In a recent discussion, the impossible question of “What makes good poetry” came up. This question seems to loom in the mind of all writers, both amateur and profession. I’ve often wondered why some literature is eternal, while some literature only survived the era in which it was created. What transcending aspects are included in eternal work? Why do certain works appeal to and transcend generations? In pondering this question, another impossible query comes to mind.
Why do we read literature?
There are many philosophers who have sought to answer this question. Shelley claimed that, among other things, people read poetry as a means of catharsis. This theory transcends to the time of Ancient Greece, where plays were actually produced and censored by the government as a means to influence citizens, and allow them to purge their emotions safely onto art. Another philosopher suggested that we read poetry and literature to study ultimate forms of beauty. These are both interesting theories, and there are a lot more ideas about why we read literature.
The best answer to this question is that there is no absolute answer or theory that is correct. Art has always been subjective, and writing is no exception. Our opinions are shaped through personal experiences, and therefore, people think differently. So the reason behind reading literature is different for everyone. This is an extremely frustrating conclusion to come to, but the inconclusive answer fits the ever-changing, fluid topic from which it was derived.