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Hereford Eye
June 29th, 2007, 06:23 PM
Contemplating sffworld is a whole lot more satisfying but sometimes akin to contemplating one's navel. Consider this web site's forum and the fact there is a huge portion of that forum categorized as Books and Literature. Under that are some sub-headings: fantasy, science fiction, horror, general. What does that say about our mindsets?
Well, that we think there is a difference between books and literature. It is not apparent to me what the difference might be save that all literature fits into books but the same may not be said for all books fitting into literature. But that reasoning infers a specific definition to literature, one with coat, tie and cumberbund.
Walk into a book store or a library where it is customary to amass a huge collection of books. How is that not a sampling of the literary output of our cultures and our civilization?
All the authors in residence on this web site write books. Are they not producing literature as well? Why is it that we think there is a difference, a yawning chasm of difference, between books and literature?
And don't say that we don't think this way, please. It is right there, in nice bold print, on the menu for this forum.

hippokrene
June 29th, 2007, 07:50 PM
Yes, but the people who use this forum are not a collective mind. *One person* created the division of this forum and others built on it. The idea that it's proof of what everyone thinks is poor logic.

My definition of literature includes prose, poetry, plays, and oral works, and hybrids such as comics, games, and movies. Books are simply a bunch of pages fastened together a certain way.

Literature is narrative form utilizing words. Book is a type of physical object.

James Carmack
June 29th, 2007, 09:09 PM
Hippo makes a good point, but he should keep in mind that if the layout of the site was a serious bone of contention, there would be more people speaking out on it.

I like Hippo's demarcation, but I think there might be a perception that "literature" is this highbrow stuff that gets published leather-bound volumes and becomes the cornerstone of the careers of college professors. "Books" can include "literature", but only on a technical level. It also includes those piles of pulp gobbled up by the base groundlings.

Some people may see it that way. Not saying the creators of this site think that way. The fact that it's rendered as "Books/Literature" could be entirely coincidental.

Arash
June 29th, 2007, 09:20 PM
To me, literature is nothing but the written word; whether it's on the back of a pamphlet or the contents of a well researched book.

The Oxford Dictionary describes it thus:

literature

• noun
1 written works, especially those regarded as having artistic merit.
2 books and writings on a particular subject.
3 leaflets and other material used to give information or advice.

Rocket Sheep
June 29th, 2007, 09:33 PM
Dear Hereford,

Haven't you learned by now that all basic assumptions are dangerous? For instance I always assume I still look like I did when I was 19... I can't tell you how much trouble that's got me into. ;)

Besides, you've forgotten that this board is Norwegian. Haven't you heard about those Swedish and Norwegian books? Oooh la la... I suppose they have to entertain themselves somehow in winter and I suppose it is different to literature.

Sheepie.

Tony Williams
June 30th, 2007, 06:14 AM
I like Hippo's demarcation, but I think there might be a perception that "literature" is this highbrow stuff that gets published leather-bound volumes and becomes the cornerstone of the careers of college professors.

Such people generally recognise two kinds of literature: popular fiction from the distant past which has attained the patina of respectable age (like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens - both of whom were popular authors in their day), or modern introspective works which have no plot (most important, that) and are (preferably) semi-autobiographical works from (also preferably) ethnic minority (and even more preferably) females. :rolleyes:

Hereford Eye
June 30th, 2007, 11:17 AM
It’s very nice that you have your own working definitions or that you can find a way to blame it all on Dag [:D :p ] but the phenomena is much deeper than this forum. Examine a few on-line dictionaries and you will discover the idea of literature being something more than books, something more than all the prose and poetry ever published. Literature has a feel to it that other stuff doesn’t and that ‘feel’ appears to be whatever academia decides it must be. The bold italics are mine.

