Specialisation: Humanity

Literature as an Expression of Humanity

P.T. Barnum states, “Literature is one of humanity’s most interesting and significant expressions.” Whereas this quote tries to encapsulate the immense implications of the role of literature in society and overall human lives, it still cannot exhaustively detail literature’s value. Various scholars agree that literature can instigate a full range of perspective changes in the threshold of human experiences. The multifaceted nature of literature through attributes like poems and plays, among other literary inputs, enables the easy conveying of the totality of complexities, struggles, joys, sorrows, and contradictions that define the human condition. Also, literature offers a practical insight into the human soul and philosophy that other inputs cannot. Therefore, a carefully executed analysis of the existing literary forms and attributes enables readers to connect to the universal truths and allows them the immense ability to gain wisdom that is important for their daily executions. Because of the vast attributions and applications of literature and its associated impacts on everyday lives, it is necessary to delve into Barnum’s assertion and prove how literature is one of humanity’s most exciting and significant expressions.

One of the most valuable elements that make literature a significant expression of human identity is its universality. Elam (2023) acknowledges that literary works emerge from particular cultural and historical contexts. However, the themes, emotions, and experiences depicted and presented in the results transcend those contexts to speak to universal human truths. This is true to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s assertion that through reading, one discovers that human “longings are universal longings”. Besides, Fitzgerald nuances that we are not “lonely and isolated from anyone” but instead “belong” to the great web of humanity through the available literary inputs.

A vital element of the universality of literature can be associated with the global impact of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old tragedies. Zhenzhao (2023) notes that Shakespearean literature still strongly resonates with the human condition and experience through the timelessness of themes such as betrayal, the fragility of human existence, and ambition; this ideology is still relevant. Here, it is clear that the settings and details of the Shakespearean era may vastly differ from the modern world, but the motivations behind various engagements have minimally changed. By recognizing the universality of literature and its influence on general human life, individuals from multiple settings gain perspectives on their personal lives and feel more connected to others through space and time. Therefore, literature bridges the disparities between eras and cultures, thus acting as a vital element for unity and understanding of the human spirit.

Nevertheless, literature accounts as a record of the evidence of the evolution of humanity. Tursunovich (2022) asserts that every literary work is an emancipation of a complex sociocultural environment rich with philosophical assumptions, moral values, social customs, and personal experiences unique to its period. Using this analogy, it is possible to connect literature with the ability to integrate an unparalleled insight into the functions of societies and how people viewed the world at given points. Kurian and Bazliel (2018) also assert that a careful inspection and study of different literary works shed light on how conceptions of identity, gender roles, class structures, property rights, divine authority, and innumerable other facets of existence have dramatically fluctuated over the centuries. Also, relating to various literary works allows for forming ideologies and comprehending how people lived, interacted, and understood their purposes and experiences at different historical points. By understanding the intellectual growth of the living and human species, the continual progress of human progress is cultured, leading to an enhanced regard for human history.

Additionally, literature is attributed with the enhanced ability to facilitate emotional expansion and moral reflections for individuals and society. Various hypothetical situations are analyzed through literature to help avail perspectives beyond human experiences and assumptions. The theoretical attributes offer new views and understandings of unfamiliar customs and mores. Well-written literary works can quickly initiate vivid, complex inner worlds that challenge the typical human categories of knowledge. Also, engaging in the reality of various literary works compels moral and ethical questioning of various societal dilemmas and attributes. Overall, articulating the human experience and understanding particular hypothetical situations allows for a more prosperous and advanced comprehension of ideas.

Various critics believe that various technological innovations have overshadowed the preeminence of literature and, generally, have had a much-enhanced impact on modern civilization. Tursunovich (2023) notes that it is undeniable that advances in areas like architecture and health have led to more impacts on daily human lives as opposed to direct literature. However, literature is at the core of these advancements, meaning that literature is a collective humanizing force. Various other scholars and writers like Doris Lessing argue that “People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination”. Here, literature fulfils the human need for enhancing empathy and reflection and fosters meaningful interpersonal connections.

The future of literature is filled with various dissecting views and assertions, especially on the access and impact on human lives. The existential threats of modern technologies and associated sociocultural inputs through social media, smartphones, and virtual reality all team to avail a challenge to the inherent effect of literature. Society and scholars must remain vigilant and ensure that literature maintains its importance and development in the face of technological advancements. Protecting the integrity and the impact of literary works will lead to a better and more original preservation of morality, history, and ethical and emotional responsibilities. In the face of the resounding challenges, it is clear that Barnum’s quote and assertion are resonant. Thus, it is necessary to continuously enhance and create a generation guided by passion and genuine interest in literature. The incentives to reach this goal must be carefully executed before the social distraction from social media and technology peaks over the literature’s ability and influence.

In conclusion, Barnum’s assertion that literature is one of humanity’s most exciting and significant expressions is true. As analyzed, literature works offer a nuanced approach to practically relating characters, compelling dramas, emotional resonance, moral questioning, and intimate proximity to historical conditions. Well-written literature connects the users and the general population to human nature and allows for the expansion of ideas, perspectives, and understandings. Few inputs can rival literature’s cultural insight or ability to induce reflection, self-awareness, and interpersonal bonding. Therefore, it is necessary to extend the required attention, effort, and understanding to literature for the betterment of all human societies and generations.


Elam, M. (2023). Poetry Will Not Optimize; or, What Is Literature to AI? American Literature, 95(2), 281-303.

Kurian, L., & Bazliel, S. R. (2018). Collaborative Strategies to Teach Literature in Two Specific Areas—Poetry and Short Stories. Catalyst, 17.

Tursunovich, R. I. (2022). Linguistic and Cultural Aspects of Literary Translation and Translation Skills. British Journal of Global Ecology and Sustainable Development, 10, 168-173.

Zhenzhao, N. (2023). Introduction to ethical literary criticism. Taylor & Francis.