The links between literature and the society: A brief review

  • What is literature?

    So many definitions of literature have been put up. In the context of this discourse, literature (imaginative literature) is writing that is considered to be an art form, or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage (Wikipedia). Cambridge Dictionary defines it as written artistic works, especially those with a high and lasting artistic value.

    On the other hand, society is the community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations (Oxford Dictionary). It consists of people, culture, language, government, etc.

    Literature is not produced in a vacuum. It is produced by writers (human beings) who are the principal elements of the society.  Writers write about societal happenings; societal happenings influence what writers write about. Thus, there exists a dialectical relationship between literature and the society. Both influence the other.

    Literature criticizes the society

    To cite examples, Sarah Ladipo Manyika's novel, In Dependence, is a typical example of critical literature. The novel, amidst all other issues, criticizes the post-independent Nigerian society ridden with coups, corruption, leadership glitches, brain drain, and so on. Tayo Ajayi‘s unpalatable experience in the university of Jos is indescribable. He was forced to immigrate to America where he gets a comfortable teaching position and honoured with Doctorate of Literature at Oxford. This is a literary critique of the brain drain; a phenomenon experienced during the military era where intellectuals that stood against the military incursion were brutalized and forced to exile.

    Literature also inscribes social identity

    This is well instantiated in Assia Djebar’s A Sister of Scheherazade where the writer uses the novel to fight for the recognition of the identity of women. The writer uses the characters of Isma and Hajila to describe the oppression suffered by women in the Algerian society. Having acquired education, Isma stands up for her rights as a woman and also educates Hajila, and by extension, every woman in the society, to stand up for their rights and inscribe for themselves a unique equal social identity rather than being subservient to men.

    Literature expresses or reflects the society

    Through literature, one can have knowledge of what operates in a particular society. For instance, through Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one can gain an insight into the Renaissance English society and its features. In Dr. Faustus, the eponymous hero is tired of other fields of study and he opts for magic—even at the expense of theology.  This reveals one of the main attributes of the English Renaissance period, a period when people rebelled against the medieval limitations and the restriction put upon humankind decreeing that he must accept his place in the universe without challenging it. It is a period where people opted for the universal desire for enlightenment and emphasized humanity over divinity.

    His desire is to transcend the limitations of humanity and rise to greater achievements and heights, Faustus makes a contract for knowledge and power. His desire, according to the Renaissance, is to transcend the limitations of humanity and rise to greater achievements and heights.

    Literature proffers solutions to societal problems

    Literature offers solutions to problems in the society. In A Sister to Scheherazade for instance, Assia Djebar subtly opines that through education and unity, women can be liberated from oppression. If women are educated just like Isma and Hajila, gender oppression will gradually fade off.

    Society gives literature an identity

    On the other side, society also produces its literature. For instance, there are English literature, French literature, Arabic literature, Yoruba literature, Hausa literature, and so on. Literature is classified along this societal border/factor because the characters in a literary work, the settings, themes, etc. have reciprocal relationship/influence with the society where the literature is produced.

    Societal events/periods shape the thematic focus of literature

    Events in the society also influence the thematic preoccupation of literature. For instance, in Nigerian literature, we have Pre-colonial literature, Colonial literature, Post-Independence/Postcolonial literature, and so on. English literature Anglo-Saxon literature, Medieval literature, Renaissance literature, and so on. This buttresses the point that societal events, as the society progresses, influence the thematic focus of literature produced in the society.

No Stickers to Show


Recent Articles

  • Nostalgia, flaw and fear: Recognizing red flags in a relationship

    Posted Jul 30

    Jenny met Hassan at a party, they clicked instantly, and before they knew it, their friendship blossomed into something else. After much persuasion from Hassan, Jenny finally agreed to move in with him. Everything was all roses and rainbows until it started; Hassan didn...

  • Domestic violence: Why the victims stay

    Posted Jul 29

    To what can we liken domestic violence? An insidious virus or a fast-acting poison? Either way, domestic violence has far-reaching, and often, fatal effects. This is why society always condemns it and also why we ask the obvious question every time, “Why does she...

  • Two souls in a single body: A journey into the mind of a solo writer

    Posted Jul 25

    The writer and I are two souls sharing a single body, and I can safely say it is the most confusing relationship I have ever been in my entire life; the same thing that gives me life seems to have a way of taking a little from everything it has given me. As writers, we ...

  • Data structure and algorithm: A brief explanation of binary search and arrays

    Posted Jul 25

    Data is all we hear these days. From our Facebook usage to our daily rant on Twitter, is a common knowledge that we input tons of data as well as get a lot of it every second we use our devices – even if it doesn’t make sense to us, at least that’s wha...

View All

Random Articles

  • This Red Sun Must Set: A review of Red Sun by Dolapo Lawrence

    Posted September 26, 2017

    Title: Red Sun Author: Dolapo Lawrence Genre: Fiction Pages: 290 Published: 2014 Publisher: Outskirts Press Language: English ISBN-10: 147870568X Introduction Red Sun is a story of the travails of war and the triumph of love; the essence of peace. It is a ficti...

  • Reflecting on Nigeria’s oil: A critique of Niyi Osundare’s ‘Oily Blues’

    Posted October 10, 2016

    What will Nigeria do when oil has passed out of favour? What shall we hold as lasting gains from many decades of oil wealth? …very soon, the world will tell Nigeria to drink its crude oil Oil was discovered in Nigeria in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta a...

  • Four reasons not to multi-task

    Posted September 4, 2018

    Want to do most of the things at once to save time? Want to quickly get on with things and do something you like? We all do it, at least for some part of our day. Texting during the meeting, chatting while studying or cooking food while watching tv. Well, it may not be ...

  • 10 health benefits of spices in your diet

    Posted September 19, 2018

    Spices are fantastic! They add a unique flavor and taste to our dishes and make our food delicious and nutritious. But do you know that spices do more than make your food hot? If you love cooking with spices due to the mild or extreme hotness and flavor it confers on yo...

View All