Literature is a Democratic Art

By Adam J. Pearson

There are many elitists definitions of literature, but when it comes down to it, literature is simply the art of the written work. To say that literature is only those great works of art that engage profound issues that make you think deeply is like saying that music is only the classical variety. Literature is everything from lines jotted down on a scrap of paper in your pocket to the greatest literary triumphs that the human mind has produced. It includes satire and poetry and essays and articles and novels and lampoons and critiques and countless other constellations of words into works.

A written work is a work of literature. We can evaluate literary works based on definite criteria like cohesion, character development, theme exploration, linguistic style and many other criteria and find some to be of higher quality than others. This does not mean, however, that the lower quality works are not works of literature. They are. The great writers do not have a monopoly on literature; language is the property of everyone and anyone who puts the pen to paper and streams out language is a writer of literature.

I am not fond of those who say of writing, ‘either you have it or you don’t.’ Deftness with words is a skill and like all skills, can be learned, as can the aesthetic sensibility that informs it in the case of the great writers. Literature is a very democratic art in the sense that anyone who has some grasp of language can produce works of it. Anyone who can put a pen to paper, or type out words in a word processor, or speak words into a voice-to-text transcriber can be a writer. Great writers are developed, not born great. They craft themselves as writers and as they do, develop their craft. Writing is an art that is accessible to all who care to learn it.

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