Shorelines

It seems like there are fine lines everywhere when it comes to categorizing different types of art, because I would call Fun Home a work of literature. However, I wouldn’t call the Garfield comics literature. I’m not sure if I would call satirical, political cartoons literature or not.

But I feel like it’s unfair to really categorize any of these in this way, because it’s just how I feel about these different types of art works and comics. Garfield is comic about a fat cat and his owner. How could that be literary? But maybe it could be literary, if you approached it that way. What if you read the comic and said that Garfield was a critique of American society? You said that he represents wealth and our surplus of it, because of how fat he is. You could say that John is a slave at times to Garfield, because he makes his cat lasagna, a dish that takes a long time to prepare. Maybe you could make an argument that Garfield and any other Sunday comic is literature.

I just don’t feel like those are literature. At least I don’t think they’re literature in the way that Fun Home is. Perhaps it’s the intent behind the piece. Fun Home was obviously constructed to make a point about sexuality and fatherhood (among other themes). It was written to be funny, or to entertain, which is how I feel about Garfield. But then there’s Calvin and Hobbes, which was written for similar reasons as Garfield, but I would say it’s literature in some sense. And so is Non-Sequitor and Pearls and Swine, because those comics all make points about life, childhood, society, and art itself.

So where is the line between art and literature? At the beginning of this semester, I thought I knew the answer to this. Now I have no idea. Isn’t creative writing called art? Isn’t art a representation of truth through the eye of the artist? Couldn’t you define creative nonfiction in the same way? What I’ve come to realize is that there is no line between art and literature. Instead it’s like a shoreline, where waves move sand back and forth and sideways. The coast is unstable, but it looks like a definite line from high enough in the sky. It seems like the best way to describe the line between art and literature, because literature can be art as well as art, literature. It’s the way the author and the reader both approach the piece that determines which category it fits in, and evaluation in this manner is so entirely subjective that it does, sort of, come down to how you feel a piece is working.

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