What is literature…?

I’m in my final year of University at Sheffield Hallam and i’m still not clear on what literature is.
I’m studying Creative Writing, but still we have to write essays and read plenty of books. Most of these books were written long ago and are considered classics, literature. But for almost three years, and before that in college, i wondered why these books were considered classics, why they were considered literature, and why most books written today–that i read anyway–are not. Why isn’t what Stephen King writes and Lee Child writes and JK Rowling writes considered literature? Some of King’s and Rowling’s books are considered classics, but not in the way Dickens books are, or any other of the dozens of writers whose books are studied in schools, colleges and universities. But why aren’t they? Why shouldn’t they be? Why don’t schools and colleges and universities study Lee Child’s work or King’s or Rowling’s?
Sure, in the early years of High-school and in primary school we studied books by Darren Shan and Robert Westall and Phillip Pullman, but why does that change as we get older? Why can’t we study Under the Dome in university, or Killing Floor or The Hunger Games? Just because a book was written long ago, does that make it a classic? That seems to be the case.
If we studied modern books, books that i (and i’m sure many other people) actually enjoyed, wouldn’t that lead to more engaged learning, and better grades? I know it would for me. I enjoy Dracula and Frankenstein and one or two of Dickens’, but for the most part the books I’ve had to study for University are painfully boring (entirely my opinion, though i’m sure i’m not alone). But they are considered literature? Why? And why doesn’t King win the Booker Prize– it’s certainly not because he isn’t a great writer. He is. A colossal writer. There is no doubt about it. Just like Lee Child and Jo Nesbo and dozens of other writers, who deliver first rate entertainment along with sharp, quality writing. Why is there work not considered ‘literature’? Is there a rule somewhere that a book can’t be considered literature, or a classic, or win the most prestigious awards unless it sticks to certain guidelines? Can’t a purely entertaining, well written book be considered literature? This doesn’t apply to all books. I’ll admit, there are some entertaining books that are considered classic literature. I just don’t understand where the determination comes in, or who decides whether a book is classic or not, whether it is literature or not.


About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 02/26/2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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