. I want to study literature, because first of all I love reading and in my opinion is able to give you emotions.
    in my opinion the literature reflects certain moments and some aspects of our lives.
    I think the sense of what we read but we make it different from our mood, I do not know if we read it at a time when we are not particularly happy then that piece will take on a negative value, while the opposite would happen if we were happy.
    literature excites you spirit.
    and, thanks to it, you may be able to understand what the author felt while writing his own novel.

  13. I’d like to study literature because according to me it’s very interesting and it allows us to understand the different streets to show our feelings.
    My expectations are to learn something on some authors and to also know the habits of their epoch.
    Then… I cannot wait to start this run inside the literature!!!!

  14. I can’t wait to start studying english literature because I’ve been studying the italian one for years and now I’d like to know what kind of differences there are between the two cultures. I think this course will be really interesting like the first lesson was. I love to think about texts, poems and words, about the way they are used and why the authors chose them. I really like to try to put myself in someone else’s shoes in order to see the world by a different point of view and maybe to learn something new that can help me in my everyday life.

  15. I’d like to study literature because I find it inspiring and I think it makes everyone think about themselves. I’m also very curious about studying it in another language: I have never done it before but I’m sure it will be great. I found the first lesson we had very interesting and I think I will like this subject.

  16. This year I want to study literature because, first of all, I love literature and everything about it. I have always been curious to know Italian culture, since I was a child, and growing, with me grew also the desire to know other realities, like the one we are going to study this year. The authors who are part of the British literature fascinate me a lot and I’m sure that the lessons will be great!

  17. I want to study Literature because it helps us learn about the world around us and it takes us to new places in different time periods. We also read literature for the same reason that we watch movies and television, It is entertaining. I don’t know very well what we are going to do this year, but i think the lessons will be special and funny.

  18. I want to study English literature to deepen the English language in general and to know the story of British writers such as Shakespeare.
    I also expect to deepen my culture, get new interesting knowledge about English and I hope the course will be interesting and fun.

  19. I want to study literature to improve my knowledge of the language and the culture. I think that literature is very important, because it can expand our horizons and it helps us to understand people’s thoughts and ideas. Talking about my expectations, I hope studying literature will be fun and we will study a lot of authors that influenced English culture.

  20. I want to study English Literature because it allows you to know the uses, customs and traditions of that people. So I think that only if you understand the history of a language can you really appreciate it. One of my favourite English authors is Charles Dickens, in fact his history was my secondary school test’s topic!

  21. I don’t really know why I want to study literature, but it inspire me!! I love reading and I hope that I’ll improve my english. I want to know more about feelings, emotions and also love stories in the past. I’m sure we’ll travel around the world with literature

  22. I want to study literature because the first lesson was really inspiring and interesting, and that was only the first! I’d like to improve my english and know more about english culture, so i hope to learn a lot about those things!

  23. I want to study literature because I like the English one, especially Shakespeare and Hemingway, and I want to know more of it.
    I hope that our course on Literature in English will be interesting, interactive and fun.

  24. I want to study literature because I’d like to know better Shakespeare and his plays and the other authors, too. I don’t have any expectations, but I think the course will be interesting and nice!

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