What aesthetic qualities, such as storytelling or poetic prose, do you value most in a literary work, and how might they apply to both Western and non-Western literature?

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Certainly there are only a limited number of themes to literature.  What makes one work stand out is the freshness of approach, the originality that singles it from others. Truly, beauty of language, universality of theme, originality of style, and verisimilitude are aspects of the aesthetic that readers seek.

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One alternative route that seems open to you is to simply decide what you want a book to do as a work of art (make a political statement, offer insight into the human condition, etc.) and use this functional criteria as the basis for judging a work's quality. 

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This question is even more difficult than your last one on beauty...It'll be difficult to answer without evading, to some degree, because of the variety of elements that go into a work of fiction (in addition to the hurdles pointed to in the second post). 

As I take it, this is your goal:

  • To create a positive set of criteria to judge literay work fairly across cultures in an effort to determine how to assign merit to texts and how to select award winners for international prizes. 
  • The goal isn't necessarily to raise European/Western esteem for "world literature" but to provide a set of criteria that will allow for equal treatment of works coming from non-western, non-European cultures. 

In generating a positive set of criteria, you seem to be tending toward a notion of beauty as an essential or unavoidable factor in judging a text. This makes sense to me, but I'm having a hard time making the leap from aesthetic beauty as a general concept to aesthetic beauty as the basis for a critical framework. 

My first problem is the complexity of the novel as a form. There are so many "working parts" of a novel... 

But here is one idea: Identify a number of literary elements that characterize a form of literature. Create a set of criteria that essetially ask the question of each element: How well was this element presented, utilized, performed or produced? 

A novel might be judged in this way looking at: character; orginality of language; specificity/vividness of language; perspective; setting, atmosphere, landscape; plot; theme; structure. 

Looking at these categories, I guess they don't directly relate to beauty but to "perceived quality" or perceived effectiveness, which could be said to be judged on aesthetic grounds. 

 

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There are too many different types of literature to be able to give one set of "aesthetic qualities" as being "most highly valued." Judging a fictional novel would involve different criteria than evaluating a poem, a play, or an autobiography, for example.

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