What makes good literature?What makes good literature?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question, and while I imagine you will get a variety of responses, they are likely to have some elements in common.

For me, good literature is timeless and placeless. By that I mean that the themes of the story and the messages conveyed by the story are important, no matter what era or place the reader exists in.

For me, good llterature will allow me to see myself more clearly and/or see my fellow man (or woman) more clearly.  In other words,  it will help me make connections between the story and the world around me.

Good literature will use words in interesting and unusual ways and allow me to "see" vividly the picture the author is painting for me.

Good literature makes us feel as though we had dined at a very fine restaurant, instead of at McDonald's.

If you took a survey to determine people's "top ten" list of good literature,you would find differences, but it is likely that The Great Gatsby would appear on everyone's list!  There is no other novel that I have ever found more people to agree upon. 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post is very stellar.  To add one more element, I think character development, exploration, and evolution represents a critical component of literature.  In its ongoing quest to define who we are and what shall we do, the exploration of characterization is a critical element for all literature.  In my mind, the greatest of literature delves into characters and reveals much about them.  Motivations, passions, psychological forces, are but a few of these elements.  The best of literature will explore characters to their maximum capacity.  Sometimes this exploration will reveal character evolution, while others times there might not be any change, and at some moments the delving might represent character devolution.  Yet, this aspect of character investigation is what differentiates good writing from work that is worthy of the title "literature."

neela | Student

Literature takes us to a higher plane.That is the edge for a lierature interested literates over ordinary  earthy moratals. Good literature is capable of absorbing our heart and mind and makes us read it again and again, and that is the power of literature.It has the  constructive power , soothing the suffering and elevating morality of our living and above all making us understand the meaning of our existence.

krishna-agrawala | Student

I would judge the quality of literature based on following three criteria.

  1. To what extent the literature is enjoyed by the reader.
  2. The quality of this enjoyment. Some literature may be read, enjoyed and forgotten completely thereafter. Some literature tends to remain in your memory and continues to be a source of joy. Such literature are Wordsworth's daffodils that "flash upon the inward eye that is the bliss of solitude." Quality of literature also need s to be judged in terms of its overall effect on life of its readers and the public in general. Some literature only serve as a means of whiling away time. While others may add to wisdom and character of its readers.
  3. Length of time for which the literature remains to be relevant. Some literature that relates to immediate events, may have great impact on the immediate society, but may fail to serve much useful purpose after some time.