Culture and Literature
Any work of art that is written is called literature. Literature works comes in two categories namely fictional and non fictional. On the other hand, culture is the way of living of a certain group of people. The relationships between these two are many. For instance, through literature, culture of different communities is expressed. The life that many individuals experience is a portion of culture and it largely inspires literature. Culture is not only recorded by literature but it is also influenced by it. The literature from the south of America is used to describe culture of communities living there. Southern literature involves writings that are closely connected to South America such as Florida, Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, and North Carolina among other places. This research article will attempt to explore how culture affects the way we understands literature. Although writers in America have diverse ethnic backgrounds, they have cultural responsibilities.
Southern literature in America has associated with a number of cultures and historical events such as slavery, and civil war in America. The culture from the south, referred as conservative by many, has been closely associated with southern literature on the importance of religion, social life, and family (Hodgson, 2010). The racialism that has been a big issue in the south has continued appearing in literature. However, debate on what constitutes literature and writers has been in the offing for quite sometime now. Mark Twain is referred to as the founder of literature in the South. In his book, he explores how many people perceive literature from the South.
Before the 20th century, the British colonialists in American colonies situated in the southern side established several works of literature. Some of the famous works of literature by American writers include the memoirs which were written by Virginia in the 16th century. All the collections of literature in the 18th century have been very useful in development of culture in the United States. After the United States had secured independence at the start of the 19th century, the expansion of plantations that grew cotton and slaves started to differentiate the southern community and culture.
In his book, ‘A Nation of Immigrants’, John Kennedy observed that America had over 40 million immigrants in 1950. The debate surrounding immigrants and the effects they have on American culture has widely been covered by many American writers. In his book, Kennedy observes that majority of Americans are not form other countries. Instead, they are individuals who went there centuries ago from other countries (Lauter, 2010). In his literary work, Kennedy deduces that the immigrants were allowed to enter United States in a legal manner regardless of their culture. One of the places that remain as historical evidence is Ellis Island. In regard to what Kennedy wrote in his literary work, the cultural responsibility of writers is seen in his work. Writers have a big responsibility of developing awareness amongst individuals. Using his book, Kennedy has strived to bring peace by encouraging the settlement of immigrants in the United States regardless of their culture. This is a clear indication that literature and culture are closely related.
In their literary work, writers are very helpful in teaching the immigrants on how to adopt and cope up with the culture in a foreign country. In his text, Kennedy is categorical that immigrants have rights to express their culture even in a foreign country. He writes in a way that helps immigrants not to bring violence in the society. He tries to influence immigrants to adopt the culture of exceptionalism, which is based on democracy (Gray & Robinson, 2004). In his work of literature, Kennedy observes that the immigrants in the United States have failed to associate themselves with this culture because of racism. Exceptionalism is based on democracy and individual rights. However, immigrants are quick to note that this culture has racism and violence in it. Kennedy concludes by saying that if the culture of exceptionalism is anything that immigrants are going to embrace, then it should shun racialism.
In order to understand culture of a given society, it is very important for immigrants to understand language of a given society. In his book, ‘World of Our Fathers’, Irving Howe observes how it took Jews over two generations for them to adapt to American language and culture (Howe et al, 2005). Despite their effort to learn the new culture, the Jewish community has in return been rejected in America for the longest time. Howe observes that although immigrants normally learn the culture and language in a foreign country, making a living is hard for them. They are mainly subjected to hard manual jobs with little pay. The immigrants are left with no choice but to learn the new culture of their host country.
Many works of literature in the United States embraces the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan who preached American exceptionalism throughout his time in office. It is a culture that allows the recruitment of foreigners in the army regardless of their accent. Howe observes that he became a citizen of the United States despite being an immigrant for only three years. Everything in terms of upkeep and academic expenses was taken care of when he was still an immigrant thanks to the culture of exceptionalism. This culture in the United States has been use by many literature writers in that country to show how America is a unique country.
The influx of immigrants in the United States has enabled culture to continue developing. Irvin Howe observes that if America decided to discourage immigrants from going there, American culture would gradually remain stagnant (Gutfeld, 2002). He observes that the culture is more distinctive in America due to influences from immigrant culture, thanks to their coming. It would be important to teach every new group of immigrants about the ideals and values that has made the distinctive culture of America. Compared with other countries, the culture of America is accommodative of any minority group. Howe associates the distinctiveness of American culture with patriotism which was the ideal thing behind the declaration of independence.
The cultural responsibility of writers is to ensure that they do not criticize some cultures. In most countries, the culture of the immigrants is looked down upon by the majority in the host countries. In the view of this, literary work can help a lot to educate the minorities on how to maintain their culture while still in a foreign country. Before settling in a foreign country, immigrants prefer to occupy a region where people have the same background like theirs. This has been the case for all immigrants in the United States. 75% of the immigrants in the United States are willing to adapt to American culture and make America their home. 85% of the people who have been immigrants have associated their quick learning of culture with the work of literature. However, in his book, American culture and literature, McDonald observes that many immigrants have been discriminated. McDonald deduces that immigrants in the United States have influenced the transition of culture and increase in population (McDonald, 2007). Since the passing of a law in 2006 that allows immigrants to become permanent citizens of United States, the number of legal immigrants is higher compared to many other countries combined.
Many literature writers have likened the United States as a home of cultures due to the large number of individuals settling there with diverse cultures. In some instances, some writers of literature have expressed their fear that the culture of America will be eroded and instead foreign cultures will dominate. When the immigration policy was enacted in 1960, the number of immigrants in the United States rapidly increased. Most of the immigrants who moved to America with their culture included the Mexicans, Chinese, Indians and Philippians (Haron, 2009). Following this, their cultures dominated the American society. The American government in 1998 deduced that, although the high numbers of immigrants from diverse cultures were a big challenge, the government was ready to accommodate them. In a country like Germany, critics have questioned why the Benjamin Franklin discouraged the coming of immigrants simply because he thought they would not give up their culture. However, in the United States, the congress had to enact the laws in a bid to reduce the killings of immigrants due to the fear that they would tamper with the culture.
It is through the works of literature that culture of different people is expressed. The culture that many individuals embrace is because literature has strived to teach them the same. The biggest responsibility that American writers have is to ensure that their literary work embraces all cultures without undermining any. United States is a home of cultures if what John Kennedy deduces in his text is anything to consider. He observes that, regardless of their cultural background, the immigrants have adapted the American culture thus making their stay in America comfortable (Kennedy et al, 2008).
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