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The Relationship Between Literature and History

[retrieved from http://www.cajunc.com/art-literature-history]

Introduction

Kahlil Gibran "The Prophet": a collection of poetic essays about various topics like love, marriage, good and evil, and prayer. Edition is off-white with Gibran's face on front and bio on back.

Literature and history intertwine, so much so that some high schools offer an integrated course in literature and history.

Will Durant spent a lifetime writing 11 volumes of "The Story of Civilization" and a final volume, "The Lessons of History," with his wife, Ariel. But his first volume was "The Story of Philosophy," and he combined literature, philosophy and history lessons into a Pulitzer Prize.


The Era Affects Literature

Literature reflects the era, the words in use at the time and the style of the decade.

Writers carry the themes of the era, particularly social mores, in literature. "The Feminine Mystique" was, in 1963, a reflection of the life of the American housewife. Change and concern are topics for literary works, much like science fiction.

But, much like Orwell's "1984," changing the newspaper records does not change history.

Based in science, but futuristic in concern for what may happen creates the chord and discord of the plot.

Literature may become history, as stories of World War I by Hemingway are an insight into the era. History may also become literature, as the Bible reveals historical accounts of events as a literary work.


History Becomes Literature

Jacques Lowe's "Kennedy: A Time Remembered" shows John F. Kennedy's career and photographs of the Kennedy family. Book cover is an artistic portrayal of Kennedy standing in a dark coat, looking at ground.

Books about wars often give inside accounts, much like "A Farewell to Arms," reports the events of World War I through Hemingway's eyes and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" reveals Russia through the eyes of Solzhenitsyn.

This book reported a history of Russia when published in 1962, but by 1966, a campaign against Solzhenitsyn caused a recall of this book in Russia, creating history.

The Bible is a literary work with important history lessons; it is also a history book with excellent literary qualities.


Literature Becomes History

"Miracle on 34th Street: A Hollywood Classic" by Sarah Parker Danielson: a book about the classic movie with stills and behind-the-scenes information. Edition is black with photo of three main characters posing on front.

Literature turns into history after some years.

When written, literature is the present, a report of the current status. Twenty years later, the reader sees the same literature as history, reporting events at the time of writing.

Much like a suicide note, writing for the present requires the future for comprehension. Stories of war may reveal equipment available at the time or techniques used by the military, creating a timeline for the future.


History Promotes Literature

In times of turmoil, writers are busy reporters of events and thinkers of thoughts begging to be free. As events occur, literature happens. Life history or personal experience lives in literary works.

Dr. Will Durant explains in "The Lessons of History" and probably his most famous statement: "The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding."


If you have some reading time for more classical books, check: Amazon.com.