Augustus Saint-Gaudens: Master Sculptor by Kathryn Greenthal

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By Kathryn Greenthal

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Example text

The norm is, moreover, relative to the type of discourse. The amount of secondary or implicit meaning 29 WHAT I S L I T E R AT U R E ? 18 The essence of the theory is that the possession of a distinctly higher than average amount of secondary or implicit meaning for the type of discourse in question is a necessary and sufficient condition of the work’s being a literary one in the extended sense of the term. But, unfortunately, it is not. So far from providing a necessary or sufficient condition, the account leads to absurdity.

We may do so; but, in view of other features, or the lack of them, or simply because we have not felt called upon to do so, we may not. Jokes, though fictional, and acted television commercials, though dramatic, we do not normally count as literature, although we may on occasion count one or two lines of verse as literature. There is, admittedly, a certain haphazardness about this; but only regimental minds will find this irksome. Some cities have streets laid out on a preconceived plan, others have streets that grow higgledy-piggledy over the years as a need is felt to add one or connect another – yet we can live and find our way in both.

But I believe what follows is as close as we can get. The literature world is a social institution consisting of various practices: the composing, publishing, reading or hearing and criticising of various discourses such as poems, plays, novels, essays, etc. If a discourse is published (in good faith) as a novel or a poem, it thereby has the status of candidate for appreciation conferred on it. But the same status could be conferred on a discourse by anyone acting as an agent of the literature world, whether the discourse was published or not.

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