What should be the line between serious literature and trash literature? I have heard many teachers talk about difference between serious and trash literature but where do we draw the line between...

What should be the line between serious literature and trash literature?

I have heard many teachers talk about difference between serious and trash literature but where do we draw the line between the two. Why Chetan Bhagat cannot be considered a part of serious literature when it is very much a part of cultural studies

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that our definitions of quality and value will be determined by our personal criteria, personal aesthetic, and individual frame of reference. 

The term "trashy" is one I hesitate to employ regarding any literature, though it has its applications. (Maybe I wouldn't hesitate to apply the term to many romance novels...) Just because a book is written for entertainment and falls into the pulp/genre category doesn't mean that the book is trash or trashy. 

There is often, however, a stark and immediate difference between literary texts and pulp texts. Pick out one paragraph from any part of any book, literary or genre/pulp, and you can usually tell what kind of a book it is. This is not strictly, 100% true, but I would guess it's 95% true. That tells us something about how different these types are and, to me, justifies the continued distinction drawn between one type and the other. 

A question that we might ask to complicate the debate here is - Which is more worthwhile as a reading experience, bad literary fiction or good genre fiction? 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If it really depends upon personal taste whether literature is worthy or trashy, why then has John Grisham or Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele not yet won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  There should still exist some standards, or are these done away with all the others that have washed out into the sea of liberality?

Serious literature is that which possesses a universality of theme, a distinctness of style and diction, point of view, a grasp of life and thought that exceeds the mundane, etc. Is it not like the difference between a unique hand-woven sweater that is of quality and one mass produced and purchased at a discount store?

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Serious literature explores themes that really matter in our lives, and does it in a unique way. A serious piece of literary art does not follow an established or typical formula. You shouldn't read dialogue that you've already read a million times, or see plot twists that you've already seen over and over again.

Serious literature also develops characters on a deep level. Readers feel like they know the characters, as though they are real people.

Finally, serious literature should teach us something. There should be an "aha" moment or two or more.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post 3. One person's trash is another's classic, and we could fill quite an anthology with classic, even canonical works that were dismissed as frivolous at the time of publication. I know what I like, and what I regard as important works, and I won't deny that my tastes have been influenced by prevailing consensus concerning what is good and what is not. I detest some of the popular novels that people read these days, but ultimately, if they affect people in a certain way, who am I to dismiss them as "trash?"

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It really depends on your purpose.  There are certain books I would never teach in a classroom because I don’t think there is enough “meat” to them, but that does not mean I will disparage my students from reading them.  I think that every book has merit to a point.  We don’t eat junk food every day, but it is ok every once in a while. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When it comes to my students reading independently in the classroom, I am going to encourage them to read, period.  Whether its trashy or classy, many of my students who are not high-level readers need the practice no matter what the content.  One man's trash is another man's treasure!

frizzyperm | Student

De gustibus non disputandum est.