It’s More Than Just a Story…

For tomorrow’s class, I had the choice to read one of two articles about what exactly literature is. I chose to look at Johnathan Culler’s “What is Literature and Does It Matter?” mainly because it had an attractive font and some pictures and really, who doesn’t like some pictures in their assigned reading? Anyway, Culler obviously discusses what literature actually is in his article but what he says it actually is is quite interesting. Basically, literature can’t be defined with one single sentence or with a few words; there are so many aspects of literature and what it can do that a definition just won’t work.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well thanks Elise for enlightening me with this abundance of knowledge that I will now take with me everywhere I go.”

And you were probably sitting there while you read that looking like this:

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But honestly, the concept of literature is so complex that it just can’t be done. Culler does explain, however, how over time, the nature of literature has been expressed by many people in many ways. Whether in its literal sense of a work of fiction; or how it can be considered as a tool to help readers ponder how strange language actually is; or how it is around to make readers self-reflect, literature takes many forms. What surprised me the most was Culler’s comparison between literature and history, and how history is like a literary narrative in the way the “story” has a plot, connecting the initial situation, the development, and the outcome together in a way that makes sense (Culler). I found this to be a very interesting way to look at history and how the events that occurred started from one or two small instances.

How this is going to relate in any way to my primary analysis, I have no idea. I guess in a way, I am trying to figure out the paradox of literature, which Culler mentions this as literature being  “an institution that lives by exposing and criticizing its own limits, by testing what will happen if one writes differently,” through my findings. Through the primary texts that I am looking at for my capstone project, I am trying to deduce what parts can be criticized from the stance that I am taking and which of those parts would be integral to supporting my main idea.


Until next time.


explore. muse. create.



And look at that! A new source! WHAT??

Culler, Jonathan. “What Is Literature and Does It Matter?” Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. 18-41. Print.

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