Great Literature - What Makes it so Great? Essay example

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Great Literature - What Makes it so Great?

What is "great" literature? What makes it so great? Who decides it is great? And, most importantly, why should people read it? The answers to these four questions tell their own story, the story of the grandest works ever written.

Great literature is what has stood the test of time. This time frame can be as long as many thousands of years, and as short as twenty. What is important is that the piece of literature has been thoroughly analyzed and scrutinized, studied and talked about, criticized and scoffed at--and still survives. From the essay "What is a Classic?" from Aerie Books Ltd. an excerpt reads, "They've set aside that word [classic] solely for books that
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Literature made for profit, using unoriginal and didactic themes, is just the opposite of greatness. It toys with the reader's emotions, uses the technique of shock value (purposely morbid images for example), and the reader forgets it soon upon finishing reading. Movies are no different; a movie is simply a book that is seen on a screen instead of in the mind. And it is when books are made into movies, one can see the "greatness factor" being sucked out and substituted with cheap thrills. Laurence Perrine, editor of Literature Structure, Sound, and Sense says that,

"The movies or television sometimes make a book with an unhappy ending into a film with a happy ending. Such an operation, if the book was artistically successful, sets aside the laws of logic and the expectations we naturally build on them (Perrine 46)."

The critical reader can sift through the low grade and spend his time on more meaningful works.

The individual decides what is great literature. Although this can vary from person to person, usually remarkable literature leaves its mark on all. Therefore, it's not some secret literary guild that decides what writings are to be named great, but instead the entire literate population. The population is born when the piece is first created, they comprehend, they praise or denounce, and they pass on. Then a new generation repeats the process, which will likely continue as long as free thought

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