Booking Through Thursday-Lit-ra-chur

This week’s food for thought at Booking Through Thursday

  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?

being the bookish sort that i am, i first turned to my trusty webster’s dictionary to determine how the master defined this word.  here’s what he had to say~

the class of writings distinguished for beauty of style or expression, as poetry, essays, or history, in distinction from scientific treatises and works which contain positive knowledge; belles-lettres.”

belles-lettres.  i love that term, don’t you?

beautiful letters. 

certainly Dickens, Tolstoy and Shakespeare wrote “beautiful letters” – but so did Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Woolf, and so are Tyler, Russo, and Ford.  library and bookstore shelves abound with works “distinguished for beauty or style of expression,” produced by pens (and keyboards) from every century. 

what sets some works of literature apart from others, i think, is its staying power, its ability to leave a lasting impression on the  reader, one that crosses centuries and societies.  so certainly the “classics” -the Austens, Brontes and Hardy’s- possess that quality.  as do many of our more contemporary “literary” authors, like Faulkner, Hemingway, Cather.  as for the classic lit-ra-chur that will emerge from the 21st century – well, we must wait and see for that.

beautiful letters – and i read them all with great pleasure.

13 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday-Lit-ra-chur

  1. Belles lettres usually means “literary” writing that doesn’t fit into major categories like plays or novels.

    But to me, literature means “stuff that people wrote down so that we can read it.” Harlequin romances qualify, as do Archie comics, professional journals, and email. Although I’d read the latter three, but not the former.

  2. What a wonderful post – it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling – I guess literature are our family heirlooms – books we have read and loved by great classic writers that have staying power to be passed down from generation to generation.

  3. I really like that “beautiful words” – I must remember that phrase! Books that leave a lasting impression are most certainly “literature” in whatever category they’ve been placed.

  4. The trouble is trying to pin down a definition, isn’t it? Because you can find yourself in that circular bind of needing to define the terms in the definition. What do we mean by style? I think the notion of a work that has something to say to more than one audience whether those audiences be distinguished by time or space or age is certainly an important part of what we might mean by literature.

  5. Now that’s a grand discussion! Belles lettres. Hmm. I love the Fitzgerald letters. For that matter, I just love letters — love letters included. I think of literature as traditional, having withstood the test of time. The classics. Yet, I see some contemporary writers, and I put them in that category, too. Hmm. I wonder why? Because they’re good? Yeah. Famous — some, yes. Some, probably far less so. I’m probably not quite as open as Dew — I’m not sure I’d call my e-mail, blog or even my pathetic short stories literature. But I do rather like the idea of something being written to be read. Good to ponder as I leave the office tonight!

  6. When I think of literature — I do think of Shakespeare and Dickens. Although Ms. Austin does jump to mind on occasion.

    I read literature because I enjoy it. Just finished “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton and highly recommend it. I’ll be blogging on it soon because it was better than I imagined.

  7. I teach literature so I think of it as prose or poetry that demonstrates elements that will help my students appreciate or understand how we live. What I have found is that I read literature now more as a writer paying attention to word choice, literary elements, and what makes it timeless.

  8. Belles lettres I love that term too. I completely agree with you what makes a book great is it’s ability to touch all kinds of different people through the ages.
    Great answer

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