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Quotations about Literature

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The Literature of Man...
When Plato – was a Certainty –
And Sophocles – a Man –
When Sappho – was a living Girl –
And Beatrice wore
The Gown that Dante – deified –
Facts Centuries before...
~Emily Dickinson, 1863

Literature is the echo of life. ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847), paraphrase

[L]iterature is a garden of weeds as well as flowers... ~Henry Hallam, Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, c.1836

Literature—our great archive of human expression... ~Sven Birkerts (b.1951), "Resisting the Kindle," The Atlantic, 2009 March 2nd

A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. ~Mark Twain

Literature is the question minus the answer. ~Roland Barthes

Literature is news that stays news. ~Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, 1934

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. ~Ezra Pound

A taste for literature is one of the most substantial sources of enjoyment with which the human race is acquainted.... In opulence or poverty, whether free to roam over the world or confined in a prison—still, if he has within his reach a few favorite authors, he can banish the troubles and trials of the present, and be happy within the world of mind. ~Charles Lanman, "Thoughts on Literature," 1840

When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can. ~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1842

Every man's memory is his private literature. ~Aldous Huxley

What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote. ~E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy, 1951

There is a certain class of men in almost every community, who take pleasure in sneering at those who follow literature as a profession.... They look upon the man of letters as one prone to build airy castles, continually longing for pleasures which can never be realized, or as a mere day-dreamer. They think it would be better if all men were mechanics, or merchants, or farmers, and that man was made to plod through life with no higher aim than to satisfy his sensual desires! How foolish, how despicable are such ideas. ~Charles Lanman, "Thoughts on Literature," 1840

The thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper — whether little or great, it belongs to Literature. ~Sarah Orne Jewett, letter to Willa Cather

The literary man mostly lives in company with the mighty spirits of the past, and the beings of his own mind. True, he studies the human heart in his daily walks, but the greater part of his knowledge is gathered from the past, and from thence his mind reaches forward into futurity, so that the field over which his soul may roam in search of wisdom is boundless as the universe. ~Charles Lanman, "Thoughts on Literature," 1840

I doubt if anything learnt at school is of more value than great literature learnt by heart. ~Richard Livingstone

What a sense of security in an old book which time has criticized for us! ~James Russell Lowell

The duty of literature is to note what counts, and to light up what is suited to the light. If it ceases to choose and to love, it becomes like a woman who gives herself without preference. ~Anatole France

The object of literature is to make man a wiser and happier being. The poet makes us happy because he tells us how we may become so. ~Charles Lanman, "Thoughts on Literature," 1840

Literature, along with all other forms of fine art, is the product of the soul's effort to realize in consciousness its ideal and true self.... the experience the soul has with itself in striving for the realization of its own true worth.... Thus literature is life primarily, and not form. The form is only the manifestation of the life. ~Arnold Tompkins, "The Nature of Literature," c.1896

When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before.  You see more in you than there was before.  ~Clifton Fadiman

[L]iterature is only a part of the great whole—the soul's being—a single form of its development, and one among the thousand offices to which the versatile mind is called. ~Henry T. Tuckerman, "Characteristics of Lamb," in American Quarterly Review, March 1836

The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

Romance is the literature of hope. ~Damon Suede

The sermon is now the true poppy of literature. ~David Swing

[L]earning... helps us to conquer our own infirmities... and without the assistance of literature, is a kind of death to the soul, and, in a manner the grave of a man alive. ~"General reflexions on the advantages of a good education," in The Scots Magazine, April 1749

The test of real literature is that it will bear repetition. We read over the same pages again and again, and always with fresh delight. ~Samual McChord Crothers

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. ~Italo Calvino, The Literature Machine

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