Main Entry: lit·er·a·ture
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus
Date: 14th century
1 archaic : literary culture
2: the production of literary work especially as an occupation
3 a (1): writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest (2): an example of such writings <what came out, though rarely literature, was always a roaring good story — People> b: the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age c: the body of writings on a particular subject <scientific literature> d: printed matter (as leaflets or circulars) <campaign literature>
- http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Literature

Literature
Definition:
1. written works with artistic value: written works, e.g. fiction, poetry, drama, and criticism, that are recognized as having important or permanent artistic value
2. body of written works: the body of written works of a culture, language, people, or period of time
- Russian literature
- http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/literature.html

Literature (WRITING) Show phonetics
noun [U]
Definition: written artistic works, particularly those with a high and lasting artistic value:
classical/modern literature
- Wuthering Heights' is a classic of English literature.
- http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=46593&dict=CALD

literature
• noun
1 written works, especially those regarded as having artistic merit.
2 books and writings on a particular subject.
3 leaflets and other material used to give information or advice.
- http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/literature?view=uk

This strikes me as very much like the lists on Amazon.com or that periodically appear in these forums, e.g., the top 100 sf books of all time. Were we all to agree on a top 100, would we then have defined the literature in sf?

Arash
June 30th, 2007, 03:51 PM
This strikes me as very much like the lists on Amazon.com or that periodically appear in these forums, e.g., the top 100 sf books of all time. Were we all to agree on a top 100, would we then have defined the literature in sf?

Why does each word have a particular meaning? It's because we have all more or less agreed on it, right?

Nothing has an external value or meaning on its own. Unless you're a Platonist and believe in some perfect form of "Literatureness", I guess. :D

It is only by common consensus that we attach meaning to something.

Severn
June 30th, 2007, 08:42 PM
It's a little like romantic and Romantic I reckon.

There's literature and then there's Literature.

The canon versus the rest.

I also reckon the canon can jump off a cliff. The old established canon that is...the Keats, the Poes, the Tennyson's and the Pounds. Bye bye, enjoy the flight.

Underneath the broad umbrella that is the canon - that oh so pompous being which established the definitions for Literature - we have the newly fledged writings of today. I see the vast parade of literature shuffling and huffing into place.

We have the genres - romances, sci-fi/fantasy, crime. Mix them up with the non-genre 'plain' stories from the likes of say Jean M Auel, Diana Gabaldon and Joanna Trollope. I'd have to say that Harlequins come out on the bottom of the heap.

They're not Literature, but they are (lucky them) literature.

Then you have contemporary fiction. Anything 'edgy'; anything that pushes the boundaries; breaks the rules; embraces the rules but with a contemporary take (who needs speech marks anyway?); anything lyrical, dealing with taboos like drugs/rape/child abuse/mental illness/cultural injustices/incest/affairs...

Now, that's the new Literature.

(Think of the very good The Lovely Bones by Sebold. A little girl raped and murdered, watching down from her own created heaven, as her family try and fix their ruined lives. Far more profound than any space ship on the way to new horizons, apparently.)

And of course the Canon tops the lot. And this is just the fiction. What chance does the non-fiction have as it scrambles for a place?

The attitudes of academia infuse society; there's a heck of a lot of misguided thinking (unthinking) out there regarding lit and Lit. Heirarchy structures much of our lives. It makes a certain sad sense to see the value placed on our reading material structured by a similar heirarchy.

Mind you, this isn't to say that a harlequin romance deserves the same level of appreciation as a Dicken's novel, or The Lovely Bones. But, if we ask the faithful reader of a harlequin, they might disagree.

KatG
June 30th, 2007, 08:59 PM
Dude, while I will not gainsay you against having a discussion of literature, etc., the reason that it is called "Books and Literature" in the Forums is that the discussion isn't always about novels -- books. Sometimes it's about short stories, graphic novels/comics, electronic publications, related film adaptations of stories, and so on. By saying "Books and Literature," you cover all forms of sffh fiction writing open to discussion and don't exclude short forms. And there are quite a few writers on this forum who write short stories and publish on the web or in magazines and do not write "books."

So if you want to write about the greater world concerning this subject, go ahead, but I'm afraid there's really not a crisis of language around here.