January 29, 2007

Who Gets to Judge Trash Literature?

Value judgements would certainly seem to have a lot to do with what is judged literature and what isn't - not necessarily in the sense that writing had to be 'fine' to be literary, but that it has to be of the kind that is judged fine: it may be an inferior example of a generally valued mode. . . . The term 'fine writing,' or belles lettres, is in this sense ambiguous: it denotes a sort of writing which is generally highly regarded, while not necessarily committing you to the opinion that a particular specimen of it is 'good.'
Eagleton, (''Introduction: What is Literature?'')

Opinion matters. Opinion is the main reason why one piece of writing is literature and one piece of writing isn't. That is what I think Eagleton is really trying to say. The part of opinion that matters is whose opinion it is.
My opinion - the opinion of an undergraduate senior English major with a questionable GPA - might not matter that much in the grand scope of literary critics. However, in the scope of my friends, family, and most importantly professors, it does.
Just for kicks, I'm going to use Eagleton's essay as an example. Literature - yay or nay? I'd say that writing about literature is an area of 'fine writing.' Look at how many literary scholars have done so! The essay definitely has value outside of the context that it was written for. It may not be fiction, but at the same time, it may not be fact. So is it literature?
My opinion? Give it 100 years or so and we'll talk about it then.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at January 29, 2007 11:24 PM | TrackBack


How often is 'fine writing' considered fine in its time? Will Steven King be considered literature in 100 years? Will John Grisham? Somebody please save the world if John Grisham becomes a literary icon.

Posted by: Dave Moio at January 31, 2007 5:30 PM

You both have a good point. I do think that it takes the right kind of literature, as well as the right circumstances for a piece of work to be considered "fine" when it is also new. It has a "timeliness" sort of factor. But, then, just because a work isn't recognized in it's time doesn't make it better or worse than work that is and vice versa. It just shows how much influence external factors have on literature in terms of the work's success.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at January 31, 2007 11:57 PM

I have to agree with Dave. Its kind of depressing if great literature is defined by if the writer is dead or not and how important they were during their time.

Posted by: Sue at February 1, 2007 2:49 PM

John Grisham, Dean Kootz, this is our fate, paper backs at Giant Eagle-Literary icons.

Posted by: Mitchell Steele at February 1, 2007 4:03 PM
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