Arts, OldVenue

A world without literature

Imagine a world without art, language and literature to express ourselves; where the civilising aspects of the human race cease to exist. The ability to convey oneself through creative means is a powerful device. During our short existence on earth all our experiences are fragmented: dispersed thoughts, hopes and dreams, making life (at times) isolating and bewildering. A creative outlet unifies all those solitary sentiments, encapsulating the essence of what it means to be human. Pablo Picasso’s documentation of the devastating and chaotic impact of war in Spain in Guernica, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss depicting the intimacy of relationships and his aversion to censorship, or Jan Vermeer’s simplicity and sense of immediacy in the Girl with a Pearl Earring are all microcosmic depictions of a point in history otherwise to be forgotten if not left immortalised in our stories and artwork.

The arts undoubtedly inspire the world. But not only that, literature preserves the ideals of our cultures, whether it be in relation to love, friendship, freedom or faith it encapsulates human existence. It encourages expression and during any time in history the evidence of human suffering or celebration has been documented this way. Whether its 42,000 year old drawings found in a Spanish cave or the latest print by Damien Hirst, it records life and experience in that moment of visualisation. The Greeks, Hebrews and Romans put the utmost importance into preserving their history in literature, they understood the significance of documenting their experiences for future generations.

History Student at UEA, Rachael Jarman said “I believe the interpretation of art is the understanding of culture throughout history. Art makes us human, allowing expression and beauty to be conveyed”. Whilst art depicts emotion visually, literature and language enables us to interpret the world we live in internally. Through words we explore and engage with the human condition, learn and discover more about ourselves than could be possible through other means. Our ideals and motives are questioned, allowing us, prompting us even, to look at our own lives more analytically, and to grasp the bigger picture. Through literature and art we are able to see more than what is immediately evident. As Patrick Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind wrote: “Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts”.

Art, literature, words, are intrinsically linked. Art inspires literature, and vice versa. We see poets looking to the historical canon of art work to inspire a new generation of literature: Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, motivated Wallace Stevens to write The Man with the Blue Guitar and Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting Hunters in the Snow prompted William Carlos Williams’ Hunters in the Snow. A great deal of artwork is also the influence of prominent writers prose. Importantly art and literature inspire, whether it be directly or circuitously future opinions and interpretations of the past and present. However, these reinterpretations are prejudiced and revised to the new era in which they are written, therefore becoming a new amendment to the records of human experience. As C.S Lewis wrote “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

So whether you go visit an art gallery and pick up a pen or go to the library and get out your sketch book, we are all endowed with the ability to challenge, learn and comprehend new ideas. It’s impossible to overestimate the practical and influential importance of literature and art, as Salman Rushdie said “Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart”.


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January 2022
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