Art or literature? Words or pictures? Which one is more important? Which one conveys more meaning? Can we even compare the two? These are the types of questions that went through my mind as I watched the 2013 film, “Words and Pictures.” When stripped down to the essentials, this movie portrays the rivalry between an English teacher and a Fine Arts teacher, both trying to prove that their passion is more important than the other’s.
But how can we measure importance? By the amount of paintings or poems in the world? By the highest price an original was sold? By the number of “likes” or “shares” it gets on Facebook?
As an English Major, I automatically sided with literature, knowing how a beautifully crafted string of words can stir up a wide range of emotions. From the moment you open a book, you are taken on a journey, you become a part of the story, and you feel what they feel. A poem can perfectly encapsulate the love you have for your spouse, the struggles of the marginalized, the beauty of a Summer’s day.
However, as I walked into work this morning, I saw a student’s painting that made me stop and think … and feel. In fact, I felt so much, I became sad. Nostalgia flooded me as I remembered walking through the streets of Munich during my year abroad. How the streets were lined with auburn-coloured trees, while Autumn left mustard and burgundy leaves at my feet. It was then that I realized I didn’t need words to make me feel this way, nor did I have words to describe what I was feeling. That simple painting brought me back to that place in an instant and I just stood there reminiscing for minutes.
But literature is more than just stories and poems, just like art is more than paintings and sculptures. We cannot forget that it is through art and literature that we get a glimpse of the past, that history is documented through these tools. Governments carefully wrote down laws that changed the world, and religious ideologies were bound in paper and spread for centuries to come. Cultural beliefs were literally sculpted in clay, and ideals of beauty were painted across canvases.
I think it’s safe to say that art and literature cannot and should not be compared. In fact, they should be promoted and celebrated. Thanks to these mediums, we continue to develop our own culture. Art and literature has the ability to cross continents as the world’s interest in history and culture grows. So maybe it’s not art or literature, but art and literature.