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By Abeeramee-Subramaniam Oct 18, 2013 464 Words
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

•  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

Why do you think the “canon” was

•  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
•  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

•  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”

•  To
•  To
•  To
•  To

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.

Thank You

Cite This Document

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