1.After reading Jonathan Culler’s “What is literature and does it matter?”, I’m tempted to say that the main aspect of it all is that context is indeed key. He informs us that unlike science that has a definitive chain of events, a cause and effect formula, literature is widely open to interpretation and even quite simply the opinion of the reader. However, at the very same time, literature tends to have an intended purpose. A college textbook, while factual and educational, would hardly be considered a “literary work”. On the other hand, fictional works, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have been praised for their “literariness” on their ability to excite the mind, cause discussion, and invoke emotion. Rhymes and poems, without their respective contexts, might appear nonsensical and out of place, and might open themselves to ridicule for their sometimes lack of proper grammar. But these works are held to a higher standard because society has deemed them worthy.
Aesthetics only further blurs the line between literary and not: seemingly creating purpose, but it is almost completely subjective and, again, open to interpretation. Literature does appear to have an ironically human universal trait: it is on a constant journey of self-discovery. It builds on itself, it evolves, and it is constantly challenged. Literature can serve either many different purposes or just the one, whether it is practical or not. Why is the definition of literature important? I suppose it serves to separate what is worth your attention and investment from what is not, but isn’t that inherently subjective?
2.”Are there qualities shared by poems, play, and novels that distinguish them from, say, songs, transcriptions of conversations, and autobiographies?”(pg 21) This quote stuck with me as it made me think about literature’s instinctive ambiguity.