Does Literature Matter?

I'm taking a little break from school work and I'd like to address a question that was brought up while talking to Josh earlier this evening. On April the 2nd a panel discussion will be held at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival to nominate Leonard Cohen for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Josh raised some interesting questions that left me pondering: Do writers matter? Should a writer be given the same distinction as a great scientist or inventor?

It is easy to sell literature short and say that a writer's work doesn't have the same bearings as say a scientist like Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity. But even in 1901 when the Nobel Foundation began presenting awards for achievements in the sciences, peace, and economics; literature was there and seen as legitimate enough to be recognized.

The Nobel Prize in Literature encompasses a wide array of literary genres including novels, poetry, short stories, plays, essays, and speeches. If we look at the men and women who've won Nobel prizes for literature in the past, it is clear that these individuals are not just writers. They are people whose ideas and contributions have changed the way we view the world by harnessing the power of words.

A small selection of Nobel Literature Laureates:

Winston Churchill
George Bernard Shaw
William Butler Yeats
Herman Hesse
Andre Gide
Ernest Hemingway
John Steinbeck
Albert Camus
Saul Bellow
Jean-Paul Sartre
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Toni Morrison

Now perhaps not every Nobel laureate deserves to be up there but that happens in any kind of award ceremony. Perhaps Leonard Cohen doesn't deserve to win the Nobel Prize in Literature or maybe he does. That's why I'm interested in going to see the discussion. I want George Elliott Clarke, Michael Garneau, and the rest of the panelists to convince me that Mr. Cohen should join the ranks of those writers who came before him.

Words can kill. Words can start revolutions. Words can move the soul. Words can move mountains.


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