What is Literature? Language Department IPGK Pendidikan Teknik Based on your experience learning literature, what is literature? What are the characteristics of literature? Do you need to learn literature? •? Traditionally, literature is “imaginative” writing. •? However, the distinction between “real” and “fake” or “fact” and “fiction” isn’t always a good distinction; many classical works were non-fiction. Literature is Subjective •? Since the 1980’s, the “literary canon” of works – a group of works “agreed upon” to be “the best” by well-known scholars and critics, has been disputed.
Why do you think the “canon” was disputed? •? The “Canon” excluded most works that were not by white, European males. •? Works of literature by women, homosexuals, and works by individuals of varied races, classes and ethnicities were marginalised. How did this happen? •? There are many ways of “writing” – but those in power recognised only one, formal way of “writing”, and this was given the higher value. •? Thus, the literary “canon” is a construct; it was fashioned by particular people for particular reasons at a particular time. •? There is no literary work or tradition that has value in and of itself …
•? …. even Shakespeare! •? In his era, Shakespeare was regarded as a hack! •? Time and circumstance has offered the value to particular text; and this “value” is a transitive term – it will change as the people in power change and are altered, and according to the context of the reading of a particular text. 10 years ago …. •? BLOGS were stupid. •? NOW, Iraq War Veterans’ BLOGS are considered vital historic and “literary” documents! Revisioning the Canon: •?
All “literary” works are unconsciously rewritten by the societies that read them. Context •? Readers interpret literary works in the light of their own concerns. •? Readers interpret literary works in the light of a given circumstances. •? Readers interpret literary works in the light of a given time period. The Diary of Anne Frank: •? Literature? Or Not? I Have A Dream: •? Is this speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. Literature? Or Not? Literature and “value” •?
Each of us is constructed by experiences and backgrounds and emotions and ideas and prejudices and knowledge and lack of knowledge … •? How we each respond to a particular text is deeply entwined with our broader prejudices and belief systems. Basic Definition of Literature •?
Latin – litterae (plural for letter) •? Literally means “acquaintance with letters” Why Do We Study Literature? •? To obtain a window of the world and other cultures. •? To understand ourselves (how? ). •? To gain insights into a character’s inner thoughts, con? icts, aspirations etc. •? To actively shape culture through the active and articulate constructions of sociocultural realities.
So … what is literature? •? What constitutes a “literary” text? •? What qualities will help me to determine the “literariness” of a text? •? Read “What is Literature” by Jim Meyer for our class discussion this Thursday.