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Thread: What is literature to you?

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    Registered User UlyssesE's Avatar
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    What is literature to you?

    I haven't been on this board long, but the question of literature is one I've had a long time. What is literature? What seperates the good and bad?

    People will invariably point to the classics that we read in school and college. Joyce, Hemmingway, Proust, Woolf. But there are so many different genres that seem to be left out. What of fantasy? Tolkien, Martin, and McKillip? What of science fiction? Clarke, Dick, and Asimov?

    To me, literature is anything well written. The farther back in history you go, it seems the more specific the written word was allowed to be. At first mostly used for religion, epics like Gilgamesh, and the bible, we saw it branch out into realistic fiction, and stories of the world, as well as myth. Then fantasy and science fiction came, from the brothers Grimm, Jules Verne, and more, with the age of science and reason. Now, in this modern world, there seem to be tens and hundreds of genres, from those mentioned to Faerie, Steampunk, Urban, Supernatural, Grimdark, and more.

    Are classics being written in all these new genres which more enlightened thinkers will teach in school in the coming decades? Perhaps books like Enders Game, or The Last Unicorn, just as To Kill A Mockingbird, and Lord of the Flies?

    What say you all?

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what literature is to me, but I think I can safely say the literature is more to me than I am to literature.

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    Registered User UlyssesE's Avatar
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    Ha! Probably true for most of us

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    Registered User Nikonani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UlyssesE View Post
    To me, literature is anything well written.
    Certainly!

    Quote Originally Posted by UlyssesE View Post
    What of fantasy? Tolkien, Martin, and McKillip? What of science fiction? Clarke, Dick, and Asimov?
    Well by the above definition these clearly aren't literature, are they?
    “But though I loved not holy things,
    To hear them scorned brought pain,—
    They were my childhood; and these dames
    Were merely perjured in saints' names
    And fixed upon saints' days for games."

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    Registered User North Star's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nikonani View Post
    Certainly!

    Well by the above definition these clearly aren't literature, are they?
    Define 'well written'.

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    Registered User Poetaster's Avatar
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    'Literature' to me is an empty phrase. 'Good literature' isn't though.
    'So - this is where we stand. Win all, lose all,
    we have come to this: the crisis of our lives'

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by North Star View Post
    Define 'well written'.
    Proper spelling is essential. Also, authors should punctuate properly (which eliminates Joyce and McCarthy, who refuse to use quotation marks). OK, maybe not.

    C.S. Lewis wrote an interesting essay in which he denies the distinction between "high-brow" and "low-brow" literature. I don't have it with me right now, so I can't remember everything he said, but he goes on and on about the merits of "She" (be Rider-Haggard), and then illuminates some of its weaknesses. His point (agreeing, I think, with poetaster's) is that the only distinction between high-brow and low-brow literature is one of quality. For all the merits of "She" as an adventure story, it doesn't provide the reader with certain forms of entertainment -- including that of contemplating the issues raised in the book long after the reader has finished reading it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Proper spelling is essential. Also, authors should punctuate properly (which eliminates Joyce and McCarthy, who refuse to use quotation marks). OK, maybe not.

    C.S. Lewis wrote an interesting essay in which he denies the distinction between "high-brow" and "low-brow" literature. I don't have it with me right now, so I can't remember everything he said, but he goes on and on about the merits of "She" (be Rider-Haggard), and then illuminates some of its weaknesses. His point (agreeing, I think, with poetaster's) is that the only distinction between high-brow and low-brow literature is one of quality. For all the merits of "She" as an adventure story, it doesn't provide the reader with certain forms of entertainment -- including that of contemplating the issues raised in the book long after the reader has finished reading it.
    Cicero, and all classical writers, used absolutely no punctuation whatsoever; not even spaces.

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    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Literature is, for me, essentially a character study. A plot need not have the twists and turns of a franchised action movie, just enough to reveal the things about the character.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hcabret View Post
    cicero, and all classical writers, used absolutely no punctuation whatsoever; not even spaces.
    andhegothishandschoppedoff

    Edit: Damned Visigoth computer refused to let me write that in capitals as Marcus Tullius would have done. O tempora, o mores!
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 08-14-2015 at 02:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonywalt View Post
    Literature is, for me, essentially a character study. A plot need not have the twists and turns of a franchised action movie, just enough to reveal the things about the character.
    For you there can't be good literature without characters? It couldn't be descriptive of landscape or entirely metaphysical?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    andhegothishandschoppedoff

    Edit: Damned Visigoth computer refused to let me write that in capitals as Marcus Tullius would have done. O tempora, o mores!
    MARGARETAREYOUGRIEVI
    NGOVERGOLDENGROVEUNL
    EAVINGLEAVESLIKETHET
    HINGSOFMANYOUWITHYOU
    RFRESHTHOUGHTSCAREFO
    RCANYOUAHASTHEHEARTG
    ROWSOLDERITWILLCOMET
    OSUCHSIGHTSCOLDERBYA
    NDBYNORSPAREASIGHTHO
    UGHWORLDSOFWANWOODLE
    AFMEALLIEANDYETYOUWI
    LLWEEPANDKNOWWHYNOWN
    OMATTERCHILDTHENAMES
    ORROWSSPRINGSARETHES
    AMENORMOUTHHADNONORM
    INDEXPRESSEDWHATHEAR
    THEARDOFGHOSTGUESSED
    ITISTHEBLIGHTMANWASB
    ORNFORITISMARGARETYO
    UMOURNFOR

    #scriptiocontinua

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eupalinos View Post
    For you there can't be good literature without characters? It couldn't be descriptive of landscape or entirely metaphysical?
    To The Lighthouse and Finnegans Wake are both very light in the way characterization. Literature need not have either characters or plot.

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    Anything that uses language even if it uses it badly is a good starting point... But I draw the line at the telephone directory. Could it have a monetary value I wonder? Could it have an educational value I wonder? Could it have a recreational value I wonder? Could it have a ... oh to hell with wondering

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    Registered User Nikonani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    C.S. Lewis wrote an interesting essay in which he denies the distinction between "high-brow" and "low-brow" literature.
    Well CS Lewis also worked on "Dymer" until the age of almost 30 intending it to be a serious epic poem, and it reads like the work of a 15 year old who just discovered translated Ovid or Homer. Well, and he wrote a lot of simpleton theology when he realize he had no poetic ability. And then wrote children's books when he realize he couldn't write anything of theological weight. And then died after he realize he couldn't write good children's books.

    So why does this essay matter?
    “But though I loved not holy things,
    To hear them scorned brought pain,—
    They were my childhood; and these dames
    Were merely perjured in saints' names
    And fixed upon saints' days for games."

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