In a word, Marcus and Sollors are wrong. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Definition of literature. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? Up until the eighteenth century, the only true makers of creative work were poets, and what they aspired to was not literature but poesy. The idea that literature contains multitudes is not new. For when it comes to books, it isn’t always wise to follow our bliss when bliss gets in the way of reason, and reason alone should be sufficient to tell us that War and Peace is objectively greater than The War of the Worlds, no matter which one we prefer to reread. But if there is even a remote chance of its happening, the first thing we have to do is acknowledge our own deep-seated preferences. — a record of one human being’s sojourn on earth, proffered in verse or prose that artfully weaves together knowledge of the past with a heightened awareness of the present in ever new verbal configurations. (2) : an example of such writings what came out, though rarely literature, was always a roaring good story — People. Books written by Charles Dickens are an example of literature. Although the canon could groan and shift in its place, as late as 1970 there was probably little disagreement as to what constituted literature.3 Despite the Nobel Prize’s being awarded to some unlikely recipients, as well as to Bertrand Russell, literature generally meant the best literature; and the canon, despite the complicity of institutions and the interests of those involved in the promotion of books, was essentially an aesthetic organism tended by literary and academic gardeners. Do Charles Willeford’s Miami Blues and Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, enjoyable as they are, rate as modern classics? . Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes. Although writers may be good or bad, literature itself is always good, if not necessarily perfect. The rest isn’t silence, but it isn’t literature either. Indelible truths, as Auden might say, stare from every human face, and they are not at the whim of regime change. Canon formation continued to rely on a credible, if not monolithic, consensus among informed readers. . As the tree aged, other limbs formed capable of sustaining Elizabethan drama, nineteenth-century novels, essays, short stories, and lyric poems. The implication could not be plainer: If books simply reinforced the cultural values that helped shape them, then any old book or any new book was worthy of consideration. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. More restrictively, it is writing that possesses literary merit. to be the Property of any Person.” It was at this point, Ross claims, that “the canon became a set of commodities to be consumed. In time, the canon, formerly the province of reviews and magazines, was annexed by institutions of higher learning, which cultivated eminent professors of English and comparative literature and later recruited famous poets and writers to act as gatekeepers. . It may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language and genre. Terry Eagleton has recently gone one better: questioning whether “something called literature actually exists,” in his 2012 book The Event of Literature. Because a canon of vastly superior ancient writers — Homer, Virgil, Cicero — already existed, a modern canon had been slow to develop. The canon anointed the worthy and, by implication, the unworthy, functioning as a set of commandments that saved people the trouble of deciding what to read. As he did in his earlier book, Eagleton incisively surveys the theory surrounding literature and concludes that it can’t really sustain an overarching definition, since there is nothing verbally peculiar to a literary work, and no single feature or set of features is shared by all literary theories. Ross is citing with theatrical flair the case of Donaldson v. Beckett, which did away with the notion of “perpetual copyright” and, as one contemporary onlooker put it, allowed “the Works of Shakespeare, of Addison, Pope, Swift, Gay, and many other excellent Authors of the present Century . Although exclusionary by nature, it was originally intended to impart a sense of unity; critics hoped that a tradition of great writers would help create a national literature. No doubt some of these novels deserve our consideration — Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge shouldn’t offend even unrepentant highbrows — but what about those books shoehorned in because they occasioned “great movies” or constitute “pure classic escapism”? Eliot’s exhortations notwithstanding, the books were a publishing rather than an educational venture. (1982). In a sense, the canon was like an imposing, upstanding tree, an elm or Sierra redwood, whose main branches originally consisted of epic poetry, comedy and tragedy, a few satires, some religious and philosophical treatises, and the shorter poems and prose works of various Greek and Roman writers. Yet lodged in that accusatory word “inequality” is an idea we refuse to abandon. The adept critic Desmond MacCarthy once observed that. Simply because anthologies or serialization influenced the composition of poems and novels didn’t mean that writers tossed aesthetic considerations aside. [inline_ad ad=3]The truth is we want from poetry and prose what Bob Dylan and advertisements and even many well-written commercial novels cannot provide. According to Trevor Ross’s The Making of the English Literary Canon, that would have been on February 22, 1774. These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'literature.' We want important writing (bearing in mind that not every successful poem, play, or story need be utterly serious) to explore the human condition, and we want our writers to function, as T. S. Eliot said of the metaphysical poets, as “curious explorers of the soul.” Such exploration may be mediated by personal as well as historical forces, but the work will always reveal human nature to be more obdurate than are the institutions that seek to channel it. Adler, who also ended up at Chicago, went on to write the best-selling How to Read a Book (1940), whose appendix of “Recommended Reading” (all of it “over most people’s heads”) served as a springboard for the 1952 Encyclopædia Britannica’s ancillary fifty-four-volume series of Great Books of the Western World, selected by — who else? One way around this dilemma was to create new ancients closer to one’s own time, which is precisely what John Dryden did in 1700, when he translated Chaucer into Modern English. Kellett concluded his short but far-ranging survey by noting that “almost all critical judgment . Books written on a scientific subject are examples of scientific literature. In effect, the canon formalized modern literature as a select body of imaginative writings that could stand up to the Greek and Latin texts. Essentially, the postmodernists were against — well, essentialism. Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible). Traditionalists, naturally, were aghast. . Bad literature is, in effect, a contradiction. one cannot get away from one’s temperament any more than one can jump away from one’s shadow, but one can discount the emphasis which it produces. So when did literature in the modern sense begin? Although it’s pretty to think that great books arise because great writers are driven to write exactly what they want to write, canon formation was, in truth, a result of the middle class’s desire to see its own values reflected in art. Apparently, “literary means not only what is written but what is voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form” — in which case maps, sermons, comic strips, cartoons, speeches, photographs, movies, war memorials, and music all huddle beneath the literary umbrella.
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