Friday, April 10, 2009

Your list of saints

My American Lit II students and I are reading Barbara Kingsolver at the moment. We read a couple of her short stories for today, and we'll begin our week-long discussion of The Bean Trees next week. I like Kingsolver. She's fun to read, she "resonates" with me and with many students. She has many rich and diverse texts to bring to the discussion. 

A student in the class said, the other day, however, that s/he didn't think that Kingsolver should be considered "literature. " S/he made this statement at the end of class, so I didn't really have time to follow up on this quite provocative comment and see exactly what s/he meant by it. As I prepped for today's class, however, I decided to make that question -- of whether or not Kingsolver's text(s) can be considered literature -- a central part of the discussion. The student who raised the question wasn't in class today, however. (sigh)

We had the discussion anyway. It probably wasn't as much fun to do it without the provocateur present to make and defend those claims, but it was quite good anyway. We made a couple of lists, trying to enumerate what is and isn't literature. We looked up words like "literature," and "classic," and "canon" in the dictionary. We made short lists of "texts" we thought belonged to "literature." We even talked about Kingsolver's stories some. ;-)

The question I have for all y'all is "What do YOU think literature is?" You may define literature in almost any way you choose, but you must give at least one example of your definition. 

Here's an interesting bit from class today. The dictionary we used defined "canon," in part, as a "list of saints." Now I know that such a definition doesn't direclty refer to the literary canon, but I think you can see how it is symbolic of the way we rever certain authors and texts. My "list of saints" includes writers/texts like Orson Scott Card/Ender's Game, and Mary Doria Russell/The Sparrow. 

So... who is on your list of saints? 


Patricia Murphy, a resident of said...

When little Father Time leaves his note that says "done because we are too menny," when Mark Doty asks "What did you think, that joy was some slight thing?", that's literature. It's when something makes you cry and laugh at the same time and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Saints? well, Clark you know that's a loaded question to ask a former Catholic (look up my name saint and you'll see that the similarities are eerie). I cut my teeth on Poe, and yet I never mention him. Obviously, I like Hardy and Mark Doty. I've actually got a secret Willa Cather thing that nobody knows about. I love Jonathan Lethem and James Hoch. I think Margaret Atwood is brilliant, and I'll keep Marilynne Robinson on my list because, even though Gilead left me cold, Housekeeping changed my life.

Did you know that (usually older) Catholics carry around cards with saints' pictures and prayers on them? They're actually called prayer cards. We should make them with authors and excerpts, yes?

Happy Easter. How many dozen eggs are you coloring?

Clark Draney said...

We only colored a couple dozen eggs. And we've already eaten them in egg-salad sandwiches. Easter (the candy-coated, egg-hunting part) was pretty low key around our house this year. I guess that's because the boys are totally okay with saving the bucks we might have spent on goodies to use for the upcoming Disneyland trip.

Patricia Murphy, a resident of said...

Disneyland! Cool. Thanks for the graphic novel/comic book tips.