What is Literature?

This is an interesting question, and one that I have never heard asked out loud. People tend to dodge around this subject, always wondering but never asking. I think a lot of people see literature as a completed genre, one that can’t be added to or taken from for fear that the validity of the genre will collapse.

           This is not the case. I will preface this post by saying that this is my opinion and of course not the be-all-end-all. As a student and a teacher, I understand that I am always learning and therefore my opinion should always be prepared to change (meaning that if you disagree with something that I say, kindly and respectfully send me a comment or an email and I will look into it). I would also like to say that my opinion has been formulated by my experience taking literature courses and reading both inside and outside the genre of literature.

           When we say “literature” we talk about Shakespeare and Hemingway, Steinbeck, Austen, and so many other classic writers. But there seems to be a hesitation to put anything modern in that category, and an even greater hesitation to add any sub-genres to literature. I was shown different ideas by different professors, but by far the consensus was clear: anything is literature is you look at it through a critical/literary analysis lens.

            One of my favourite courses to take was called ‘Sci-fi and Fantasy Literature’. We discussed many of the well-loved genres of this last decade: dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and young adult. All of these were read and discussed through a critical lens. I loved it. I filled my degree with strange courses like this one, wanting less and less to do with the classic authors. I loved being able to spend more intimate time with the genres I already love.

            Though this post was about giving you my own definition of literature, I also want to use this post as an introduction to a new series of posts I want to write. I wasn’t sure how to go about talking about literature: even though I have my degree now, I know that I have so little knowledge in the grand scheme of things. I have a lot of that darn imposter syndrome in my head most days. But if I’m “qualified” to become a teacher, I can definitely share what I already know as I continue my journey as a life-long learner.

            So far, I have four more posts about literature coming up, touching on diversity as well as how to look through different lenses at the books that you read. Because I believe that literature is determined by the circumstances with which you read any given book, I also believe that it’s important to go into reading a book with a certain mindset. I hope that I can give you some pointers on how to put yourself in the mindset to use critical, disciplinary, and inter-disciplinary lenses to get the most out of each book. I also want to stress one less point.

            Reading is fun. Always remember that reading is meant to be for you. I love getting to look at books critically and find the amazing and phenomenal connections within the pages, but it gets exhausting. I need to shut off the lenses occasionally, to fall in love with reading again and make sure that I don’t view it as a chore. It’s an amazing ability to have. I love hallucinating at the beautiful dead trees that line my shelves. (That sounds so ridiculous, but it’s so true.)

            I want to thank you for reading and I hope that you follow along here on the blog or Instagram at @litandleta. I will be posting more often as I get caught up on writing and reading, and Instagram is where you’ll be the first to know about new posts, upcoming reviews, and so much more.


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