What is Literature?


In my last post I asked if there erotica had any literary value. Interestingly enough, I was accused of asking that as an attempt at scouting out the genre before delving into it, which isn’t the case.

Either way, I realized that first we must define literature, if possible.

In school we are given certain texts that are defined by society as literature. Whether it’s Mark Twain, Shakespeare, or whatever the culture may deem “good enough” to be literature.

I operate under the belief that literature is defined by the reader. While the most learned of critics may set a standard as to what literature is, the individual reader sets their own standard of literature. The reader absorbs text differently, and while an author may portray use some symbolism, there’s no guarantee the reader will take the same meaning from it. What one reader may think is literature, another may think it is garbage.

That leaves the answer to the question up to you, the reader. What do you define as literature?

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One thought on “What is Literature?

  1. I think Brent Weeks said it best … “The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness. I’ll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction …” (full quote: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/163011-the-truth-is-everyone-likes-to-look-down-on-someone)
    Oh, and then he goes on to say this: “The core of the problem is how we want to define “literature”. The Latin root simply means “letters”.”

    If Literature is the art of writing, then, yes, erotica fiction absolutely is literature. It is an art, and it is in the written word …

    But if you are talking about Literary Fiction … well, that’s different. And I’ve yet to find any I enjoy (not to say it’s not out there, but I am a Genre Fiction girl).

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