What Makes Something Literature?

When I read the Sherlock Holmes Story The Adventures of the Cardboard Box, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as a literary piece I would read for English class. While it is not written childishly it doesn’t present itself as sophisticated or overly complicated. It is not lacking in big words or literary devices but it is missing a sense of scholarly difficulty I come to expect from a reading for English class. However, I believe this doesn’t mean that the work lacks literary merit. On the contrary I believe it ultimately helps to elevate the work overall and make it more appealing and worth reading to the majority of people.

Like most students, I often dread having to read articles or stories for English class. They are usually long, superfluously written and have very little relevance to my day-to-day life. This doesn’t make them bad works in anyway but just a different type of work. They are often used to teach us how to write properly or to focus on enhancing our in depth analytical skills, which means they are set in front of us to challenge us. While reading something challenging can be rewarding, I find that it more often than not sucks much of the enjoyment out of the reading. For example, if something is so hard for me to understand and takes many readings to understand, it will likely frustrate me and make me want to simply put the book down. I would be unable to enjoy the story told or absorb the information in front of me. Books with a balance of a little bit of challenge offer a great balance of reward and enjoyment.

While it’s hard to think of The Adventures of the Cardboard Box as a scholarly book, it is a story that is both interesting and definitely has literary merit. The reason we don’t see it as a book of literary merit is because we enjoy it so much. We don’t think about things we would think about while we are reading a book for English class. We are not reading for symbols, themes, motifs or other literary elements we might normally be looking for. I believe this happens because we are simply enjoying the work too much to waste time to thinking about anything other then what is possibly going to happen next. While this doesn’t mean the work is lacking in literary elements. In fact, I believe they are probably better writers because they incorporate them so well into texts that as readers we simply don’t see them as nothing but another sentence.

One thought on “What Makes Something Literature?

  1. Steven,
    I agree with many of the ideas in your blog post. When I typically read something for English, I do not look forward to it. This is because most of the time my teachers assign very dense and technically complicated material that makes is not enjoyable to read. When you spend a long time trying to understand certain literary devises, it becomes hard to focus on enjoying the material or the plot of a story. I think that Sherlock Holmes stories have literary value because they include many common elements of literature, but they are just incorporated more fluidly than in typical literature that is read in English classes.


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