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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Discussion Topic: What is Literature?

Well, I bring this topic up because of something that recently happened in my World Literature class. At first, I found it very funny. Then, I realized that maybe I was being a bit of a stuck up biotch for finding it funny. Now, I’m just curious.

First, here’s the story. My professor, as a way of introducing everyone in the class to each other, handed us each a sheet of questions, paired us off, and then asked us to interview each other. We asked for each other’s names, what our intended major was, what literature classes we had taken before, and, at the very end, what literature we had read recently—all very generic and easy questions to answer…or so I thought.

As we took turns introducing our partners to the class, I found that we were a pretty diverse group: freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, English majors, nursing majors, art majors, ??? majors, 1st-8th literature class, etc. It made things interesting. But, what made it funny was the recent pieces of literature people had read: The Great Gatsby, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Midnight’s Children, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Twilight, True Blood…Noticing a rather comical trend or am I just being a completely awful person for rolling my eyes at this point?

Don’t get me wrong, I am NO literature nazi. In fact, literature is quite near the bottom of my list (with the exception of classic Victorian literature and some children’s Literature). Still, sometimes I prefer a good old Science Fiction, monster say “Arrrgh!”, high action kind of young adult novel. However, I do know the difference! Even my professor couldn’t help but mention, “One of these days we will discuss what literature is.” After that, I was done. I would have been rolling on the floor if it wouldn’t have been so disruptive and if it wouldn’t have given my fellow classmates a legitimate reason to think I was insane.

Now, there are several different definitions that explain what literature “is”, but I think it’s nice to put it in your own words. For me, literature is a piece of writing (prose or verse) that has some extra layer to it. It’s not just a story. It’s has timeless references and social repercussions. It can be analyzed and broken down for further meaning. It’s an allegory for something more ambiguous than the piece itself. It’s…stuffy. Yeah, that works. :)

So, is my story funny to you yet? Or am I too harsh on my fellow (strange) classmates?

What is your definition of literature?

Read any great literature lately? Or have you read any great “literature” lately?


  1. The 'Great Literature' I have read lately would be Dracula = the 'stuffy' bit which has been well researched includes anything from the consequenses of modernity to the fear of female sexual expression. But haven't some suggested Twilight's 'stuffy' bit is mormonism including a strong no sex before marriage message, etc. You could be funny and say True Bloods message would be don't date guys who suck ;) The Lord of The Rings is riddled with 'stuffy' bits - all well documented.

    I'd say your definition is therefore spot on, even if only in its excellent ability to shorten this message ;) Shah. X

  2. I agree with you and Shah. I think good literature comes with hidden meaning and things that we discover later in a book. Got to keep the suspense going and keep the reader interested.

  3. Thank you for putting my new blog in your daily updates. Moana and I really appreciate it.

  4. Hi AubrieAnne!

    Hope classes are going well. I've found an interesting situation in my mythology course. Many of the students came to it because of the films (not even books) Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Clash of the Titans. Now in class, they don't find mythology as exciting (or at least that's the description they stated to me). I think the problem with pop culture "literature" is that it may lead people to less pop lit but then they don't find it as exciting (not so easily digested). My students' situation might also be the indication that they don't belong in college because they aren't interested in reading, but that's a totally different story.

    Have a great one!


  5. Is this why you found people there to be "strange"? I don't think that you're a b-i-itch. I would have smirked, myself.

    While the denotative meaning of "literature" refers to all forms of prose, there is certainly a connotation that brings about thoughts of classical works. There's almost an elitism to it.

    I won't bash you for finding the situation humorous (in fact, I admire it), but I would personally follow the denotation over the connotation, but still appreciate the connotative context.

  6. Shah...Yes, Dracula (and actually Lord of the Rings) would be one of those good classical examples of literature. However, Twilight and True Blood technically are not. That doesn't mean that you can't find some other meaning in it, but I don't see it being studied quite yet. I personally find that you can get great things out of any book. Every one can teach you something. That's why I don't worry myself about reading just literature.

    dtwilight...Very nice, and you are very welcome. I am really enjoying yours and Moana's new blog so I am happy to promote it a bit. :)

    Selena...That makes a lot of sense. When both of those movies came out I was wondering if that fascination with mythology was coming back for a bit. I soooooo enjoyed Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology as a child. I wasn't exactly reading Homer, but I had non fiction books on it and I read The Twelve Labors of Hercules at in THIRD grade!!!! I loved it! I can understand the shock your students must have esperienced though. I think eventually they could learn to love it as much though, once they realized the action and learned more of those great historic figures.

