Literary Analysis and Argumentation
Final Essay – What Is Literature?!
Literature is an idea. Its unfortunately it’s usually a physical thing but to me the word literature is not the words on the page it’s the ideas that come from them when recognized. It has to spark some sort of change within a person, whether positive or negative, literature has to inspire a reaction. Its not some static thing, your mind has to fold around it, encompass it, assimilate it, and move with at least some of the characteristics one discerned having been learned. First though, it has to be deciphered. The words may be as clear as the night sky over the Pacific, but unlike the stars, each person will see something different. That has to be realized in the interpretation. What the author wrote is totally up to the reader’s subjective opinion. Use that opinion, grow and move forward. That is what makes literature literature, and not just symbols defacing nature or sounds floating over a crowd.
A cookbook could be literature if the person using it learns and attributes it to themselves, if they decide that this could impact their life or change their understanding even if its in the most minute way. Literature can be spoken, some of the greatest changes this world has ever seen were made not with the pen, but with the tongue. It would be unfair to discount the contributions of the great orators, past, present, and future.
I think the value of literature, the value of anything, should be measured by how much it impacts the person being subjected to it. People love Shakespeare because they find it so easy to attribute to their own lives, the complexities of the characters, the dichotomies, the situations that they find themselves in. Who puts themselves in these situations and what would I do if I was there? Questions like that are the foundation of my definition of literature.
Even the trashiest of books can be considered literature. If the lonely single woman or depressed wife needs to disappear into the Lawrence inspired characters of the sensual novellas of Duane Reade, who are we to tell her that it’s not a contribution to the advancement of literature? If a bored husband needs to excite himself, reinvigorate his imagination from his stagnant life, who says he can’t read his child’s comics and manga? Since when does the target audience of a book exclude it from the column of human achievement entitled “Literature”. What the hell is a target audience anyway?! Humanity, Western in particular has what I like to call Linnaeus Syndrome. The predisposition to assign every single thing a scalable value and then judge it and categorize it based on its physical characteristics, regardless of its intangible values. A Dr Seuss children’s book is not on the same level as the last from Ayn Rand, or even if it was it’d be in a different category somewhere off to the side. Authors don’t write books, figures don’t make speeches to an audience, they write for, they speak to, the minds.
I wish I could detail how many metamorphoses I’ve gone through in my life. The reasons why, the work they entailed, the disappointment from not doing it to my own personal satisfactions. Most of the successful ones were changes of opinion. I’ve never been one to succumb to media. It’s … disheartening, to see people so malleable, so ready to accept what they’ve been told or shown, rather that start clean be open to everything and then form their personalities by the standards of their surroundings instead of by the standards of their own consciousness. Pick and choose what you want to be, not have it stamped into you. Put literature to use, don’t let it use you.
Movies are not quite literature to me. Technically they should be because they are scripts, just like how Shakespeare is meant to be seen not read, the same is true for movies. Much is lost on the plays of Shakespeare due to the fact 99% of the time they’re read and not watched. But the difference between literature and film is much less is left up for interpretation. The movie has already been interpreted once, by the director. It’s his vision of the screenwriters work. You are the third in this sequence, fourth if you read reviews. That muddles the message.
However they have a large factor going for them. Humans are a visual species, we developed, we evolved sight as a major sense. Powerful scenes are just as striking as powerful words. Sometimes emotions can be conveyed in pictures much better than they can be conveyed in words. A good movie will capture that in its most natural form. Charlotte sitting in the window over Tokyo in Lost In Translation, Chieko standing in the club unable to hear the music in Babel, Julien and Sophie happily drowning in love and concrete in Love Me If You Dare, scenes unreachable with words. The power these scenes has is what makes them literature. Something deserving of preservation, praise, and immortalization.
Of course I meant what I said when I stated its not quite literature. I balk at the prospect of adding something like Charlie’s Angels 2 to my definition. I try to keep in mind what I’d said about the “drug store novellas” and try to apply it here, I’m sure someone somewhere enjoyed that film as embarrassing as it must be to admit. I’d guess that on that fact alone it’d have to be included.
I try to be egalitarian and leave no idea, no angle, unaccounted for. Often that can lead to complex opinions that I welcome. If its simple it’s wrong. Nothing is simple. One of my favorite books, My Secret Garden, is a perfect example of how to complicate something. If only everything was simple and it was 1 + 1 = 2. Nope, instead take that and make sure that one actually equals one, then make sure that the equal sign signals the end of the question and is the answer the answer or is it another question in and of itself. What the hell is a number anyway?! Bite that, say no, say Q W 5 +++. Of course that’s an obtuse metaphor but it helps to show that nothing is written in stone. Hell even if it was I have a sledgehammer. Sledgehammers beat stones to pulp.
Literature should be your sledgehammer. It should be the way you crush ideals. The handle of your hammer should be your measuring stick when you reconstruct them. Use the spit of your mind as the mortar and build up the bricks of your person from the sandy, pebbled remains of what you’ve been told, what you’ve destroyed. Let the head of your sledgehammer, the interpretation of the words/images/sounds, be as heavy as condensed neutrons on the densest pulsar. Fear not what may become, blueprints are for sissies. Build a home of yourself, with pieces from everywhere and from everything. If you ever feel finished, there will be something that will come along and convince you to add a new wing.
...so what do you think Literature is?