What is Good Literature vs. Bad Literature?

The field of good literature is so vast that there is something in it for every intelligence But the field of bad literature is not less broad and is likely to be preferred by the common uncultivated taste To make good reading more attractive than bad to give right direction to the choice the growing intelligence of the child should lie nourished with
selected portions of the best literature the virtue of which has been approved by long consent These selections besides merit in point of literary form should possess as general human interest as possible and should be Specially chosen with reference to the culture of the imagination

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Book Discussion - What is Good Literature vs. Bad Literature?

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Inkweaver Review 2009-05-12T09:26:00-05:00

4 replies so far. What are your thoughts?

Book Calendar said...

"Good Literature" is the literature which can be accepted to purchase because it has been labeled as things which the public should read. It does not mean that they want to read it, but there is some "merit" attached to it because of either status or literary merit. There is a difference between a book having prestige and status because of an author and having literary merit.

Bad literature is often used as an excuse to not buy things which people want to read in both bookstores and libraries. Sometimes people categorize all "science fiction" as bad literature or all "noire mysteries" as bad literature. It is used often as a way to "educate" tastes away from what people really want to read. Romance fiction is often viewed as "bad liteature". Romance is the most read category of books in many places. The latest bad literature might be urban fiction.


The second problem with the concept of "Good Literature" is that it does not promote truly excellent new authors, or obscure authors with superb literary merit. It is based around the concept of popularity, the test of time concept. I don't complete accept the "long consent" ideology. It goes against the reading of newer more experimental modern literature, independent small press writers, and archival quality works with high literary merit but low readership like Dalkey Archive press.


It is why the classic section of the library or bookstore is packed with very old fashioned books which you are expected to hand to teenagers as the best possible book for them to read. Some of these are excellent like Hemingway, Jane Austen, or Arthur Conan Doyle but many are not so great as an incentive to make people read. They may be excellent literature but not good incentives to read.

Good books and good literature are two different concepts in my mind. The books in good literature are fine, the concept is problematic.

NathanKP said...

Thanks for the great comment Book Calendar. I like your take on this issue.

I agree that students are often turned away from reading because they don't like the literature that they are forced to read.

Many modern good books are much more interesting, and I think that their plots make more sense because they are expressed in modern terms.

That's why I review both classic literature, and popular new books. The Inkweaver Review rating system uses the following questions to rate a book:

* Was the author able to impart the story in such a way that the reader is not distracted by the words themselves?

* Does the book contain wonderful descriptions that carry the reader away from reality to another world?

* Did the author’s presentation of the book’s content have an undertone of meaning, such that the reader is left feeling that they have learned something important by reading the book?

Escapability is a major ingredient in modern literature, and it is something that readers have come to expect. They don't want long, drawn out descriptions of court life, complex relationships, and other subjects discussed in classic literature. They want something filled with action, that takes them to another world or viewpoint.

But, I also feel that both "good books" and "good literature" have to have good meaning as well. Every book teaches something, even if it is a fiction book. If the message behind the book is a fundamentally flawed one, like "Stealing is alright as long as you get away with it," or "The answer to conflict and problems is violence," then that is not a "good message." That's why we see banned books.

There are some banned books that I don't agree with, as the books are perfectly fine, but there are others, including a few that I've seen recently banned, that I wholehearted agree with, because they contained discussions of sex and masturbation in a book for elementary school readers. Why introduce such books to young readers so soon?

That is "bad literature" or "bad books." It is the job of parents and educators to help children find "good literature" and "good books" to cultivate their reading taste. If after that, they want to read other books, they will. Children are always going to be attracted to some books, like the Harry Potter series, or Twilight. But if they just focus on these mass media, magic and sex books then they'll miss out on a lot of really deep meaningful books available.

Anonymous said...

good literature must add knowledge to the existing knowledge

Anonymous said...

good literature must add knowledge to the existing knowledge