The notion of Literature has been around for so long that it seems to need no
definition; and yet on a brief thought, it seems to be not an easy task to pin it down,
due to its complexity, relativity and continuously shifting aspect. However, it is
critical to this research to explore and attempt to find a suitable denotation to
determine whether videogames can or cannot be considered part of it.
Many scholars have sought to establish a final and definite definition of
Literature, but ink is still spilled in an attempt to answer the questions: What is
Literature? And what is not Literature?
Renowned literary critic Jonathan Culler (2000) in his book Literary Theory
dedicates a large division to defining literature, he assumes that literature is what a
certain culture deems as Literature, but that, to him, only leads to the questions:
“What makes us treat something as literature?” (p. 22) implying a Criterial approach
to define Literature, as is used in English dictionaries, where a set of criteria need to
be met in order for works to be called Literature (Meyer, 1997).
To set a line between what can be considered literary or non-literary, Culler
(2000) suggests that literature is “language decontextualized, cut off from other
functions and purposes”, in that case, the text is itself a context that calls for a special
kind of attention as what we believe literature tends to do. This is what gives it its
interpretable and examinable qualities.
Collins English Dictionary’s entry for Literature states, “written material such
as poetry, novels, essays, etc, especially works of imagination characterized by
excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest.”
However, this definition does not exclude factual works like history or
scientific books or even a recipe, at the same time; it allows the inclusion of any
medium that bears an enduring value in terms of style and themes. In this respect,
scholars René Wellek ; Austen Warren (1984) take issue with the contention
suggesting that the term Literature is kept only to denote the art of literature, that is,
“imaginative literature”, pointing a problem with the term itself which etymologically
comes from litera indicating only written or printed literature, thus excluding ‘oral
literature’ (p. 11).
Along the same argument, essayist and critic Arthur Krystal (2016), argues
that literature is no longer what it used to be fifty years ago. It has been redefined
since 2009 by Marcus and Sollors with the publication of A New Literary History of
America in which, to them, “literary” denotes “not only what is written but what is
voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form” (p. 1).
Omar Rahmoun (2013), echoing Culler’s definition, summarises the
significance of literature to people saying: “literature is considered as those writings
that carry people’s voice, expressing their emotional as well as their intellectual
pleasure. In addition to its artistic aspect, literature holds a social role shown in the
different walks of life” (p. 9).