WhatIs literature

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What Is Literature? Reading, Assessing, Analyzing What is “Literature”? In the last 50 years, the very meaning of “Literature” and “reading” and “criticism” has undergone deep alteration Literature:  Traditionally, literature is “imaginative” writing -writing which is not literally true  HOWEVER: the distinction between “real” and “fake” or “fact” and “fiction” isn’t always a good distinction; many classical works were non-fiction What we mean when we say something is “Literary”? “Some texts are born literary, some achieve literariness, and some have literariness thrust upon them.” Is literature dictated by context? I’m your teacher I have several college degrees If I tell you it’s LITERATURE, am I to be believed? Many works of “literature” that we study in college were constructed to BE literature, but many were not What qualities in form and content make a text LITERARY? Language  Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language  Literature deviates systematically from everyday speech  Language in literature draws attention to itself This is what the FORMALISTS thought Russians in the early 1900s who organized literary criticism around language When “Language” is the only criteria of “literary”, what types of texts are ignored? Should these types of texts be ignored? Why? Why Not? The problem with language “The idea that there is a single, ‘normal’ language, a common currency shared equally by all members of society, is an illusion Any actual language consists of a highly complex range of discourses, differentiated according to class, region, gender, status and so on, which can by no means be neatly unified into a single homogeneous linguistic community.” Terry Eagleton, literary critic and scholar What happens when one language is preferred over another? Can language reveal your: class, race, ethnicity, educational level, gender? How did this happen? There are many ways of “writing” but those in power recognized 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! It’s true! Time and circumstance has offered the value to particular texts; 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 circumstance Readers interpret literary works in the light of a given time period The Diary of Anne Frank: Literature? Or Not? HOWL by Allen Ginsberg BANNED in its era LITERATURE? Or not? “I Have A Dream”-Is this speech by Martin Luther King, Jr Literature? Or Not? Literature and “value”  You see, each of us is constructed of 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 It’s not our fault! We’re HUMAN Thus, Literature is defined by:  Experience  Context Multi-cultural and Multi-ethnic Literatures  Uniquely situated to view under this broader banner of who I am and where I’m from, and how these things contribute to what I write  YOU are invited to contextualize yourself as well who YOU are and in what context you’re reading these texts in order to understand how you ‘read’ a particular text So: WHAT IS LITERATURE? What constitutes a “literary” text? What qualities will help me to determine the ‘literariness’ of a text? YOU tell ME At the end of this course [...]...If literature were only based on how language were used Everything would be poetry What other qualities can we look at that might help us to define the “literariness” of a text? The truth is:  If “they” (the critics, scholars etc) say you’re literature, then you are!  If “they” say you aren’t, then you aren’t!  Literature is a formal, empty sort of definition  Literature has... of a given circumstance Readers interpret literary works in the light of a given time period The Diary of Anne Frank: Literature? Or Not? HOWL by Allen Ginsberg BANNED in its era LITERATURE? Or not? “I Have A Dream”-Is this speech by Martin Luther King, Jr Literature? Or Not? Literature and “value”  You see, each of us is constructed of experiences and backgrounds and emotions and ideas and prejudices... you’re literature, then you are!  If “they” say you aren’t, then you aren’t!  Literature is a formal, empty sort of definition  Literature has no “essence.”  Literature is dependent upon the way people relate themselves to the writing 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... knowledge  How we each respond to a particular text is deeply entwined with our broader prejudices and belief systems It’s not our fault! We’re HUMAN Thus, Literature is defined by:  Experience  Context Multi-cultural and Multi-ethnic Literatures  Uniquely situated to view under this broader banner of who I am and where I’m from, and how these things contribute to what I write  YOU are invited... scholars and critics, has been disputed Why do you think the “canon” was disputed? And who forwarded the charge of dispute? 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 marginalized How did this happen? There are many ways of “writing” but those in power recognized... contribute to what I write  YOU are invited to contextualize yourself as well who YOU are and in what context you’re reading these texts in order to understand how you ‘read’ a particular text So: WHAT IS LITERATURE? What constitutes a “literary” text? What qualities will help me to determine the ‘literariness’ of a text? YOU tell ME At the end of this course
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