RARA-AVIS: Re: The definition of literature

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 03 Nov 2007


Re your comments below:

"Genius is not the point. That's correct. It is an analogy, something that is dissimilar in many respects but similar in at least one. Let me spell out the analogy. If we are considering intelligence in people and point out some as geniuses, there is a parallel between that and considering the enduring qualities of writing and pointing out some as literature. There is your analogy."

But it's an analogy that misses the point!

To say that Einstein is a genius and some other physicist is not, is the same as saying Shakespeare is a genius and some other playwright is not. It's an objective judgment of quality. It's a judgment based on the high quality of the work produced.

To say that one kind of writing is literature and another is not is whole other kind of judgment, one in which quality has no real bearing.

It would be akin to saying that Einstein was a genius, but since nuclear physics isn't "real" science, Einstein wasted his genius.

Or, to take a real world example that relates to the actual discussion, to say (as some high potentate of English literature recently said) that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made no "significant" contribution to British letters, despite the quality, not just the popularity, but the QUALITY of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

To judge a person's genius or lack of it, or a person's virtue or lack of it, or a person's talent of lack of it, is not to be dismissive of all other people. TO judge a person's work on the basis of whether or not the work "counts" as worthwhile based on a false premise of worth, is dismissive.

On the other hand, as William has pointed out, if some people are too small-minded to see the worth of a Hammett, or a Chandler, or a Conan Doyle, or, for that matter, a Spillane, so what?

Why should we care? As far as I'm concerned, the whole question of whether or not crime fiction is literature is settled. We won.


__________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around http://mail.yahoo.com

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Nov 2007 EDT