Literature Basics

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Short introduction to literature as a concept for students at college composition level.

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Literature Basics

  1. 1. Literature<br />What is it, and why should we care?<br />
  2. 2. What is literature?<br /><ul><li>Literature is one of those terms that is difficult to define.
  3. 3. Is everything that’s fiction, literature?
  4. 4. Is everything that’s not fiction, not literature?
  5. 5. Is it only literature if it’s old?
  6. 6. Is it only literature if it’s studied in school?
  7. 7. Is there bad literature out there?</li></li></ul><li>Myths about literature<br /><ul><li>If it’s fun to read, it’s not literature.
  8. 8. All literature must be making some obscure point that “ordinary people” can’t understand.
  9. 9. Literature must be at least 50 years old.
  10. 10. Literature has no relevance to today’s world.
  11. 11. Most literature, like Shakespeare, is written in “Old English.”
  12. 12. Only stuck-up nerds read or write literature, and they do so to feel superior to others.</li></li></ul><li>Debunking the myths<br /><ul><li>Lots of literature is very fun to read, e.g. Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, Edgar Allan Poe—he wrote horror stories! Even Shakespeare, although admittedly it’s better to watch a play than read it.
  13. 13. A lot of literature puts the point right out front for all to see, e.g. My Sister’s Keeper. Some literature, such as much Postmodern literature, makes no point at all.</li></li></ul><li>Debunking continued<br /><ul><li>More literature is being produced today than ever. Contemporary authors of literature include Salman Rushdie (b. 1947) and HanifKureishi (b. 1954).
  14. 14. Contemporary literature is often about contemporary topics.
  15. 15. Older literature has endured because it has some relevance to every age. If it doesn’t endure, people won’t read it beyond the time in which it was written.</li></li></ul><li>More debunking<br /><ul><li>Shakespeare is written in modern English. It’s different from the way we speak but language changes over time. Do your parents understand all the slang you use?
  16. 16. Old English is a completely different language. It’s kind of like the relationship of Latin to Italian. (To hear what it sounds like, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y13cES7MMd8.)</li></li></ul><li>Final debunking<br /><ul><li>People who like literature do not do so to feel superior anymore than people who can talk about cars do that to feel superior to the rest of us.
  17. 17. “Cool” people who like literature:
  18. 18. Stephen King
  19. 19. Oprah
  20. 20. Nick Cannon</li></li></ul><li>So, uh, what is literature?<br /><ul><li>Literature is writing that is a kind of art. Unlike nonfiction, such as newspaper articles, there is no need to convey a certain number of facts and isn’t limited to a certain length. So authors of literature can play with their writing.
  21. 21. It takes 3 common forms
  22. 22. Prose (fiction & personal essays)
  23. 23. Poetry
  24. 24. Drama</li></li></ul><li>What else?<br /><ul><li>Literature does usually have a point of some kind, even if that point is “art for art’s sake.”
  25. 25. Literature makes use of literary devices to make reading easier, more fun, and to add layers of meaning.
  26. 26. Literature is not some sort of secret text to which only certain people have “the meaning.”
  27. 27. There can be more than one interpretation of a piece of literature, provided it can be supported by the text.</li></li></ul><li>A few common literary devices<br /><ul><li>Symbolism: When something stands for something else. E.g. the US flag is a symbol of America and freedom.
  28. 28. Irony: the opposite of what’s expected. There are 3 kinds
  29. 29. Verbal irony: sarcasm. Clearly the person means the opposite of what is said.
  30. 30. Situational: what happens is the opposite of what’s expected.
  31. 31. Dramatic irony: when the audience knows something a character (or several) do not. That one person is really pretending to be someone else, for example.</li></li></ul><li>A couple more devices<br /><ul><li>Comparisons
  32. 32. Simile: uses “like” or “as”: as big as a house
  33. 33. Metaphor: is a direct comparison: She’s a brick house.
  34. 34. Metaphor is not the same as symbolism! If there aren’t 2 things being compared, it’s not a metaphor.
  35. 35. Mood or Tone: the attitude/emotion taken toward the subject of the story.
  36. 36. For more on literary devices, go to http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/</li></li></ul><li>Why are you telling me this?<br /><ul><li>When writing about literature, it’s good to use some of the jargon of the field.
  37. 37. This class isn’t about memorizing literary devices or even interpreting literature really, but it is about writing about literature. You may need to talk about literary devices to do so.</li></li></ul><li>Now what?<br /><ul><li>Take a look around this LibGuide to get more information about different types of literature.
  38. 38. Happy reading!</li>

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