can literature have only one definition? why?can literature have only one definition? why?

8 Answers | Add Yours

lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Literature includes a wide variety of texts, both oral and written. It includes imagery such as the drawings that were left behind in ancient caves or on walls of castles and tombs. It includes the oral tradition of native storytelling and the folklore it has engendered. It also includes film, music, song, interpretive dance - pretty much anything that somehow tells a story. Therefore, it can be defined in a single definition as long as that definition covers all of its various facets. The definition would be long, involved, vague, and always subject to the inclusion of new forms (such as hypertext and pod casts) so that it would be a definition in progress.

lrwilliams's profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I would agree that literature is muchlike art, and like art it is up to each individual to determine what it means to them. That being said I would have to agree that there could be more than one meaning for literature.

besure77's profile pic

besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I feel that literature is defined by the individual. Literature is a form of art. Readers may form different definitions of literature based on what they felt emotionally from different pieces of literature. So basically is what I am trying to say is that all authors and readers have a different and unique definition for literature. It is what it means for them personally.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Consider too, the many schools of literary theory. Who we are, the different theories we use to interpret, our attitudes, emotions, and life experiences that we bring to literature change. This means that the meaning of literature changes for person to person, and it also changes somewhat upon each individual’s reading. The followng e-notes link has some literary theory resources:

http://www.enotes.com/jax/index.php/enotes/gsearch?m=co&q=literary+theory

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

No way.  It is written, spoken, recorded, viewed, heard, and felt.

Literature is captured language and art. We read and study literature because stories fascinate us; storytelling is an inherently human art form. Stories shape our communication, defines our existence, gives order and meaning to our universe, engages our senses and emotions, stimulates and changes our thinking, affirms our culture and language, and establishes our rituals, beliefs, and communities.

Literature is not created or meant to exist in a vacuum. It is not simply an aesthetic to be admired without challenge. Stories beckon a reaction; they demand critical attention and inquiry; they insist on being discussed, if not taught. The establishment of critical communities, then, serve to promote, preserve, and explore literature because, otherwise, literature would cease to be an art form and begin to serve itself.

A most profound statement:  Literature is not created or meant to exist in a vacuum. 

Indeed, it is, in a sense, a living art; for, it is the recordings of the human spirit of its own epoch; it is a snapshot, a reflection, or a shadow of time and place.  And, thus, it continually communicates with other human beings.  Literature is the true, living history of man, and, as such it does elicit cerebral and emotional reactions from its readings.

 

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

No way.  It is written, spoken, recorded, viewed, heard, and felt.

Literature is captured language and art. We read and study literature because stories fascinate us; storytelling is an inherently human art form. Stories shape our communication, defines our existence, gives order and meaning to our universe, engages our senses and emotions, stimulates and changes our thinking, affirms our culture and language, and establishes our rituals, beliefs, and communities.

Literature is not created or meant to exist in a vacuum. It is not simply an aesthetic to be admired without challenge. Stories beckon a reaction; they demand critical attention and inquiry; they insist on being discussed, if not taught. The establishment of critical communities, then, serve to promote, preserve, and explore literature because, otherwise, literature would cease to be an art form and begin to serve itself.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Fact is that literature has been defined differently by many different scholars. In a situation like this a person who claims that there can be only one definition of literature, is perhaps living in isolation of some literary cocoon. I can understand that a person may consider one definition of literature to be better than all the others. But to completely overlook the existence of alternate definition is not justified.

droark's profile pic

droark | High School Teacher

Posted on

Absolutely positively not. As one of my favorite literature professors once said it, literature is whatever the talking heads at the universities say it is. And, because of this, the definition of literature is entirely subjective. What one literary scholar sees value in may not be the same as what another values. I took an entire class on The Sound and the Fury and then my American Lit class entirely ignored Faulkner. This is only one small example.

We can walk into a any bookstore, giant mega-store or your local shoppe, and find books in one place shelved as "literature" that are placed elsewhere in other stores. In fact, some stores only have "fiction" and no literature section at all. We can see that at both the academic and commercial levels can't agree amongst themselves (let alone across the board) on the definition of literature.

 

We’ve answered 318,944 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question