Redefining English Literature

As I was reading this week, I kept getting the impression that in order for English as a subject to survive and maintain student interest, some of the ideas and concepts connected with it need to change or be redefined. With all of this reading on computer and media literacy, what really stuck out to me was the idea of English literature. I think that this is a concept which usually conjures ideas of Shakespeare plays, Charles Dickens’ novels, and Jane Austen books, which some students hope are no different than the films. What if it instead invoked thoughts of websites like or another blog site or the movie script for something like Harry Potter? What if students saw literature as a  facebook profile or a “tweet”? A zombie haiku or Beatles lyrics? If literature is synonymous with things like “books, writings, and publications” (Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, 280), is it really such a stretch to consider the possibility of these things becoming a part of what defines English literature?

3 comments for “Redefining English Literature

  1. frank johnson
    October 1, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Zombie Haiku should be Freshman English 101 required reading.

  2. kaler hazen
    October 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    1.) i know ryan mecum made that first post
    2.) I think there are elements of literature that can only be studied using classic novels. They are classics because of their depth and layered qualities. As much as I would love to read tweets or beatles lyrics during class, there is a level of practicality in writing that cannot be gained by using the above mentioned sources

  3. lminnis209
    October 1, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I agree that Literature needs to evolve into a different form. How or into what? I have no idea but by the department dragging there feet to accept the global change the internet provided only makes the transition harder to bear. If we do not embrace the new frontier it will remain a wild zone with no government or support but a place where you need cyber guns!. “It seems to me that faculty in English have not just an opportunity, but an obligation to be in the front lines of arguing for public support of this literacy so that it becomes in actuality a democratic literacy”(Hobbs, 8). Otherwise as a teacher we will lose our hold of something unique and teachable if we ignor it.

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