    Matt...lol. No, that is not why I think the people there are strange. I am not that snotty! I'll explain why I think they are strange soon.

    And yes, it's very true that there is both a denotative and connotative definition for literature. However, in this situation the Professor clearly was seeking an answer based on the connotative definition. I mean, we were in a literature class and he wouldn't have said something after people started mentioning Twilight in their answers.

    Like I said, I have nothing against the non-literature genres. You should know that best of all. Plus, you know why I love Twilight, I just found it strange that people couldn't differentiate in such a formal as a college classroom.

  7. Hi there! New follower here from Friday Blog Hop. What a great blog, different from the norm that I read and I like that! Drop by and see me if you get the chance, thanks!


  8. I guess it means different things to different people? i dunno. When I think of literature, I think of classics though.

    My answer: in school I liked JROTC and English!
    I’m hopping by from Follow Friday I’m following you and would love if you follow me too! Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  9. That actually can be a tricky discussion. if you look up a definition of literature, it says the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc. With this definition, a person could list Twilight as literature and be correct since this is literary works of a particular period. That being said, when I think of literature, I have to agree with your assessment.

  10. New follower! Check out my blog when you get the chance? :)


    And I totally agree with you. A few days ago, when we asked everyone in my book club what their favourite piece of literature was, a woman in my class actually said Twilight of all things!

  11. I think I just misinterpreted the text. I didn't mean to offend. As you've said in the past, Twilight got some people to start reading. To them, that may be fine literature and there is no distinction or they haven't had it inferred to them that there is any difference. You said that for some of your classmates, this was their first college-level lit. course.

    Please don't get me wrong; I'm a natural devil's advocate and can't resist considering various angles. I know it must be exhausting to read this when you may not have been looking for a debate.

  12. I'm a new follower from Fun Follow Friday.
    I hope you'll come check me out at PS Mom Reviews and follow me too!

  13. new follower from friday blog hop

  14. I'm visiting from Fun Follow Friday and find your blog refreshing. I've always wanted to go to university and major in English. Perhaps now that my children are grown or maybe I will just really start writing.

    When I think of literature I do think of the classics such as Oliver Twist, Dracula, Hounds of the Baskervilles and so forth; however, I find other genres equally entertaining. Yes, I like Harry Potter and Twilight but I wouldn't put them in the same class as the aforementioned works.

    I am a new follower.

  15. Kimberley...Welcome. I am happy that even though my blog is not what you normally read, it is something you are willing to check out. :)

    brandyleigh...I would agree. It probably does mean something a little different to everyone. It's cool that you had similar interests in school. Hopefully, you will enjoy the blog then! Welcome.

    Penny...Another problem is that there are so many definitions in dictionaries. The OED, dictionary.com, Merriam Webster all have several different definitions. Some just say a complete body of works, some say only work with a certaina rtistic value, etc. It really is a very interesting topic.

    sch_94...See, I'd be chuckling insidein that situation as well. I feel that if you had asked "what's your favorite book?" then that is one thing, but you specifically used the words "piece of literature" instead of book. That signals to me that you mean something more.

    Matt...You ahven't offended me. If you ever did, I would tell you. Don't ever worry about that. I am in fact looking for a debate. I wouldn't have asked for everyone's opinion if I wasn't prepared fr different point of views. I posted mine case, you posted yours, and I rebutted. It's totally cool.

    Sarah- PS mom reviews...Thanks for following and welcome! please join in the conversations when you get a chance. We've got a good one going on.

    Linda R...Wow, so many new followers today. I love it. I would also love if you would join in the conversation. We would really like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Never feel afraid to chime in. We won't bite. Also, welcome! :)

    Shirley...Thank you. You should start writing. Go for it! Especially if it is something that you are interested. Plus, there are some truely wonderful online writing communites that would allow you to write eith other people while still careing for your children. It could be a lot of fun for you and pretty easy, especially since you are already into blogging. Best of luck! Let me know if you start something. i love it when people share their work. Also, thank you for following!

