What does it mean??
Does it matter what it means?
I think we all have a general idea of what literature is, right? Lets list some criteria:
-Created by an writer who was pretty good
Ok, that’s nice. But that includes pretty much everything including soap operas and magazine advertisements. If we are talking about the great literary works, we are going to have to get better definitions. So lets add some criteria.
-Has literary quality that is great enough to stand the test of time
-It is a piece of art that holds intrinsic truth and beauty on some level
So that just got a whole lot deeper. And the question arises: is this definition just a little subjective? Does it means that we as readers decide what is literature or not? After all, we get to decide what is art right?
I would disagree. That word “intrinsic” means something. I think certain things, like a sunset, just are beautiful, there isn’t a debate. Some people might like certain styles then others and some people like certain books more than other. BUT it does not take away from the beauty of the object. Also, some things are true. Objectively. I exist. (I promise). And authors can capture a piece of that in their writing.
The next questions: Why does it matter? Or does it?
In a certain sense, I don’t think it does. What people call “it” (literature or not), it doesn’t really change what it is. (Just don’t call 50 shades of gray literature and I will be happy!) Shakespeare would still be a genius even if we called his works something less then literature. Just like a rose by any other name…ok, that’s just cliche. Anyways, I think that the naming of something doesn’t matter in a way. What does matter is how we approach it.
Literature is a title given to great works. Those works would still be great whether or not I called them that, but I think that having a certain title, a certain amount of respect for things that deserve it, is a good thing. So I am all for promoting a good understanding of literature.
I’m also all for calling them “The Classics.”