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January 29, 2007

The Instability of Literature

Eagleton, ''Introduction: What is Literature?'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"No work, and no current evaluation of it, can simply be extended to new groups of people without being changed, perhaps almost unrecognizably, in the process; and this is one reason why what counts as literature is a notably unstable affair" (Eagleton 12).

This reminds me of an essay I read last year for Drama as Literature called Shakespere in the Bush by Laura Bohannon about how when telling the story of Hamlet to an African tribe, the members of the tribe perceived the story in a completely different way than any westerner would. They interpreted it in such a way that if they were to retell the story, I think it would surely be completely unrecognizable by any westerner that has studied it. Before this experience, Bohannon had argued that the basic components of literature are universal in all parts of the world. I think this demonstrates the validity of Eagletonís statement about the instability of literature. But, it is important that I note that I don't view this instability as a negative thing. It is actually a big part of what makes it so interesting to me.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at January 29, 2007 8:21 PM


I never thought of that before. It almost goes back to when news is pased through a chain of people only to end up completely wrong by the time it reaches the person that it was supposed to go to. I think that is what we need to remember when it comes to literature. Sometimes things are lost in translation completely. Translators run into it all the time. Especially when they are trying to convey a story that is written in English into another language where a word may not exsist. Hmmm...

Posted by: Tiffany at January 31, 2007 8:02 PM

I really like your viewpoint of instability in literature. Nothing is ever really balanced, and there always seems to be a sense of chaos in writing, which is why the question of "what is literature" is, and always will be an open ended question. I think it is very important to not necessarily answer the question, as much as it is to realize that the question is very important, and we, as critics, need to venture in possibilities, because there is no one answer that is correct.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 1, 2007 2:03 PM

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