What Is Literature To You

What does literature mean to you?

What does literature mean to you?

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

#3: Yes! Too many people -- teachers, students, reviewers, writers -- make an arbitrary distinction between what is considered "good" literature and what is considered "bad." Since there is no objective standard, people feel free to use their own biases in denouncing "low-quality" writing.

The only real objective standard for literature is technical. Are the words spelled correctly, allowing for vernacular? Is the grammar generally correct, ditto? Every other part of a written work is up for subjective interpretation. Authors who defy the technical conventions are often publicly touted as visionaries, but those who write simply and directly are stamped down as low-brow and unworthy of acknowledgement.

Literature, then, becomes a word synonymous with "arrogant judgement." Cormac McCarthy is hailed while Robert B. Parker is ignored. I would argue that readers decide what is worthy of being read, while critics decide what is worthy of their subjective judgement.

In case you couldn't guess, I'm firmly on the side of Story. To me, Story is everything, and style is nothing but the means of transport. If you are telling a story, but your delivery is confusing, the story gets lost. I can forgive many errors for an emotionally powerful story. I can forgive flat characters if their story gives me chills. I can even forgive Mark Z. Danielewski for shoehorning a terrible "meta" story into House of Leaves because the Navidson Record rings so true; I can simply ignore the other parts and concentrate on what I like.

I guess literature to me is a word that sends up warning signals. My walls are covered with books I love and read over and over, but few of them are accepted "classics." I would rather sit with Bujold, Pratchett, Asimov, Heinlein, Child, Parker, Westlake, and Block than with any number of "classic" authors.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This should be moved to the Literature Discussion Forum so you can get a variety of viewpoints, because I am sure there are as many different interpretations of what literature means as there are readers and writers.

To me, literature is a collection of writings. Literature may be factual, gathered to educate and support further learning by allowing one to expand on previously gained knowledge. Literature may be fictional, providing expression to the creativity of the author and allowing the reader to introduce facets of personal interpretation to the recorded words. Literature may be presented in any number of forms, ranging from novel to poem to short story to dramatic play to opera to script.

Literature means an opportunity for me to enrich my life by sharing in the thoughts and wisdom of others.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with much of what has already been written. I, too, believe literature is an opportunity for us to see ourselves in literary characters. What causes them to react, what motivates them, also motivates us; that is because even though settings may change, human nature does not. One other component of literature which I so appreciate is its ability to teach history. Literature is written in a time and place, and those are generally reflected in the text. For example, Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was written in and about the Great Depression. Though his characters are fictitious, we learn about what it must have been like to live during that time. Literature offers a chance to experience times and places which are quite different from our own.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me literature, provides a place for all people to find mirrors in life. Regardless of what a person is facing, there will most likely be a text which details it. Some people are very secretive when it comes to issues in which they may feel shame, need, or anger. Finding a text that speaks to the issue can insure that the person is searching out help- even if it falls into the help by the book.

Outside of that, literature offers an escape: from life. Similar to a movie, a book (when engaging) will transport the reader to a place far away from where they are. A vacation of the mind is what some people need to recharge.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This may be a bit cynical, but I think literature is often used as a way to separate certain kinds of writing from others.  It certainly isn't the only technical definition but I think sometimes English teachers and particularly professors of English get caught up in the idea that there has to be a distinction between good and bad literature or good and bad books, etc.

I think of literature much more like the previous poster, it is the chance to read someone else's thoughts, to expand my understanding, to learn about a new topic or subject, etc.

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literature in my opinion is a way to communicate throught the written word. It can be fiction or non-fiction, and can take the form of a novel, a novella, a short story, a newspaper article, a pamphlet, a play, a textbook, campaign literature...

Through literature people can share ideas, give advice, give the reader a glimpse of a certain period in history, or give a peek into the mind and thoughts of various personality types.


lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literature can be used as a type of healing. Just as Alice Walker writes to heal herself, I read to heal myself. A Doll's House opened my eyes to my own playhouse. I did what Nora did. I walked out to find out about my own identity. I don't regret it. I am now a new person. I don't play doll games anymore. I literally found healing after reading A Doll's House. That is just one example of what literature has done for me.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, literature is a way to explore other lifestyles and points of view.  Whether the time and place are real or imaginary, current or in the past or future, I can go somewhere and be someone not possible in real life.  The appeal to me is that I can be someone else for a little while, and better understand myself after.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me, reading is an escape from reality and the rigors of work and the obligations of daily life. Non-fiction is a great way of increasing one's knowledge about the world--both past and present--and good fiction helps to expand the imagination, serving as a most satisfying distraction of the real world in which we live. 

ferdy33 | Student

Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, "literature" is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.
gunman | Student

Literature is a peace delivery...........