  16. I'm a new follower from the Friday blog hop.

    I read a lot of "literature" -- the classic type while doing my Bachelors and Masters degree in English. So I'm fairly well read in the "stuffy" literature :-)

    Nowadays I don't read much in those areas -- I read what I refer to as "fluff" -- and that's fine because that's what I enjoy nowadays.

    I do try and share all kinds of literature with my kids -- we read classical mythology (as well as Percy Jackson) and Shakespeare (both kid and traditional versions).

    I enjoyed your post and look forward to spending more time exploring your blog!

  17. Marie...Welcome! And I think I am going down the exact same track. I am going to be absolutely sick and tired of literature by the time I finish my schooling that I will turn to "fluff" (love it!) for most of the rest of my life. It's just so much FUN to read! Plus, it offers a great amount of food for the imagination and inspiration for my own stories.

  18. AA: I have been teaching literature for many years. Now, you have me thinking about defining it. Every time I come up with a definition, I think about what your other readers would say and I alter it. Obviously, it is very braod. I think I will focus on what is not literature and get back to you.

  19. JJ...That seems like a good way to start. I probably would have found it a lot easier to define what is not literature than what really is. Great idea. Let me know how it goes.

  20. Hey Aubrie - thanks for linking up at my creative blog hop - Your support means a lot. Really want to get it going.

    Also, I figured out how to invite your to guest post for me. In fact, i sent you the email already. You accept, do your thing, publish (or time it to be the same as usual). Marvellous. Let me know whether you could do as I asked (between 7th - 11th Jan) while I'm away. I have to get organised to ensure my blog lives in my absense you see ;) What ever you choose, allow it to be up for two days. I like guest authors to feel they get their worth - one day doesn't seem enough somehow? Shah. X

  21. Hey - anything between 7th and 11 Jan would be great - 'book' your two day slot so that know what I have left to fill. Looking forward to your post - ;) Shah .X

  22. One of my undergraduate degrees is in world literature. I love literature and I love reading. However, my introduction class back in college went quite the opposite way. My classmates read heavily and seriously and I was a little bit intimidated because at that time my last book was by Paolo Coelho. LOL
    Hope you're having a great weekend!

  23. Oh, yes, I found you via Bloghop. Nice to meet you!

  24. New follower of Whos Your Editor from the Friday Blog Hop. Nice blog!

  25. I am following you for the blog hop. Please follow me at http://thecryptocapersseries.blogspot.com

  26. As a mommy of two little ones my kindle is full of "lierature" hehe.
    New follower from the Weekend Blog Hop!! Hope you can stop by www.HappeningsoftheHarperHousehold.blogspot.com

  27. Shah...Yes, I got the email, thank you. i will hop on over to your blog and let you know what two days i can post for you. I assume you meant the 7th-11th of February since those days in January are gone. lol. I'll stop by soon.

    Matt...Why thank you!

    Mira...That would have been intimidating to me as well. Like I mentioned before, I don't read too much literature so if eveyone else had been reading it, I would have felt like maybe I was a bit behind. Now, I feel like I have to live up to all the stuff I have read. My professor even said he was impressed. :) I then proceeded to tell him that most of it was classwork, but that I did enjoy it. Also, thank you for finding me and following me.

    Andrea...Thank you. Also welcome. I love having new followers. Don't feel afraid to join in on the conversation at any time.

    The Crypto-Capers...Thank you very much for finding me and for following. Please join in on the conversation when you get a chance. I would love to hear more from you.

    Danielle...That's wonderful! I am very happy to hear that you are enjoying your kindle and reading anything that makes you happy. :) Thanks for following! and I will certainly come and check out your blog.

  28. To me literature is anything that keeps pulling me back in the story--after I finished reading the book. A thought, a situation, a circumstance. The rest is just something to entertain. Actually, I read mosly non-fiction.

  29. Pamela...That seems like a good defination! Very very rarely do I get into non-fiction. You have to force me to read it on most cases, like for school. But I have found some interesting.

  30. The main point is sharing what you love, and see what subjects will assist you in achieving your career goals. Go here college majora for help in making a decision about college majors.


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