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This will bring out a bevy of responses. In my mind, I would say that any respected work of literature can be seen as a work of art. There are standards that determine artistic expression in literature, but I think that Flaubert's use of structure and his writing style in Madame Bovary. I think that the style in which Flaubert writes the book is one where art is present. The realist mode of the book and how Flaubert uses it to perfectly construct Emma's life and her hopes and dreams is a work of art. One need only read it to sense the level of art that is present in the style of the work and how Flaubert uses this style to reflect some of the themes of the work. The realist manner helps to deflate Emma's own dreams, and in this, the style of the work is reflective of the themes of it.
I would add The Great Gatsby to a list of novels that rise above to the level of art. Fitzgerald's writing style is so eloquent and poignant -- it is one of the novels where the more often you read it, the more you notice and the more respect you have for what Fitzgerald accomplishes. It seems to me that this is one of those novels where every word, sentence, scene and event matters, and accumulate power as the novel progresses.
What an interesting question. I'm going to add one of my favorite plays to this growing list of fine works of art. Cyrano de Bergerac is delightful and poignant and well written. A true classic in every sense of the word.
A big topic! Good idea to put it into the discussion post rather than ask it as a question! You know, for me, the books I now consider to be "works of art" are the books that I have taught and have studied extensively and I am still not tired of. Just a few would be Jane Eyre, A Portrait of a Lady, King Lear and Great Expectations. Wonderful.
I agree with what many have said here, but lets include Moliere, Buhkarov, Shakespeare, Dracula (given the trend towards vampires, this is a very popular book among my students, etc.) As a private English teacher, I include literature with the kids, I see them as works of art. With the popularity of the Harry Potter books and the now the Twilight books, getting kids to read, I am not sure these are real works of art, yet....While I encourage my students to read Harry Potter in what may their third language, I do explain to them the joys of what I consider the classics. I just completed a lesson plan with a 14 year old boy on To Kill a Mockingbird. He really enjoyed it, and the fact that it gave him a taste of American history and racial tensions was quite interesting....and a thrill for me too.
Many books fit the description of "a work of art." It is usually the works that I teach year after year that I appreciate the most. I appreciate the fact that I can read them again each year and discover new facets of the book that I had overlooked before. Through discussing these works with students, I enjoy their insights and discoveries of the texts, and again my appreciation of the artistry of the work grows. A novel such as the standard Lord of the Flies is exquisite in its symbolism, foreshadowing, structure, and characterization. The same can be said for the not so frequently taught Faulkner's Light in August. Shakespeare's Othello and Hamlet do not cease to delight with their multi-layered themes and motifs. My next work is One Hundred Years of Solitude. Marquez's prose is remarkable, and the novel is intriguing for the numerous ways it can approached: an epic, a comedy, a fantasy, an allegory.
I think this is a great question to get us thinking about literature as art. I would select Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Both include parts of the human condition that good art brings to the fore. I also love Othello and Of Mice and Men as I find new depths in each reading.
Also, basically any of Shakespeare's plays can be considered a work of art due to the immense, deliberate usage of words and sounds to create effects.
Both of the aforementioned works are also art because they are relatable no matter what the time or culture. The ability to stretch across cultural and generational barriers is certainly a way to test the merit of literature.
Although it has been mentioned, it bears repeating: The Great Gatsby. The language is meticulous and poetic. In fact, Fitzgerald's command of the English language becomes the main character. I know that Fitzgerald revised and revised and revised. He ended up with a fine arts masterpiece. Every time I read it, I gain a new insight and respect for the author. The sentimentality is simply not revolting as it could be in any other work; it is the bones of this novel! After learning the biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the novel becomes even more rich. I look forward to teaching it every year and am so glad I was "forced" to read it in college.
I don't know that any of my friends have ever read this book, and it seems, in retrospect, an unlikely choice for me. It is called The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It is about a young white boy in Africa who was raised by a black grandmother, a member of one of the native tribes. He walks between two worlds. His dream is to become a boxer, and he faces terrible hardships, even at school, while trying to realize his dream.
The writing was captivating. Beautifully expressed ideas were spread throughout the novel like gems. And the characters were remarkable and memorable.
My favorite quote: "Winning is a state of mind that embraces everything you do." The book looks to what it takes to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve one's deepest wish. I could not put it down.
I thought this book was a work of art.
As a first proper novel, I think Sons And Lovers by D H Lawrence is a work of art. Yes, it has some of the hallmarks of a novice writer but the depictions of nature and male/female relationships show true genius. Also, the detailing of family dynamics is fascinating - I often take this book down from the shelf on my way out the door, just to read bits of it.
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