We’ve all read and used these. Don’t even front:
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, the New York Times interviewed M. H. Abrams (the founding general editor) and Stephen Greenblatt (the current general editor).
New York Times: For a prospective undergraduate reading this Q. and A., how would you answer the question, Why study literature?
Abrams: Ha — Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life enjoyable. There’s no end to the response you can make to that question, but Stephen has a few things to add.
Greenblatt: Literature is the most astonishing technological means that humans have created, and now practiced for thousands of years, to capture experience. For me the thrill of literature involved entering into the life worlds of others. I’m from a particular, constricted place in time, and I suddenly am part of a huge world — other times, other places, other inner lives that I otherwise would have no access to.