What defines "Literature"?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Maveric, Jun 9, 2002.

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  1. Maveric Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 17, 1999
    star 4
    This is a question that I have been pondering for years. What is it that delineates books from authors such as Tolkien, Hemingway, Twain, Plato, etc from the rest of the published works in society?


    I ask this as I personally do not believe many of today's books to be literature, I am especially irked when comic books are considered to be.


    What are your thoughts on this matter? For you, what is it that seperates the two?
  2. Mcily_Nochi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 23, 2001
    star 4
    Literature stands the test of time.
  3. Fingorfin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 4
    Literature tells us something about who we are, about the human condition. Most of today's novels are written simply of entertainment, but occasionally something meaningful slips through. I do not know that that simply lasting for a long time is enough to qualify a story as literature. Many of the novels that I read in English classes were little more than glorified soap operas.

    As much as I love them, I agree that it is rare for comics rise to the level of true literature, but there are a few (Sandman, Maus).
  4. Prof_D_Kirke Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2000
    star 2
    Literature has to have a lasting impact (positive or negative) on culture and isn't limited to poetry and prose.
  5. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    "Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity" -- Rebecca West

    Literature has to be well written, and it has to say something. If a book is a piece of crap but makes a good point, it's not literature. If a book is compellingly written, but it's just escapism, it's not literature. Literature makes you think, it doesn't do your thinking for you.
  6. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Do you guys think that a comic could be considered literature?
  7. MoldyBread Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2000
    star 4
    I think it means something that is read. The mormans that come to my door always leave me with some "literature" to read. And I can pick up some "liturature" in the doctors office that tells me the side effects of new medicines.

    And doesn't the root of literature mean "read". I think that "lit" in french means "read" .. or "bed."
  8. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Yes, one definition of literature is text, or information. BUt that's not what we're discussing. We're discussing what is implied when a novel is considered "literature" as opposed to just fiction.
  9. MoldyBread Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2000
    star 4
    Yes, comic books deserve to be called literature. Just as children's books deserve the same.

    It is my opinion that the title of "literature" doesn't grant the peice of work any special meaning or significance.

    I looked up the root. Literature comes from a latin word meaning "lettered."
  10. SPECTOR Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 2, 2002
    star 3
    Is it just me or is there no name/icon showing up for that last post.
  11. MoldyBread Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2000
    star 4
    Which one? Mine?

    I have names and icons showing on my comp.
  12. Mcily_Nochi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 23, 2001
    star 4
    I saw a name and icon.

    I think there are some comics that will become literature, but there has not been enough time yet to tell.

    Wait, strike that. Maybe they won't be appreciated for their literary value, but their artistic value, and the same with some books. I'm sure some "brain candy" books that are realy well written will be considered art rather than literature some day.
  13. Maveric Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 17, 1999
    star 4
    As a former comic book junkie, I cannot say that they are, nor should be considered literature. That would be like holding War and Peace to the same level as "Power Pack" or some other piece of escapism.
  14. Fingorfin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 4
    I do not think that that is necessarily true. If that is the case then saying that a novel can be literature is putting War and Peace in the same category as an escapist romance novel. Not even the most ardent supporter of comics would put Power Pack in the same category as Sandman. To say that some are is not the same as saying that all are.
  15. MoldyBread Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2000
    star 4
    I think it's ok to group all under the definition of Literature. That's why we have terms such as 'classic literature' and 'childrens literature' - to seperate the many types of literature.
  16. AutumnFett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2002
    star 1
    Excerpt from Faulkner's Nobel prize acceptance speech:

    Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basis of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

    If you are interested in reading the entire speech, you can read it here.

    I believe there are degrees of literature, as in any of the arts. There's, what I call "the high arts,"
    visual=painting
    music=classical
    dance=ballet
    literature=poetry/novel

    But also within each category, I believe that each must contain one or more of the Universal Truths.

    Some comics do fall under fine literature IMO, if they deal with one or more Universal Truths--truths that anyone could identify with, i.e., birth, death, love, loss, etc..
    The Sandman is a great example, as someone mentioned above.
  17. DarthYama Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 16, 2001
    star 4
    Do you consider sculpture (ceramic or otherwise) or mixed-media "High Art"?
  18. AutumnFett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2002
    star 1
    As for me, personally, yes, I do. I love mixed media and 3-D work.

    Actually, that's a lose definition I had written above...there's always exceptions. I even think that industrial design can be "high art," even landscaping (some Japanese gardens, no matter how complex or how simple) can be a way to uplift the spirit...such as Zen gardens, the arrangement of stones, herbs, etc..

    There's a great saying I heard a long time ago:

    Art is: making extraordinary that which is ordinary.

    Oscar Wilde says, All art is useless. (and I believe he means isn't for utility, but for something else, like uplifting the human spirit.) which goes along with another quote:"Fine art doesn't have to match your couch."
    I thought that one was funny.



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