January 28, 2007

What is Literature? Good Question...

What is literature? Why don't we ask something a little more vague, like what is love? How can we pin down literature to package it up and define it? The answer, we can't.

"Some texts are born literary, some achieve literariness, and some have literariness thrust upon them." (8-9)

While this is a cheesy spoof of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night quote, it works well in Eagleton's "Introduction: What is Literature?". Basically, some things are immediately called literature, due to their use of English in a "literary" way, some are called literature after a period of time or criticism, and others are being called literature more recently due to the new views on what constitutes as literature and what does not. Is it style, history, or merely others that make literature...literature?

However, Eagleton does not pin down the definition of literature, as it appears almost impossible to do so. He makes several attempts though which questions the difference between true literature and inferior literature (although, let's note, they are both "literature"). If it's literature anyway, how can it be inferior to anything else? Because it is simple, short, simplistic, or technical? Truly, I have no idea and never really did find what I was looking for...an answer to an all important question.

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

Posted by VanessaKolberg at January 28, 2007 11:41 PM | TrackBack

I personally liked that Eagleton's examples never veered far from the "canon" of literature. It's almost like he was too scared to get away from what is -really- literature, as though he were writing with someone holding the definition of literature over his head--a 20 ton pallet of bricks--ready to drop at the moment he presented something questionable. Haha, made myself laugh.

To me, there can be no definition to the questions "what is literature?" "what is art?" and "what is love?" All of the answers are perspective informed only by experience and personal insight--none of which are transferrable to other individuals though any means except for what we suppose to do in something like literary criticism (and philosophy, etc.). Taking on this question isn't altogether pointless, though. It made us think about it, didn't it?

Posted by: Karissa at January 28, 2007 11:58 PM

Vanessa, I loved your article and Karissa I loved your comment,"It made us think about it, didn't it?" haha Classic!!!

We can not answer this question and I have nothing else to say about this topic!


Posted by: Gina at January 29, 2007 10:57 AM

Hahah um...thanks Gina.

Posted by: Nessa at January 29, 2007 12:19 PM

Gina's right, there's not much else to say about that.

Last year for Dr. Patterson's lit course, we had to interview someone we believed to be "well-read." One of my initial interviewees was my dad. He said he believed that anything written--even stuff like, oh, say police tickets and wireless phone manuals--was literature to him.

For whatever reason, I wasn't satisfied with that answer, and I interviewed Andrea Perkins instead because her answer to what is meant by the term "literature" (that it made you think or something on that wavelength) was more believable to me.

I never should have thought negatively on my dad's views, just because they differed from my own. I guess that's just a human thing to do, though--flocking to those who have similar views.

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at February 1, 2007 1:42 AM

Flocking to someone with similar ideals is pretty much a cornerstone of having an opinion.
Karissa has a valid point - there isn't an answer out there to these overarching questions, but I think that is half the reason of why we ask them. Things that have solid answers just don't make for interesting conversation - why do you think asking about the weather is a hint that you’ve got a boring conversationalist? Its got an answer - its snowing, raining, sunny, dry, humid . . .

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at February 1, 2007 12:52 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?