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Thread: The value of letters in literature

  1. #1

    The value of letters in literature

    Hi - new to this site so there may already be a similar thread existing, do let me know if there is!

    Am looking for views on the value of letters in literature, and their place in literature with regard to the canon. I'm writing a comparative essay on Byron's Childe Harold and the letters he wrote at the same time, considering which actually has more value as a piece of literature. I've sort of gone down the route of superficiality in Childe Harold, following Harold Bloom's view, and am edging therefore towards the view that they are 'better' - to sum up!

    There don't seem to be may resources available regarding the place of letters within literature, so if anyone knows of any books or websites that may be of use please let me know! Also would like to know what you all think,

  2. #2
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    I don't think that I have seen much about letters in literature, except as parts of larger works. But I think that you are referring to letters as a form of literature.

    I am not familiar with the particular works, but one difference (and a large one) would be the matter of audience and how the writing in letters would have been tailored to a particular person, while he would have written in a more universal style in a piece written for publication.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    I'm not sure of what question you are asking.

    Do letters have a place within the literary canon? Epistolary novels, which use a modified form of the letter, like Richardson's Pamela have a prominent place in the canon. Collections of letters by certain authors could be canonical if they were widely read and influential, but I'm not able to name any that really have that status. However, letters certainly have an influence on the canon that goes beyond just the explicit form of the epistolary novel. Writers up until the latter part of the 20th century would have done much of their communication through letters, they would have been reading and writing letters all of their lives. Thus, it is easy to conceive of ways that the development of letter writing forms would be intimately connected to the development of other forms of writing. I think a good example of this would be the letters of Emily Dickinson, which use the same idiosyncratic punctuation as her poetry.

    Of course, letters are also interesting for gleaning contextual information about major works of literature. As I do research on 18th century theater, a lot of information about performances of that period comes from surviving diaries and letters.
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    Registered User My2cents's Avatar
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    Letters' literary value as works of art? None.

    As a fascinating insight to a writer's art (his/her secret to writing)? Somewhat.

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    It was a romantic resource I think. At least in Spanish Romanticism time. I don't know the same in Catalan, but anyway. We've got Marroccan letters by Josť Cadalso, which explains the view of a foreigner (a ambassador steward from Morrocco in Europe) who through his not corrupt eyes sees and writes how Spain looks like in unbiased descriptions, in the very late seventeenth century, the Romanticism gate time. If it can be of any help

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