How do you define great literature? Many of us here at HubPages study the greats and want to write like the greats. So, who are your greats, why are they great, and how can we learn from them?
The definition is pretty hard to create, because I have a pretty broad idea of what can constitute literature. So, I'll just jump to the next part.
Henry James, Edith Wharton, James Joyce and modern great Cormac McCarthy. Reading them forces me to slow wayyyyyyy down, to see what careful, writerly prose looks and feels and sounds like. I know that modern readers haven't the patience for them, but I think by reading them, modern writers can internalize rhythms that are useful.
I think Chekhov is a must for short story writers.
Plus, great poetry. Doesn't even matter what,just good poetry (Eliot, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickinson, Yeats, Owen...etc. way too many to list). Great way to learn economy of language and the value of the RIGHT verb or noun.
And if you haven't read the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, and Shakespeare, you're going to miss a crapton of references and allusions.
A lot of things dictate great literature for me. Do I like the author's writing style and is it effective? Is it all just purple prose or does it illustrate a story smoothly? Is the story intriguing, thoughtful and relatable? Is the author eccentric? Does it affect me on some level?
These are answers I find, and not all are answere by every 'great literature' piece I read. For example, the play Equus really made me think about religion idolization, as well as how boring and normal everyone would be without it or other odd fancies in life. Seriously, a great piece of literature. :]
Hermann Hesse. I think I said it several times. Read The Glass Bead Game and you'll see why
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