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Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#61
Literature (with a capital L*) is everything in a cultural canon, from the earliest classics (in the case of Western Literature) like Homer and Hesiod to more recent modern works. Literary Fiction then, as I understand it, attempts to extend Literary canon by writing stories, books and poetry that is up to current (academically defined) canonical standard. The kind of stuff that, like the classics, is excellent fodder for academic analysis and interpretation. So... by writing Literary Fiction, one is attempting to write what will be considered Literature by academics.
There are probably several ways to define Literature with a capital L, as you say. For me, and the approach taken during my studies, however, literature encompasses everything that is fiction. Poetry or prose, novels, short stories or manuscript plays. It doesn't even have to originally be in written form (though that's inevitably how we will end up having access to it); oral stories, folk songs etc. count as well. In other words, literature is synonymous with fiction; we just use the term literature to signal that the context is a theoretical/critical discussion of it.

Of course, this is the broadest possible definition and it might almost seem useless in that case, but I think of it as a starting point. It means that no matter what the discussion (usually one concerning quality, theme, or influence/effect), nothing is left out initially. This definition is the basis for the critical inquiry, which can then subsequently build its own criteria to include or exclude works.

The advantage of this broad definition is also that it is impervious to time. You mention yourself Aristotle extolling plot as the hallmark of quality, whereas in our time, fiction driven by plot is usually thought less of. Defining literature as the works that are good means this definition is constantly in flux, and it ends up being more an example of what society at that point in time considers good fiction. This can have its own use, but it doesn't work very well as a a basis for criticism. I've read Aristotle's Poetics three times as part of my studies, and I find it fascinating as the progenitor of my field and as an example of what the foremost (by virtue of being the only) literary critic of that time considered good fiction. But it's not really useful as a foundation for critical theory, as opposed to Nothrop Frye's approach in The Critical Path, where working off my aforementioned definition he is able to make the most remarkable observations on the structure, development, and influence of literature throughout history.

@Elvira and @Peat, what would you consider social biases that influence your reading or choice of reading material? Can you be as specific and exhausting as possible? I would like to delve into this topic as much as we can, if others don't mind going in that direction.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#62
@Elvira and @Peat, what would you consider social biases that influence your reading or choice of reading material? Can you be as specific and exhausting as possible? I would like to delve into this topic as much as we can, if others don't mind going in that direction.
My method is not very orthodox. See what you think of it.
A social bias is a branch off cognitive bias resulting in how we establish prejudicial attitude a priory (conscious or unconscious) when we think about other people's behaviour. This generally will affect your decision process in how you approach your speaking, your writing even how your filter info. SB is loosely defined and not that clearly tackled by academics, as opposed to cognitive bias.
I keep a few SB in my head, firstly to check myself out, when in the mood and I find it very helpful at work when collecting data in order to avoid the fuzzy terms.
Regarding which SB could influence your writing or reading, I think the following could help. I’m translating these bias names, so they might sound clanky in English:
  • Group Trait Error. You infer characteristics of a group based on the observation but of a few. Zß, let's suppose you dismiss alpha/romance fantasy because the covers put you off, or even you have read one or maybe two books. Does it mean you wouldn’t enjoy a very well written, round romance? Is all romantic fantasy trashy? I had this bias with Hard Science Fiction novels and still have with Brandon Sanderson.
  • Preferential Bias would be the opposite: you keep reading a particular author/genre because you identify yourself with what you consider to be its positive traits, and therefore you pursue this venue because of a sense of loyal belonging. The quality in is not always consistent but your loyalty is.
  • Error in Unison: we think our opinions are more widely accepted by others than they really are. This helps us feeling more normal, happier with our choices. Let’s say you indeed love trashy alpha/romance fantasy. You know what its value is ,rather questionable, but you persist on your choice with a false sense of accord from others.
Changing biases is hard but not until you begin to acknowledge them, you stand a chance...
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#63
I was approaching it more from the angle that social bias effects which books are put before me and which books are recommended to me before I ever make a decision.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#64
That sounds interesting too, @Peat, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

And thank you, @Elvira, sorry for the late reply; been some busy few weeks. I think I am definitely guilty of the first of these you mention; although I rationally know each book is potentially unique (so I try not to dismiss a book out of hand), I still tend to lump them together very coarsely based on genres or similar categories, and I rarely read e.g. romance or detective stories for such reasons. Being a writer cured me of the second, though - I have become much more critical of the fantasy I read nowadays, because I pick it apart to distinguish what I like and dislike, so I can apply that to my own writing. I invariably find much more to dislike than like, because I am getting so set in my ways; an unfortunate byproduct of writing, I guess. As for the third bias, attending university and the internet cured me of that, where I discovered that my academic peers cared almost nothing for fantasy like I do, and I constantly disagree with what other fantasy readers express online. =)
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#65
That sounds interesting too, @Peat, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

And thank you, @Elvira, sorry for the late reply; been some busy few weeks. I think I am definitely guilty of the first of these you mention; although I rationally know each book is potentially unique (so I try not to dismiss a book out of hand), I still tend to lump them together very coarsely based on genres or similar categories, and I rarely read e.g. romance or detective stories for such reasons. Being a writer cured me of the second, though - I have become much more critical of the fantasy I read nowadays, because I pick it apart to distinguish what I like and dislike, so I can apply that to my own writing. I invariably find much more to dislike than like, because I am getting so set in my ways; an unfortunate byproduct of writing, I guess. As for the third bias, attending university and the internet cured me of that, where I discovered that my academic peers cared almost nothing for fantasy like I do, and I constantly disagree with what other fantasy readers express online. =)
Well, the first group is so self evident that when you point it out to someone, they usually look at you like "duh":bag: This is the most common bias and the one people struggle the most with. Admittedly, my example of the romance fantasy was rather exaggerated and obvious, but when you try to reflect about topics with confusing and fuzzy definitions, then it is far more revealing. I can't come up with a good example regarding writing habits. I leave that to you. All what comes to mind is work related stuff. This is n1 to watch out for when I'm doing assesments.
Regarding the other two, you are safe with your critical literary background. It well keeps you on your toes and helps you avoid these mental traps. Lucky you!
 
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