What is literary/literariness. Sept 2011
(incorporating notes from students in previous classes)
Literariness. What makes literature literary? -- vs. ordinary discourse. E.g.:
- Special types of language
- foregrounding: metaphors, alliteration, irony;
- Other formal techniques, e.g., narrative
- point of view; foreshadowing; free indirect discourse
- Purposive selection of details -- become symbolic
- Coherence, boundedness
- Rules of genre
- Open to interpretation, e.g., literal, symbolic (polyvalence vs. monovalence convention)
- See world through perspective of a character, intimacy with (e.g., empathy)
- Unavailability of fictional world, non-verifiable; yet reader has real emotions?
- Relation of reader to (fictional) narrator, author
- illusion of "being there" (transport)
C. Challenge to reader's world view
- World has moral meaning; raises questions of reader identity
- Feelings placed in a critical relationship to each other (.. catharsis: pity and fear in tragedy, according to Aristotle)
- reader enlightened
- reader defamiliarization
- Poems, novels, short stories, plays, essays . . . ??
- Not limited to books, writing -- films, etc.
- Underlying meaning: universal, for all ages (the canon)
- Readers link their own experiences to text
- Medium for exchanging ideas
- Appreciation may only emerge over time
- anything that can be read (literate = being able to read)
-- 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).
- Foregrounding: see opening sections of this essay by Miall & Kuiken: http://www.ualberta.ca/~dmiall/reading/foregrd.htm
- polyvalence convention: Siegfried J. Schmidt, e.g., Foundations for the Empirical Study of Literature (1982)
- transport: engagement in the world of a story; see Melanie Green paper
- Hogan, Patrick Colm. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion (2003).
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