Criteria for Literary Art

Author Annie Dillard once wrote, “Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts?” (1). Dillard was clearly not interested in reading gossip magazines or the latest Buzzfeed article. She was interested in the depth and the overwhelming feeling that comes with getting lost in a piece of written art, or literature.Not all written works can be defined as literature. An instruction manual should not be categorized with the likes of Shakespeare. Literature provides a glimpse into our world, both past and present, and focuses on the method in which that information is delivered. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines literature as, “Written works that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance.”(1). Even this basic description of literature allows us to cut out a multitude of writings and focus on those that have inspired, transformed, and brought meaning to our lives.It is a guide for life. Literature should be defined as a text that does all of the following; writings that focus on expression and form, discuss ideas that are universal and important, and give insight into these topics beyond superficial understanding.

If literature is written with expert expression and form, the setting and location can take on the form of one of the characters. In Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, she takes the reader on a journey through both real and imaginary England. The reader can easily envision the English countryside with its fields, meadows, villages, and grand mansions. On an entirely different continent, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath takes the reader on quite a different journey from Oklahoma to California’s central valley. It starts with the “dust bowl” experience in Sail Saw Oklahoma. It describes in vivid detail what it is to be devastat…