I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.
Human beings don't necessarily exist inside of (or correspond to) the neat racial, gendered or national boxes into which we often unthinkingly place them. It's a mistake to ask literature to reinforce such structures. Literature tends to crack them. Literature is where we free ourselves.
Literature was the passport to enter a larger life; that is, the zone of freedom. Literature was freedom. Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, literature is freedom.
Our fiction is not merely in flight from the physical data of the actual world... it is, bewilderingly and embarrassingly, a gothic fiction, nonrealistic and negative, sadist and melodramatic - a literature of darkness and the grotesque in a land of light and affirmation... our classic [American] literature is a literature of horror for boys
Literature had torn Tessa and me apart, or prevented us from merging in the first place. That was its role in the world, I'd started to fear: to conjure up disagreements that didn't matter and inspire people to act on them as though they mattered more than anything. Without literature, humans would all be one. Warfare was simply literature in arms. The pen was the reason man invented the sword.
We were supposed to be an English literature class, but Miss Nesbitt used literature to teach real life. She said she didn't have time to teach us like a regular English teacher-we were too far behind. Instead, she taught us the world through literature.
Much, maybe too much, has been written about literature. (I know better than anyone; I'm an expert in the field). Yet the special thing about literature, the major art form of a Western civilization now ending before our very eyes, is not hard to define. Like literature, music can overwhelm you with sudden emotion, can move you to absolute sorrow or ecstasy; like literature, painting has the power to astonish, and to make you see the world through fresh eyes. But only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, it limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, interesting, exciting, or repugnant. Only literature can grant you access to a spirit from beyond the grave-a more direct, more complete, deeper access than you'd have in conversation with a friend. Even in our deepest, most lasting friendships, we never speak so openly as when we face a blank page and address an unknown reader.
To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life. Music soothes, the visual arts exhilarates, the performing arts (such as acting and dance) entertain. Literature, however, retreats from life by turning in into slumber. The other arts make no such retreat- some because they use visible and hence vital formulas, others because they live from human life itself. This isn't the case with literature. Literature stimulates life. A novel is a story of what never was, a play is a novel without narration. A poem is the expression of ideas or feelings a language no one uses, because no one talks in verse.
Literature deals with morality but does not necessarily, does not, qua literature, help you to be more moral, either by precept or example. It makes you more aware. Which is to say that it makes you more human by making life more, not less, difficult. When you become more aware, the area of moral choice is widened. You can be a better man; you can also be a worse. Literature will not determine which. It is the equivalent of neither grace nor good works.
Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, wheras literature teaches us to notice. Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.
If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet.