Literature cannot develop between the categories "permitted""""not permitted""""this you can and that you can't." Literature that is not the air of its contemporary society, that dares not warn in time against threatening moral and social dangers, such literature does not deserve the name of literature; it is only a facade. Such literature loses the confidence of its own people, and its published works are used as waste paper instead of being read. -Letter to the Fourth National Congress of Soviet Writers
Christ and the life of Christ is at this moment inspiring the literature of the world as never before, and raising it up a witness against waste and want and war. It may confess Him, as in Tolstoi's work it does, or it may deny Him, but it cannot exclude Him; and in the degree that it ignores His spirit, modern literature is artistically inferior. In other words, all good literature is now Christmas literature.
William Dean Howells
Most British playwrights of my generation, as well as younger folks, apparently feel somewhat obliged to Russian literature - and not only those writing for theatres. Russian literature is part of the basic background knowledge for any writer. So there is nothing exceptional in the interest I had towards Russian literature and theatre. Frankly, I couldn't image what a culture would be like without sympathy towards Russian literature and Russia, whether we'd be talking about drama or Djagilev.
Human beings don't necessarily exist inside of (or correspond to) the neat racial, gendered or national boxes into which we often unthinkingly place them. It's a mistake to ask literature to reinforce such structures. Literature tends to crack them. Literature is where we free ourselves.
These studies are the result of my attempt to extract the essence of literature. Literature is either the essential or nothing. I believe that the Evil-an acute form of Evil-which it expresses, has a sovereign value for us. But this concept does not exclude morality: on the contrary, it demands a 'hypermorality.' Literature is communication. Communication requires loyalty. A rigorous morality results from complicity in the knowledge of Evil, which is the basis of intense communication. -Literature and Evil
For the judging of contemporary literature the only test is one's personal taste. If you much like a new book, you must call it literature even though you find no other soul to agree with you, and if you dislike a book you must declare that it is not literature though a million voices should shout you that you are wrong. The ultimate decision will be made by Time.
Ford Madox Ford
One task of literature is to formulate questions and construct counterstatements to the reigning pieties. And even when art is not oppositional, the arts gravitate toward contrariness. Literature is dialogue: responsiveness. Literature might be described as the history of human responsiveness to what is alive and what is moribund as cultures evolve and interact with one another.
Our fiction is not merely in flight from the physical data of the actual world... it is, bewilderingly and embarrassingly, a gothic fiction, nonrealistic and negative, sadist and melodramatic - a literature of darkness and the grotesque in a land of light and affirmation... our classic [American] literature is a literature of horror for boys
Literature had torn Tessa and me apart, or prevented us from merging in the first place. That was its role in the world, I'd started to fear: to conjure up disagreements that didn't matter and inspire people to act on them as though they mattered more than anything. Without literature, humans would all be one. Warfare was simply literature in arms. The pen was the reason man invented the sword.
Books should confuse. Literature abhors the typical. Literature flows to the particular, the mundane, the greasiness of paper, the taste of warm beer, the smell of onion or quince. Auden has a line: "Ports have names they call the sea." Just so will literature describe life familiarly, regionally, in terms life is accustomed to use -- high or low matters not. Literature cannot by this impulse betray the grandeur of its subject -- there is only one subject: What it feels like to be alive. Nothing is irrelevant. Nothing is typical.
I see no reason in morality, why literature should not have as one of its intentions the arousing of thoughts of lust. It is one of the effects, perhaps one of the functions of literature to arouse desire, and I can discover no grounds for saying that sexual pleasure should not be among the objects of desire which literature presents to us, along with heroism, virtue, peace, death, food, wisdom, God, etc.
Much, maybe too much, has been written about literature. (I know better than anyone; I'm an expert in the field). Yet the special thing about literature, the major art form of a Western civilization now ending before our very eyes, is not hard to define. Like literature, music can overwhelm you with sudden emotion, can move you to absolute sorrow or ecstasy; like literature, painting has the power to astonish, and to make you see the world through fresh eyes. But only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, it limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, interesting, exciting, or repugnant. Only literature can grant you access to a spirit from beyond the grave-a more direct, more complete, deeper access than you'd have in conversation with a friend. Even in our deepest, most lasting friendships, we never speak so openly as when we face a blank page and address an unknown reader.
To write is to forget. Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life. Music soothes, the visual arts exhilarates, the performing arts (such as acting and dance) entertain. Literature, however, retreats from life by turning in into slumber. The other arts make no such retreat- some because they use visible and hence vital formulas, others because they live from human life itself. This isn't the case with literature. Literature stimulates life. A novel is a story of what never was, a play is a novel without narration. A poem is the expression of ideas or feelings a language no one uses, because no one talks in verse.
English is, from my point of view as an Americanist, an ethnicity. And English literature should be studied in Comparative Literature. And American literature should be a discipline, certainly growing from England and France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the Native traditions, particularly because those helped form the American canon. Those are our backgrounds. And then we'd be doing it the way it ought to be done. And someday I hope that it will be.
Paula Gunn Allen
Literature is the best way to overcome death. My father, as I said, is an actor. He's the happiest man on earth when he's performing, but when the show is over, he's sad and troubled. I wish he could live in the eternal present, because in the theater everything remains in memories and photographs. Literature, on the other hand, allows you to live in the present and to remain in the pantheon of the future.Literature is a way to say, I was here, this is what I thought, this is what I perceived. This is my signature, this is my name.
Literature deals with morality but does not necessarily, does not, qua literature, help you to be more moral, either by precept or example. It makes you more aware. Which is to say that it makes you more human by making life more, not less, difficult. When you become more aware, the area of moral choice is widened. You can be a better man; you can also be a worse. Literature will not determine which. It is the equivalent of neither grace nor good works.
Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, wheras literature teaches us to notice. Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.
Literature can no longer be either Mimesis or Mathesis but merely Semiosis, the adventure of what is impossible to language, in a word: Text (it is wrong to say that the notion of 'text' repeats the notion of 'literature': literature represents a finite world, the text figures the infinite of language).
What a lost person needs is a map of the territory, with his own position marked on it so he can see where he is in relation to everything else. Literature is not only a mirror; it is also a map, a geography of the mind. Our literature is one such map, if we can learn to read it as our literature, as the product of who and where we have been. We need such a map desperately, we need to know about here, because here is where we live. For the members of a country or a culture, shared knowledge of their place, their here, is not a luxury but a necessity. Without that knowledge we will not survive.
If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet.