Armchair BEA: What is Literature?

May 26, 2014 Special Feature 12

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A Little on Literature

What is Literature? As a first discussion point on the BEA agenda I felt rather daunted in answering this question. Literature can mean so many things to so many people. In its strictest sense (and thanks to Google for providing this definition), Literature is defined as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” Yes, that is exactly what it is, right?Anna Karenina

I heartily agree that literature should be considered superior work, but who is to be the judge? For one person the works of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy constitute real literature, whereas someone else will firmly argue that Harry Potter will have lasting artistic merit. I believe that both points of view are correct.

HP adultIn my opinion, Literature is anything that speaks to your soul. It is prose that moves you – anything that evokes a deep emotional response. It is language that surprises and astounds you. It is characters that are believable and relevant. It is when you read a sentence and have to catch your breath because its beauty is overwhelming.

What distinguishes literature from popular fiction? Popular fiction is enjoyed by a large number of readers for a limited time. I believe that true literature should stand the test of time. In 100 years, will people still be awed by the writings of Ian McEwan (Yes!) of J.K. Rowling (I believe so) and Stephanie Meyer (probably not)?

Literature is our window to the human experience. It connects us to each other and to a shared history. Most importantly – it challenges you. True literature can expose prejudices; create ideas; change minds. It is a really powerful tool if you think about it. And as such has been banned and censored throughout our history. Yet it always survives.The Blind Assassin

So who deserves the title of a literary author? Which works of fiction deserve to remain with us forever? This is obviously a completely subjective question, but I felt that ‘literary connection’ with the following books and authors (to name a few):


One Hundred Years of SolitudeCloud AtlasAtonement


Classics, of course, fall into the ‘Literature’ classification already. They have already proved their longevity. Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Hemingway and Orwell – truly masterful works of fiction that are still relevant and thought-provoking to this day.

Anyway, I am getting carried away. I am a romantic at heart, and there is hardly anything I adore more then a great literary novel. Forgive my romantic musings, look away from this screen and go find a book to read that will truly move you.

What are your favourite literary reads?

The Armchair BEA logo in this post was designed by Amber from

Natasha lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son. She is a self confessed bibliophile who enjoys literature and adult fiction. She also loves travelling and aims to visit 40 countries by the time she is 40 (current count 36).

12 Responses to “Armchair BEA: What is Literature?”

  1. Michael @ Literary Exploration

    Asking what my favourite literary read is too difficult to answer. How can I choose, Do I prefer Anna Karenina over War and Peace? Tolstoy over Dostoyevsky? Ok I love my Russian literature but what about someone like Jeffery Eugenides, I love all his books for different reasons. This question is too difficult, you are stressing me out, Natasha! LOL

    Happy ArmchairBEA
    Michael @ Literary Exploration recently posted…ArmchairBEA 2014: Introduction and LiteratureMy Profile

    • Natasha

      Jeffery Eugenides is a great choice. I loved Middlesex. Haven’t read any of his other books yet, but The Marriage Plot is sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be devoured.

  2. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

    I love Literature, but what is it? Not sure, but I know it when I read it. And I know what it isn’t; it isn’t literature or “literature” or literature! Not sure what my favorite literary book is either, but I’ve read and loved Three Musketeers and Babbitt and Great Gatsby and Good Earth and Grapes of Wrath.

    Enjoy your Armchair BEA!

    • Natasha

      The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath (and Of Mice and Men) are also some of my favourites. It is so difficult to choose which books to showcase.

  3. Lisa @ just another rabid reader

    I think you worded that perfectly. I tried to express the same sentiment about it being something that reaches into your soul and grabs ahold of you. I can see the point on the camp that proposes Harry Potter, because, years and years later, I and my children still enjoy those stories. I had to chuckle about Stephenie Meyer though. While I firmly and wholeheartedly agree with your point of view on that, it amuses me because her writing is what got me reading again after a long time.
    Lisa @ just another rabid reader recently posted…#ArmchairBEA: Day 1: IntroductionsMy Profile

    • Natasha

      Thanks Lisa. Miss Meyer may prove us all wrong (I hope not though – imagine Edward and Jacob being compared with Darcy and Knightley – *shudders*).

  4. Rachel

    I think you handled this question beautifully. I like the idea of literature being something enduring, but I do think literature can encompass more than just great works. I keep thinking about things like John Winthrop’s journal or Jonathan Edwards’s sermons that are read in an American literature course, but wouldn’t necessarily meet your definition. They have historical merit certainly. Artistic? I’m not so sure.
    Rachel recently posted…Armchair BEA IntroductionMy Profile

  5. Trish

    I think we need to be best friends. I adore Bridget Jones. LOL! Actually many of the books you listed are ones that I absolutely adore and love. Though Cloud Atlas is a bit iffy for me. I blame Sloosha. It was all gravy until his narrative.

    And YES–love that thought that literature speaks to the soul.
    Trish recently posted…Introductions and Literature – Armchair BEA 2014My Profile

    • Natasha

      Yay! Lets do it Trish. BFF’s 🙂 I agree, Zachary’s narrative in Cloud Atlas was the most trying.

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