Notices
Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: What is literature?

  1. #1 What is literature? 
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,674
    When I first thought of the question the first thing that came to mind was philosophy, or philosophical inspiration. I then realized that is the reason I read literature but it is not necessarily a characteristic of literature itself.

    So what is literature? Is it a story, does it rhyme, how old is it, what subjects does it treat, etc?

    I came to this question while pondering whether or not a military treatise could be considered literature. The Art of War (Bin fa) is the most translated work from China, second only to the Tao Te Ching. Is the Tao Te Ching a piece of literature (or the Holy Bible for that matter)? Is the Art of War a piece of literature?

    Machiavelli's Art of War is included in the Great Books series. Does that mean it is widely considered a piece of literature, and doesn't Sun Zi's Art of War resemble that?

    Thoughts...


    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,674
    I'm not looking for a precise definition or comments specifically relevant to war treatise.

    It's simple: When you hear the word literature what do you think?


    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Montreal
    Posts
    2,256
    Literature is art in written form. Thus, non-fiction can be art if it is written in a way with aesthetic consideration in mind. In the classical world, science and history was often written in this way, using very poetic language, which is why we often recognize these works as literature. Some history books written for popular consideration may count as literature, but most academic writing today is more oriented towards clarity of expression rather than the aesthetic.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    London
    Posts
    1,525
    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Literature is art in written form. Thus, non-fiction can be art if it is written in a way with aesthetic consideration in mind. In the classical world, science and history was often written in this way, using very poetic language, which is why we often recognize these works as literature. Some history books written for popular consideration may count as literature, but most academic writing today is more oriented towards clarity of expression rather than the aesthetic.
    I'd simply add that it is art in verbal form - written or oral.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,674
    Say it is written by multiple sources over time. Yet, maintains a style. Would the fact that it has a style categorize it as literature.

    Is defining a particular work as literature a matter of opinion or are there criteria? If literature is a sort of linguistic art and art is generally without firm definition, I believe that would make literature so as well.

    Now I just have to read a few copies of The Art of War (Bin fa) with a more critical eye. Many literary figures (in ancient China) have commentated on it but it's still difficult to categorize it.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,168
    Literature is compelling writing of high quality, suffused with elegance and style.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,674
    How about the subject matter? Literature is usually a subject matter which is stimulating to the mind, and often of an almost universal, or unending human interest (somewhat paraphrasing a definition I read). If it is a piece of prose most of the elegance may be in the ideas being expressed, correct?

    In arguing that Sun Zi is a work of literature I think my primary point must be in the subject matter, as I have yet to discover a poetic nature to the writing. There is a style (somewhat similar to the Lao Zi) and some minor elements used in Chinese literature (such as double persuasion) but, beyond that I would argue that the subject matter is the main cause for placing it under the category of literature. This, also, is likely to be what attracted so many commentators and made it the second most popular classic from China (in the Western world at least).
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •