Sometimes we often lose the essence of a thing if we go by its observable elements and fail to understand the essence behind the observable elements. If we must not lose sight of the essence of things, then we must always put its proper definitions before our eyes at all times.
So what really is a literary work? The word work isn’t much of a problem here as we all know what it means. The word literary is the focus. Literary has to do with something concerning writing, study, or content of literature. These things all point to possessing the quality of being learnèd for having the ability to read and write is the fundamental quality of a learnèd person.
And so, each literary work, if it is to be true to its name, must of necessity be characterised by high learning and by the encouragement and enhancement of high learning. And where it fails to have these elements, or to even go as far as to work against learning by making people unlearn what they have painstakingly learnt or been painstakingly taught as we do see sometimes, then that work is not true to its name, even though it be generally accepted as a literary work.
We have many fields of learning, so vast and broad that no one can be perfectly learnèd. Sciences are divided into the three very broad groups of physical science, earth science, and life science. These splits into an endless list of fields of studies. Science, meaning a field of study, also comprises of art.
None can be perfectly learnèd. However, we can all be learnèd in some way or the other. If a man is learnèd in say medical sciences, as a learnèd person he may not be vast in say agricultural sciences. But he wouldn’t downplay the importance of agricultural science or say it’s not important or even that it were outrightly useless. To do so is to prove that he’s not learnèd after all. A learnèd person does not downplay the importance of knowledge of any kind. Appreciation of knowledge and it’s applications is the one mark of being learnèd.
As we have sciences such as medical science, social science, agricultural science, rocket science, and so on, we also have the moral science. It was Thomas Aquinas who wrote:
“law implies a moral science which is a practical science.
“Every practical science is concerned with human operations; as moral science is concerned with human acts, and architecture with buildings.”
So moral science is a practical science concerned with human acts just as architecture is a science of buildings. More so, just as all nations has its laws, it implies that the commonwealth of nations are all agreed that the conduct of man ought to be guided. We are all agreed that man should not live by whims. It implies that it is expected that all men be learnèd to one degree or the other in the sciences of morals. Humanity is therefore innately desirous of a moral society.
Morals are not something we come by by nature or by inactions. But like in every other science, morals and moral values are acquired by study and by being taught. Immorality on the other hand comes about by a failure to study, the refusal to learn, and refusing to be taught. Reason therefore explains to us that the immoral man, being uneducated in the moral science by wilful contempt of it, is not learnèd.
And so, for a work to be truly literary it should have an undertone of morality. It should not downplay the importance of morality, just as it would be illiteracy for a person who claims to be learned in medical science to downplay the importance of agricultural science or architecture. Rather, because he’s learnèd enough to know their importances he appreciates them and their applications. So we must not, by our works, downplay morality and its applications.
So morality ought to be an integral part of literary works. It doesn’t mean that literary works should be works that are theologically inclined, they don’t even have to speak of morals, but they should not reflect or promote the immorality of depravity, licentiousness, vulgarity, and other expressions of immorality. Literary works ought not to be so diametrically opposed to morals even if it would not have a moral undertone. To have such elements makes it to be devoid of true literary content.
I humbly present this thought for our learnèd considerations as we continue to churn out literary works. Thank you and God bless you.