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Great Books

DEFINING LITERATURE
What is literature?

Literature refers to the expression of life through writings that have excellent form. Through these
writings, people may express their aspirations, experiences, imaginations, ideas, beliefs, customs,
and traditions. Meanwhile, written works that represent the imaginative and creative powers of
the mind to interpret life are called literatures.

Experts and literary scholars define literature in many ways. Here are some examples:

Literature depicts the different facets of a common person’s life – something innate,
unexpected, fresh, vibrant, subdued, tolerant, gentle, and sometimes cruel. It weaves tales,
poets, eccentrics, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, environmentalists, scholars,
travelers, and farmers – lives – real or dreamy, in the purest of all possible ways.
Literature is distilled life; it is an unexpected catalyst, assisting the searcher of truth to
deepen their understanding of the world and of who he or she desires to be. Numerous
fields of study teach patience, skills, analyses, trades, and histories, but they cannot ever
adequately teach is EXPERIENCE.

~ Dr. Veronico N. Tarrayo, University of Santo Tomas

Why do we read literature?

There are two reasons for reading imaginative literature: pleasure and insight.

Pleasure or enjoyment may only be gained if one knows how to read it. Readers of literature
require certain skills in reading and must be human enough – meaning, sufficiently developed in
imagination, sympathy, or compassion.

Insight pertains to the ability of literary works to instruct its readers – to teach the readers about
the world we live in, about our fellow human beings, and about ourselves.

Literature is both a means and an end of education, because even if we read imaginative literature
for enjoyment, we also read it to make ourselves more fully human.

What makes literary works “great?”

Although different sources of knowledge provide different literary standards, they agree on these
seven standards:

1. Artistry. Also called aesthetic appeal, a literary text is appreciated by looking at its structure,
which appeals to the readers’ sense of beauty.

2. Intellectual value. Literary texts can make its readers think and reflect critically about what it
says.

3. Spiritual value. Also known as moral value, literary texts have messages and offer lessons to
its readers. Texts that contain these are high in moral value. In addition, if it strengthens the
readers’ connection with the Divine Being and uplifts their faith further, then it has this value.
Great Books

4. Suggestiveness. Also known as emotional value, good literary texts can bring out emotions
from readers.

5. Permanence. Literary texts like classics are works that are timeless and timely. In other words,
these selections can stand the test of time.

6. Universality. Good literary masterpieces are those that can cut across boundaries set by ages,
races, genders, cultures, and religions.

7. Style. Literary masterpieces are also appreciated mainly because of the person who wrote it.
The author is bound to have a specific, unique style.

Final remarks?

A liking for literature springs from a liking for life. Literature appeals to us, because it enlarges
our experience of the world and of ourselves – and in literature, these two kinds are the same
enlargement for insofar as literature opens a new world for us, and a new view of the old world
we have lived in, it also indicates new kinds of response to the world. To state the matter a little
differently, any person with a healthy love of life wants to develop, through experience, his own
possibilities. The study of literature is one of the things that can lead to the discovery of new
dimensions of the self.