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Confessions of a Mimosa Part 2: Why I studied literature

'I want to do literature and languages.' -But your grades aren't high in these subjects.

Can you resonate with this phrase? 'Your grades are not high. 'You are not enough. You are not good enough. You have to do this. You have to do more. You have to be better. You have to do that and you have these things. Basically what do all these phrases have in common? Schools, parents, teachers, classmates, friends are telling you that you are not enough and you have to do more or you have to achieve this. Until now, I still don't understand why we always have to justify ourselves for the things we love and enjoy.

When I was fifteen I loved reading and seeing plays at the theatre. I didn't enjoy going to school that much. I worked very hard even stayed until 12 pm so that I can read about two hours before going to bed. I enjoyed my English, German, Art and Religion classes, but was terribly bad at maths. I remember that I was so tired in the morning that I couldn't keep up with the classes. It was just too much. I hated studying for my tests and some of my classmates were just a nightmare. They were loud, arrogant and annoying. It was just too much sitting with a bunch of fifteen to seventeen year olds in a classroom. Imagine you're into culture, arts, literature and the rest of your class just were looking forward to the weekend and being hip and cool. I was very shy as a teenager. Standing in front of the class just scared me. I hated it and did everything I could to to avoid these situations, but no, unfortunately giving oral presentations was part of the assessments.

I was so nervous going to school that teachers and classmates scared me so much. They intimidated me and made me sweat. That's how nervous I was. Even if I had a shower in the morning, within one hour I would be covered in sweat. When I am not feeling well, my body starts to shake and I am fifteen again.

But what helped me to overcome these challenges? It was literature. We always think that when hear the word 'literature', we always have to recite names such as Dickens, Tolstoi, Baudelaire, Maupassant, Cervantes, Dante or Shakespeare. No, that's not true. Because what is literature? How do we define literature? What is literature? It is a question that scholars still find difficult to answer. As a comparatist, we struggle with defining literature because it is a broad term. We know the dangers and pitfalls of defining literature. We are including and excluding types, forms and categories of literature. In the end, you decide what literature is and what it means to you. I know people who find Goethe's Faust boring and it is a shame. Probably, because a teacher or a system forced them to read it for their A-levels and that person never tried to appreciate it without the teacher's recommendation. When I was visiting my grandmother late October I gave her a copy of Faust with a recent critical text. She was honored and it put a smile on my face. What does that mean?

Literature connects people and different generations. I would even say it's more powerful than social media. For instance, you are on the train and you see someone reading a book, let's say Albert Camus' L'Etranger', a memory from the past - hush- you remember that you had to read it in French class, maybe you didn't like it or you actually did. The book reminds you of something and probably how you felt when you were fifteen. Probably, you got your heart broken or you were going through a tough time with your family and friends. Anyway it connects you and that's the beauty of literature because a good book is more than art, it's life.

I hope you take this time to read a book. It can be a book you never read or something you would have enjoyed as a child or teenager. Make it fun, take a break and prepare a cuppa with cozy blankets around you.

With love,


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