Squares and Rectangles

What is literature? A book? An essay? Poetry?

The Oxford English dictionary defines literature as: familiarity with letters or books; knowledge acquired from reading or studying books, esp. the principal classical texts associated with humane learning; literary culture; learning, scholarship. On dictionary.com, literature is defined as: writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

To me, literature is a large component of reading and writing. For one, literature can be considered as all the “classic” works that are read and analyzed by scholars. But literature can also be looked at as any form of writing/text. I think that classifying a work of literature is an immensely subjective task that should afforded solely to high-brow critics. Personally, deciding whether or not to call something literature is rather futile. It is about as fruitless as debating over the genre of a book that blurs the distinction between several genres. I understand that it may have some merit in referring to something as literature, but, hypothetically, you could go as far as to call a brochure literature.

That being said, I would call Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home literature. If it were merely an autobiography, I would still call it literature. But it is more than an autobiography. Fun Home is an in depth view of Bechdel’s childhood and deals with some important concepts, such as coming of age, homosexuality, father-daughter dynamics, suicide, etc. Bechdel’s tragicomic is a multi-layered critique of her family life growing up and it touches on significant social taboos by using all kinds of metaphors, Greek mythology being the most recurring analogy.

Not only does Bechdel use all kinds of literary techniques in her work, but she also confronts the controversies surrounding the content. She tackles the public perception of lesbians and other related issues. Several libraries and cities, including a town in Missouri, even attempted to ban Fun Home due to its racy content.

Not only would I consider Fun Home literature, but I also think that it is very artful. Just because a work is considered literature, doesn’t mean it can’t be art. Similar to how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all literature is art, but not all art is literature.

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