So sitting here reading one of the multitude of lame vampire novels that I can't keep my hands off of (except for Twilight, even I'm not that far gone) and I'm reminded of something my American Lit. II professor brought up last year. Is there a difference between literature and Literature (said with a snooty accent)? For example, are Harlequin romance novels considered Literature? Does it have to be Shakespeare or Joyce to be considered worthy of the title? If there is a line between them, where is it drawn?

My professor didn't have any answers and neither do I. Most of the students in my class said that cheap paperback romances are definitely not Literature and pretty much stuck their noses in the air but they couldn't define why. And now I've lost my train of thought after Poof decided she can has snuggles...NOW. (Plump kitty cuddling ftw.)

ETA: Ok fine, I admit it. I did in fact read the first book of the Twilight series last year and it does indeed suck just as much as everyone says it does.
tree: a figure clothed in or emerging from bark (Default)

From: [personal profile] tree

that is so odd because i was just having a similar conversation with someone earlier. that i can read something and say whether or not it's Literature (to me) but i can't exactly define the parameters.

(also, LOL at your ETA. i haven't read them at all, but i've seen a lot of excitement about the upcoming film.)

From: [identity profile]

I've been wondering about it being a personal decision for every reader but then I think well what if so-and-so is really into graphic novels? Are they Literature? And then what if so-and-so-2 really likes reading comic strips and insurance brochures? (Don't ask, I'm still caffeinating.)

And as for Twilight, if it was billed as a young adult romance type thing, then fine. I can understand that. But it wasn't and I'm sorry but squeaky clean, knight-in-shining-armor vampire aren't vampires anymore. They're preteens with fake Halloween fangs. Do. Not. Want.

(*chants* the cabbage is in your head! the cabbage is in your head!*cue spooky synth music*)
tree: a figure clothed in or emerging from bark (Default)

From: [personal profile] tree

i don't think graphic novels or comics (or insurance brochures :P) fall under the rubric of literature, the same way that children's picture books don't. and i don't really think it's a personal decision, in the same way that what constitutes pornography is not really a personal decision. and yet it is equally difficult to determine an exact definition for both categories. and disagreement will always occur.

From: [identity profile]


I'm trying to promote Flann O Brien as a great figure in Irish Literature. Although even James Joyce was a fan of his he gets left out of any debates regarding Irish writers. So, does humour mean you can't get taken seriously ? I'd love to know what your professor would think.

ps.( I've started a Flann O Brien appreciation society called apintofplain (Guinness) I'd welcome any comments even at this early stage)

From: [identity profile]

Re: apintoplain

Are you a GoSling? Your icon is familiar. Also, as far as Irish Lit goes, I am in love with Oscar Wilde and Mr. Yeats. Admittedly, I don't know who Flann O'Brien is but I mentioned Joyce because he and Shakespeare seem to be at the extreme Literature end of the spectrum. It wasn't a slight to Flann O'Brien fans.

From: [identity profile]

Re: apintoplain

Hi Ya !

What's a go sling ? Don't worry about not knowing who he is, that's the whole point of my community, so no offence taken. In my view he was above Joyce, Beckett, and so on, because he _chose_ to use humour, which led to him being taken as 'Not a serious' figure. In actuallity his idea's were way ahead of their time , (The whole secand series of Lost was 'lifted' from The Third Policeman. Again, my view) So that's me ! I'm ranting !

Kier. (Eoin McLove - that's a whole other story)

From: [identity profile]

Re: apintoplain

GoS is a lovely game forum that I frequent. A few of the lovelies from there have friended me recently so I thought perhaps you might be one of them.

And back to Flann O'Brien, I do enjoy humor and those who don't take themselves so seriously. Is there a particular piece that you would recommend as an introduction?

From: [identity profile]

Re: apintoplain

I would have a look at this first

If that doesn't put you off !!

I'm Shite at video games.. too lazy ! I'm good at bullshit though.. hence my interest in writing !

From: [identity profile]

Well, there is obviously good literature and bad literature, not to mention everything in between, though the lines between what can be considered literature and what can't are as varied as there are opinions...very subjective. As such it's difficult to draw a line anywhere. I think your professor was being snooty :P

I think we're all tempted to brand any books we hate or look down upon unworthy of the title of literature...just saying whether I think a book is good or crap is enough for me.

