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Q: If the book did not evoke any past memories or associations, do you consider it literature? Based on which other criteria?
I. I did not make a very clear connection with the text at all during my reading of it. Rosenblat said "The readers attention to the text activates certain elements in his past experience-external reference, internal response-that have become linked with the verbal symbols." This rang true to me for, as I was plodding through the text, I saw a well crafted story with impressive symbols and techniques, but I was never drawn into the story and often found myself putting it down and struggling back to it later. Because there was no connection for me, it was not really my "poem" and didn't provide any impact on me. My own definition of literature takes two parts: the parts from Rosenblat's essay, such as the connection on a personal level and connecting with experiences; the other part of literature for me is the test of time consisting of whether the text has been taken in by other people. After all, it isn't one person that turns a story into a classic; the same should be said of literature. Rosenblat said the same idea better than I: "Keeping the live process of the literary experience before us, I shall attempt to look more deeply into the nature of the literary experience, and to explore implications for problems of literary theory. . ." I think that Rosenblat would agree with me that it might not be literature in my own sense, but on the larger scale, literature it is.
II. At the beginning of the second semester, each individual in our English class with Dr. Taylor wrote a small definition of what literature was; it is this that I refer to for most of this section. Literature is ideas and thoughts written down with a purpose. "Not a purpose like making a shopping list, but rather to bring forth emotion from your reader, whether it's humorous, sad, depressing, angry, romantic." In my definition, I compared literature to music. I believe that anyone can throw notes onto a sheet of musical paper (or words on typing paper) and have it come out sounding like chopsticks (or a shopping list,) but it takes special talent and emotion to make it sound like any great composer (or any great author.) But the buck does not stop here. This is only half the problem. The person receiving music (or literature) has to define it as they are listening to it (or reading it.) Let me give you an example from my own experience: I have gone through many phases of both music and literature. I have gone from oldies to hard rock, from classical to industrial; I have gone from Stephen King to Kerouac; from Dean Koontz to Vincent Bugliosi. (O.K., I admit it. There was a very brief interlude of country somewhere in there. I wised up; please don't hold it against me, most gracious reader!) Other people might have never appreciated these genres of music or books, yet they were great music or literature to me at that period of time. Even though I might not have the same taste now, I still regard these examples as music and literature. "Literature is for anyone who wants to read it. Anyone."
III. Because my definition deals with two separate functions of literature (that to the reader and that to the bigger picture,) I need to tackle this last part in two parts.
Hawthorne vs. Me:
My experience of The Scarlet Letter was one that I have experienced with many school-motivated books: boredom. With few exceptions such as Childhood's End, Demian, and some various pieces from Kafka and Whitman, school-chosen books have not impressed me. This might be a negative to start each new book off with, but I can't help myself. The story of Hester was an intriguing one. A woman trapped in a love triangle with a clergyman, a (supposedly dead) husband, and her daughter seems the proper setting for a story that would if not intrigue me, at least interest me. But I was not. The first problem that I saw was the setting. I am not terribly interested with the time period of settlers and ...
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