Often times, when one talks about literature, one thinks of the greats- of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Chaucer. Often times, when one talks about literature, one thinks of the long list of dead white men and what the things that they wrote that have been considered over the years, centuries even, the highest forms of writing. But of course, that is not all literature is and limiting the view of literature to just these few examples and ignoring the vast wealth of so many other wonderful texts is a tragedy.
Literature is so much more than a compilation of a few canonical texts, so much more than what have been designated as classics. I love reading classics, analysing them, talking about them. But at the same time I understand that literature is a form of culture and there is a reason why so many of the ‘classics’ are texts written by dead white men. Because we live in an imperfect world, the identity of who wrote a piece of literature is often very closely tied to whether or not it’s considered a ‘classic’ or a part of the ‘great literary canon’.
So, here’s what I have to say: literature is so much more than what a few lists deem as great. Any form of snobbery based on what one reads or write that stems from what is real literature or not is honestly baseless, pointless, and often ends up supporting or furthering deeply ingrained biases.
I could go into deep discussions about how and why certain texts became canon over time, how new canons have emerged that feature previously silenced voices but let’s keep that for another day. For now, let’s just conclude by saying that, all forms of literature are great and limiting literature to what a few have decided as the great pieces of literature is deeply limiting.