Monday, July 07, 2008
What Is Literature?
I have been reading upon literary theory. This is a concept defined as a systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. At the core of this concept and at the core of discussions in this concept is the question: What is literature?
One definition available online holds that literature is "creative writing of recognized artistic value". No? What about a humanistic study of a body of literature? Hmm. Then there's the profession or art of a writer.
While the definitions and focus tend to be on the written word, can't we, in the age of technology and variety of media,include video games? Can't literature be interactive? What about film? Can we bring that in under the cloak of literature? Music? If it is a creative art form, then why not?
If we hold with the beginning idea of literary theory, which is to come up with a systematic study, a paradigm, then if we can apply the areas of critique to expression, isn't any form of expression valid?
Let me start by probing the elements of fiction. You know, style, plot, character, setting, and theme. If we can apply these elements in critiquing a work, then why not embrace it as literature.
Perhaps we should start with the root of the word. If you examine the early attempts to define the concept, the etymology implies it's writing formed with letters. A later definition in the 1300's established it to be a body of writings from a period or people.
That body of writing is of course a physical representation of the artistic expression of that point in time. Why written? Because there was no video equipment or computers in the time of the writing og the Epic of Gilgamesh or Beowulf. Perhaps if there had been, the definition could have been expanded.
So I argue, let's expand our concept of literature. Let's begin our adventure into critiquing literature by broadening it's scope and context.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 1:53 PM