Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world – P. B. Shelley
While Shelley was obviously a little biased for poetry, I believe what he said, but I extend it out to the genre of fiction as well, which is closely tied to poetry and all literature which embraces the obscure and the abstract.
One of the most annoyingly incorrect statements one can make is that fiction is a waste of time, an unnecessary hobby of mankind which we could do without. I cannot express through the written word how that statement frustrates me. But, I find solace in the fact that it is usually exclaimed obnoxiously and with false confidence by those who know next to nothing of reading and literature in general, or by 4chan’s /lit/ page, for which I still haven’t forgiven them.
Here’s the truth :
Fiction of all kinds acts as a kind of time capsule in a way that non-fiction cannot. It preserves the mannerisms and cultural idiosyncrasy of an epoch within the pages of a book, or the lines of a poem without ever emphasising them. It is a masterful skill, a difficult thing to do with success. It requires absurdity from the very beginning, or it will collapse simply from being unoriginal. It ironically creates another, separate era which does not exist and places those mannerisms within it in such a way that the true culture can be observed, scrutinised, and critically analysed.
By rejecting the relatively temporary surroundings of its contemporaneous age, a fictional work affords itself the ability to stand the test of time. By giving itself a unique setting, a fictional work can be understood universally and across different cultural ages. Consider the fact that literature is itself a means to empathy. This definition would thus place fiction at the pinnacle of all literature.
This is what Shelley thought, just for the augmented insight:
Poetry comes from the erudite and the thoughtful. When a system is in dire need of change, it is the poets who trigger this change through their poetry. They change minds, liberate thoughts and foster dissent against that which would oppress the otherwise oblivious man. As he describes the thought racing through everyone’s heads in Mask of Anarchy, Shelley shows us how overwhelmingly powerful an idea can be compared to, say, brute violence and undirected anger, which usually ruins more than it can fix.
What is your favourite genre of literature and why? Comment like you’re being paid for it.