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DonostiaBookClub

Donostia Book Club

My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl

What makes 'great literature'?

During our last meeting someone raised a very interesting question:

What makes 'great literature'? How do we decide what is valuable and what is not? Does literature without an value exist? Is it still literature? Or not anymore?

We talked about it just briefly and maybe you will find the following article interesting and helpful (it's not mine i have found it on:http://schools.aldine.k12.tx.us/webs/mjhume/great_literature.htm)

 

How We Define "Great Literature" 
Great literature can be identified by several characteristics, but great is obviously a judgement call. What one critic might consider great another critic might rate no more than "okay." Students often question the "great" literature required for reading in any class, but careful consideration of the following criteria should give some idea as to how these works of literature find their way into the textbook, which, of course, is filled with "great literature."




Great Literature Is... TIMELESS. 
A story, novel, or epic poem could have been written three thousand years ago, but if it still has meaning, if it is still entertaining or of interest, and if people still learn from it, it is TIMELESS. Examples of timeless literature include the Greek classics The Iliad and The Odessy by Homer, the Greek tragedies, religious literature and scriptures, Aesop's Fables, Dante's Inferno and a host of others. Some historical novels might have been written during your lifetime but are set in ancient times with ancient themes; these, too, are timeless. Many motion pictures and some television series have themes and parallel characters to some of the ancient writings. You might be more familiar with "timeless literature" than you think.




Great Literature is... UNIVERSAL. 
An anthropologist might study a small tribal culture in some obscure jungle and observe a story the elders tell to the children to foster respect and appreciation for others. The culture might not even have a written langauge, but should the anthropologist determine that the story would be meaningful to the modern cultures as well, he might have the spoken lore translated into all the prominent languages so that children everywhere can benefit from its telling. In this way a story developed dozens of generations ago in a non-literate culture on the other side of the planet still has meaning to people throughout the world. It is universal, applicable to all cultures. Great literature is just that... universal.




Great Literature has... SOMETHING TO SAY. 
Great literature conveys a message; it has something to say. Of course, there is much literature that is pure escapism; we read it to escape our cares and simply to be entertained. Entertaining literature is good literature, but it might not be great literature. Again, great literature has something to say. 

After having read a short story or a book or epic poem, after having seen a play, one might come away from the experience a better person. We might have learned something. If we have learned something, or if something we already know has been reinforced through the story, if we see that the literature we have experienced has made us better people, then we have experienced great literature.




Great Literature is... ENTERTAINING or OF INTEREST. 
Unless we read literature we will never get its message. Literature that is of no interest to anyone or that is written so poorly no one wants to read it is useless. 

Great literature, in order for the reader to "get" the message, must be entertaining, or at least of interest. What's the difference? We enjoy an entertaining story, but we might be troubled (not entertained) by some literature. For example, if our ancestors were victims of the holocaust, or if our ancestors were slaves, we might find literature that depicts such events to be of interest to us because we want to know what they experienced, but we probably would not find the literary experience enjoyable or entertaining. We are, however, compelled to read such literature because it interests us. Of course, good authors and playwrights and poets are able to entertain us with an enjoyable story that is also of interest to us. Then we know we have "great literature."



How We Define "Great Literature"
Great literature can be identified by several characteristics, but great is obviously a judgement call. What one critic might consider great another critic might rate no more than "okay." Students often question the "great" literature required for reading in any class, but careful consideration of the following criteria should give some idea as to how these works of literature find their way into the textbook, which, of course, is filled with "great literature."




Great Literature Is... TIMELESS.
A story, novel, or epic poem could have been written three thousand years ago, but if it still has meaning, if it is still entertaining or of interest, and if people still learn from it, it is TIMELESS. Examples of timeless literature include the Greek classics The Iliad and The Odessy by Homer, the Greek tragedies, religious literature and scriptures, Aesop's Fables, Dante's Inferno and a host of others. Some historical novels might have been written during your lifetime but are set in ancient times with ancient themes; these, too, are timeless. Many motion pictures and some television series have themes and parallel characters to some of the ancient writings. You might be more familiar with "timeless literature" than you think.







Great Literature is... UNIVERSAL.
An anthropologist might study a small tribal culture in some obscure jungle and observe a story the elders tell to the children to foster respect and appreciation for others. The culture might not even have a written langauge, but should the anthropologist determine that the story would be meaningful to the modern cultures as well, he might have the spoken lore translated into all the prominent languages so that children everywhere can benefit from its telling. In this way a story developed dozens of generations ago in a non-literate culture on the other side of the planet still has meaning to people throughout the world. It is universal, applicable to all cultures. Great literature is just that... universal.




Great Literature has... SOMETHING TO SAY.
Great literature conveys a message; it has something to say. Of course, there is much literature that is pure escapism; we read it to escape our cares and simply to be entertained. Entertaining literature is good literature, but it might not be great literature. Again, great literature has something to say. 

After having read a short story or a book or epic poem, after having seen a play, one might come away from the experience a better person. We might have learned something. If we have learned something, or if something we already know has been reinforced through the story, if we see that the literature we have experienced has made us better people, then we have experienced great literature.








Great Literature is... ENTERTAINING or OF INTEREST.
Unless we read literature we will never get its message. Literature that is of no interest to anyone or that is written so poorly no one wants to read it is useless. 

Great literature, in order for the reader to "get" the message, must be entertaining, or at least of interest. What's the difference? We enjoy an entertaining story, but we might be troubled (not entertained) by some literature. For example, if our ancestors were victims of the holocaust, or if our ancestors were slaves, we might find literature that depicts such events to be of interest to us because we want to know what they experienced, but we probably would not find the literary experience enjoyable or entertaining. We are, however, compelled to read such literature because it interests us. Of course, good authors and playwrights and poets are able to entertain us with an enjoyable story that is also of interest to us. Then we know we have "great literature."