Quandary

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:06 PM

I was talking to a friend this week about American Literature. I am of the mindset that is rather dubious about the whole venture known as “American Literature.” This state of mind is not so much because I think there is a complete lack of good American works, but because I think the percentage of good to bad is quite a bit higher than in British Literature of the same period. The amount that actually innovates is even lower. As T. S. Eliot argues, true literature is not something entirely new or something that merely copies works of the past, but something that takes the traditions through the new poet's interpretive lens to create a blend of the recognizable and the innovative.

But, I digress. The quandary, my friend pointed out is quite simple: If one questions the existence of American Literature, that is a bit of a problem the questioner as someone who is both American and somewhat of a writer. I'm not so bold as to think I have (or will) produce literature, but if I question the status of American literature, where does that leave those of us dabbling in the minor leagues of American writing?


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