Did a Jane Austen, a Mary Shelley, or a Virginia Woolf really know they were creating a unique form of literature? Or was their contribution more a brilliant response to the recognition that something was lacking in the books that had come before? How much of their work was purposeful innovation and how much was because their creative brains sensed that their work was effective?
Finally, and this is both a minor point and a topic for great debate, it is hard to prove that there was a first example of anything in literature, especially, as Fletcher himself points out, with so much of past literature being lost.
Ed Simon: Literature Isn't Practical
Show me a scholar who claims that science can explain all of literature, and I will show you someone who is performing schtick. To reduce literature to technology - or to medicine or to political rhetoric - is to degrade literature. Critics treat literature as a means to some other end, while ordinary readers read literature because it's a story. The typical criticism of the critics: Literature is important as literature. Wonderworks as a book about literature has a "Twist": while literature is indeed more than debate and argument and politics, and while it's also what Trilling insisted on, it's also a technology. That's why literature can provide the existential uplift celebrated by Erik and Ed. That's why literature has worked for millennia to grow our human diversity and not - as generations of cultural reactionaries have learned to their dismay - to instill universal values, aesthetic tastes, or civilized behaviors.
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