Written by: Zoe H.
One of our new consultants, Zoe, has written a wonderful piece about the validity of all forms of writing. Please help us welcome her to the UWC in the comments!
There is a common misconception that the only literature of merit is “highbrow” literature, or writing considered intellectual. Think Shakespeare, Austen, or Dickinson. I’m sure at least one high school teacher has encouraged you to put down James Patterson in favor of Kurt Vonnegut. But should we actually change our reading lists?
Reading is a fundamental feature of society, present in work, school, pleasure, and even driving (yes, stop signs count). We may elect (or be forced) to read “highbrow” literature for educational purposes, and there is value in these pieces. I don’t doubt that reading Austen in college has changed my ideas of literature—her work focuses on her own somewhat mundane life, but still is entertaining and meaningful because of the character development and the humor. I have learned I can write about my own mundane life, too, and still connect to my readers. However, the benefit of esteemed work does not negate the validity of lesser-recognized pieces.
I read for many reasons, including learning, improving my own writing, and relaxing. “Highbrow” literature may help me accomplish the first two, but Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations does not relax me. Instead, I read Jennifer E. Smith (lots of romance novels), Rainbow Rowell, or reread Harry Potter. I also read fanfiction, enjoying the promising work of young writers and the continuation of stories I know and love. These works tend to be the most looked down upon, but I have undoubtably read novel-length fanfictions with developed themes and then reread them. These works have comforted me after long days, accompanied me on plane rides, and entertained me during tiresome waits. To me, they are just as valuable as Hamlet.
Reading has many purposes and outcomes. Why would we limit what we read and what we gain from it? That worn, dog-eared murder mystery hidden on the corner of your bookshelf past The Great Gatsby can improve your life, too. So flood the Young Adult section of your library, scroll through some Harry Potter fanfiction, buy the latest celebrity memoir, and savor reading them!