From: [identity profile]

So then you're of the opinion that each individual defines it for him/herself?

And if I'm being completely honest, I would say that I'm a bit harsh when it comes to drawing the line in the sand. I do love reading the classics and enjoy most of them but some I only plod through just to say I've read it and someone will think, "Oh, she read that? Perhaps she's smarter than she looks." My point being that I doubt I'm the only one who does that or something similar and where does that fit in with all the sandy lines?

From: [identity profile]

Hmm. It is a good question, and one that's been brought up in my English Lit classes. I think Literature, as in classic Literature, is stuff that withstands the test of time. I mean, look at things like Dickens or Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was just pulp horror when it came out, and yet the themes are universal enough that it still fascinates us. It is also a look at the dichotomy of Victorian morality, and that holds a lot of value.

There were a lot of trashy "Gothic Novels" written in the Romantic period, but we rarely remember any of them now except Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, even though there were a lot of very popular novelists in the day. I think the modern vampire romance fiction (they definitely aren't vampire horror) is probably the same. Time will tell which novels have value based on the value of their themes and writing, and which are trash.

Of course, that doesn't mean that trashy novels have no value at all. If that were the case, we wouldn't have Harlequin romance novels. This era doesn't hold a monopoly on those, they've been around as long as there have been "silly lady novelists" as George Eliot would call them. They're entertaining, they can be stimulating, and they are escapist literature. Not high Literature by any means, but still good for something.

Sorry for blathering on in your comments, I just kind of get long winded when it comes to talking about literature. It's my big passion, I guess you could say. Literature and kitties, and your post has both :)

From: [identity profile]

Don't apologize, please, your comments are interesting and very welcome.

So if I'm understanding you correctly, the way to identifyhigh Literature is if it's still relevant after whatever period of time? Does that mean we aren't able to assign value to contemporary works? (This is just me stirring the pot for discussion, btw.)

Escapist literature, I've never heard it put quite like that but you are right. That's exactly what my vampire novels are to me. Perhaps I've been looking at them all wrong. Instead of feeling guilty for reading books without deep literary meaning, I should be appreciating their value as entertainment.

I love discussing literature as well. In my opinion, life doesn't get any better than good books and snuggly kitties. :)

From: [identity profile]

Well, I think we do assign value to contemporary works that we think have literary merit based on evaluating literature from the past, what moves us, and the style and development of the author. I really do think that if you read enough, you can instantly differentiate between something that has literary merit, and something that's fairly mediocre. I'm a dork about it, but sometimes I pick up a book and the way the author writes and uses language is just exciting or refreshing, and that to me gives the book literary merit right there.

But really, I think only time can tell what is truly a real literary classic. Something that seems vital and important right now could be totally irrelevant in ten years. That doesn't mean that something doesn't have value in the here and now, just that there is no way to know yet if it measures up with Shakespeare and Chaucer in terms of literary merit. It seems like critics are always rushing to label things "the next great literary classic", only to have it fade to obscurity when the next big best seller hits.

The other side to that coin is that there are probably things that we overlook now that will be rediscovered and labeled a literary classic years down the line. I really don't believe that the popularity of a work has anything to do with it's longterm literary merit at all.

I don't think there is anything wrong with reading a trashy novel for entertainment at all, I do it all the time. Not everything in life is always high brow, after all. I don't think we should feel guilty about it at all. I have a friend who reads those oversexed fake-regency romance novels, and she says she likes them because she doesn't have to think when she reads them. She knows they aren't high literature, but that isn't really the point when you want to relax and unwind.

From: [identity profile]

It seems to be a theme amongst many artists that one's work isn't highly regarded until after death. I'm quite a dork myself, I get so excited when I find beautiful use of language or fresh imagery. I think I would even say I go further from dorkdom into serious nerd territory because the first thing I do when I get a book is smell the pages and feel the paper.

The part about feeling guilty for reading trashy novels is a personal failing. I'm a perfectionist and set the bar so ridiculously high for myself that I often don't attempt anything at all. I certainly don't think anyone should feel less for reading novels without literary value, except, of course, myself, hehe.


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