What is literary/literariness. Sept 2011

(incorporating notes from students in previous classes)

Literariness. What makes literature literary? -- vs. ordinary discourse. E.g.:

A. Aesthetic

B. Engagement

C. Challenge to reader's world view

D. Media

E. Meaning

F. Problems

-- note a certain bias to narrative in this list. But Patrick Colm Hogan suggests all forms of literature including lyric poems are narrative... (e.g., Hogan 152-3).

G. The writer

How far are writers aware of their craft in terms of foregrounding, etc.? Cf. Katherine Mansfield on writing one of her stories:

… in Miss Brill I chose not only the length of every sentence -- I chose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her -- and to fit her on that day at that very moment.  After I’d written it I read it aloud -- numbers of times -- just as one would play over a musical composition, trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill -- until it fitted her.  (The Collected Letters IV: 165).


Are any of these features distinctive and exclusive to literature? or is literature characterized by a certain set of these features, none of which is defining in itself? -- see Wittgenstein on family resemblance (3rd para. in http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/blueandbrown/themes.html)

Blake, consider literary qualities of this poem:

Oh rose, thou art sick.
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

From Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789-94). Plate. Norton 1420.


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Document created September 9 2006 / Updated September 3rd 2011