What is literature?

[color=#4a2522]The art of written works: Book recommendations,
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What is literature?

Postby kick201 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:45 pm

Following the recent discussions in the Stephen King thread, I feel it might be a good idea to discuss what literature means for us.

What is your definition of literature?
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Re: What is literature?

Postby tcm2164 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:29 am

What is your definition of literature?
Fist, welcome to DS and thanks for this topic Kick. Asking questions about things that seem obvious is a great way to learn.

When I was much younger I thought of literature as written works of art. Being artwork, they all seemed to have a way of writing characterized by a self-conscious use of language . Also, these works seemed to have no immediate practical value, such as an instruction manual or magazine article might. At the time I was reading Shakespeare, Dickens, plays, poetry etc. for school.

The more I read, however, I could see that my idea of literature was way too simplistic. The problem was that the more literature I read, the harder it was to find any specific set of qualities that made something literature. Some were old, some new. There were non-fiction works of literature that, at the time they were written, were intended to have some practical value. Some was written in high-blown language, some was plain-spoken.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that literature was a completely subjective category of writings that were deemed to be important for one reason or another. This caused a new problem for me – who got to decide what was categorized as literature and what was not? Who was given the authority to make these subjective determinations?

And I realize now that literature is socially constructed category. And, having been created by humans based on subjective factors, it was prone to bias and error.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of other DS members on the topic.
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Re: What is literature?

Postby mirjana » Thu Oct 27, 2011 4:39 pm

Welcome to DS Kick. Although I have already answered some other of your questions I forgot to welcome you. =0) I like all these questions you put that show your interest for literature, philosophy and art. Not strange that you came here as this is a right place for these kind of interest.
I like very much how Tim elaborated his thoughts about literature. And I mainly agree with him. Mine thoughts about the topic are the following:
For me, as obvious as it seems to be, literature is the art of expressing personal messages that the writer considers important for the world about whatever the s/he things is worth writing about . It is not necessary that the messages, thoughts, emotions, the whole approach of the author and those who read it come on the same line. Sometimes something that could appear as insignificant information in a certain time, become very important information in another time. The inner urge to express that what comes from inside make one a writer, because there are also people who have insights or this kind of urge, but they do not have persistence and need to express it. Therefore those would belong to some other category.
For me literature is the comparative polygon for exchanging, interaction of two poles, writers/readers, that makes the world goes on advancing in mutual exchange, like with art, music or any other creative form of expression.

It is deeply personal on both sides and therefore escapes strong categorizations, classifications or authorities. Even if they are those who belong or think to belong to so called authorities, literature is as free as any other form of expression and it is good so.
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