This is my understanding of the essay "What is Literature" by Terry Eagleton. If you have read the text and understood it there is no need to waste your time reading this post before the exam.
What is literature?- Terry Eagleton
Mr. Pinto said "if there is any theory answers this question it must encompass all its dimensions, and even if one of thedimensions is missing the theory fails.
Terry Eagleton, in his essay challenges all the definitions of Literature that have been put forth and challenges the basic understanding of literature that we have. In fact he rejects the idea of any "basic understanding" of what is literature.
Literature as Imaginative writing
* He begins with Literature being defined as imaginative writing.* With imaginative/fictional/creative writing such as works by Shakespeare, Milton etc. other works which were not exactly fiction or imaginative writing were included as a part for English Literature. Example: Sermons of John Donne, Madame De Sevigne's letters to her daughter, philosophy of Descartes and Pascal.
* There was no clear distinction between 'fact' and 'fiction'.
* In thelate 16th and early 17th century 'novel' used both factual and fictional events and even news reports were not considered purely factual.
* Genesis read as fact by some and fiction by others. Therefore no clear cut difference between fact and fiction.
* Moreover if one still goes by this definition, there are many works of fiction that are not considered to be Literature. Example: Millsand boon, Superman comics, Sidney Sheldon.
* "If literature is 'creative' or 'imaginitive' writing, does this imply that history, philosophy and natural science are uncreative and unimaginative?"
Literature as 'writing' that uses peculiar language
* It is because Literature uses the language in peculiar ways that it is different from everyday 'normal' way of speech.
* Roman Jakobson,speaks of Literature as "organised violence committed on ordinary speech".
* Disproportion between signifier and signified: A mismatch between the signifier and the signified. For example when in Macbeth you read the line "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow..." you know that the character is talking of eternal bore dome and not of the literal meaning of the word 'tomorrow' therefore creatinga mismatch in the signifier (tomorrow) and the signified (the next day).
* By bringing in peculiarity the language draws attention to itself. This is the reason when you read a fairy tale that starts with "Once upon a time..." you know that there is no real history associated with the line but it refers to a time in the story therefore drawing attention to itself or the text present in frontof you.
* "The formalists started out by seeing the literary work as a more of less arbitrary assemblage of 'devices' , and only later came to see these devices as interrelated elements or 'functions' within a total textual system.
* These devices included imagery, sound, rhythm, syntax, metre, rhyme, narrative techniques etc.
* These devices were used as literary elements to'defamiliarise' or 'estragement'.
* In other words "It was language 'made strange'; and because of this estrangement, the everyday world was also suddenly made unfamiliar".
* What he is trying to imply here is that in our everyday routine we get so used to the usual things that we hardly notice them, we become "as Formalists would say 'automatised', Literature, by forcing us into a dramaticawareness of language, refreshes these habitual responses and renders objects more perceptile."
* By defamiliarising or alienating us from the text or ordinary speech gives a fuller understand or a kind of revelation or the same experience. Its like after you have a fight or an argument, you sit alone and do a flashback of what happened and you try to hear your own words and put yourself in the...