A society needs literature to have a 'soul'

It was distressing to read that while more schools are now offering literature, fewer students were taking the subject ("Fewer Lit students a worrying trend"; Aug 24).

One of the reasons adduced was that parents perceived that unlike mathematics and science, literature was not a subject that students could score top marks in.

Other reasons include the perception that literature had little practical relevance in the real world and that students were not attracted to the prescribed texts.

A waning interest in literature would have a direct impact on Singapore's arts and literary scene as it could lead to a dearth of writers, poets, playwrights, film-makers and others in the performing arts.

The importance of studying literature, described as the "language of the soul", cannot be overemphasised, as it is acknowledged to be a mirror and reflection of society.

Over the centuries, it has had a major impact on the development of society by shaping civilisations, changing political systems, thinking patterns, cultures and social norms.

Literature also gives us a perspective of human experience and allows us to question some of our prominent beliefs and examine our lives, giving them deeper meaning.

Besides, its study encourages imagination and creativity, thereby enriching our lives.

Subtract literature from society and the result will be ignorance and stereotyping of other humans and cultures.

Government leaders exhort the people to be more creative and innovative, but unless they are more proactive in fostering the learning of literature in our schools, we cannot look forward to being a society with a "soul".

As the celebrated British scholar and novelist C. S. Lewis says, "it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become".

With Singapore being admired for its technological progress, there is now a greater need than before to strike a balance and establish it as a cultural oasis.

Greater participation in the literary scene will also give Singapore greater clout and enable our literary and arts scene to be more active, locally and overseas, besides fostering greater cultural diversity and multiracial harmony.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)