A post on Linkedin by Mehran Shadmehr on 27th Dec.:
What is literature? and what is not?,
There is no definitive criteria. The answer lies on a variety of factors, mostly ideological rather than methodical that are subject to change from time to time. First chapter of Terry Eagleton's best seller, Introduction to Literary Theory is titled: What is literature? And in that he explores how the boundaries of the term have been subject to enormous change through time.
what are the functions of literature?
Literature provides us with access to a range of experiences that are not adjacent or immediate to our physical life. For instance, by reading Charles Dickense we go through the lives of Lower class Victorians, and the struggles and turmoils of the age, and in doing that, liteature gives us insight into the fabric of life, provides us with some sort of wisdom, in otehr words.
It helps nourish moral values, and departs those values from one generation to the next, i.e. It has an irreciprocable educational value. For instance, By reading Hugo's The Miserables one is exposed to courage, sacrifice, kindness and care beyond the limits of the personal life, and indirectly acquires the innate aspiration to appreciate such values.
Literature delights us, or in Horace's words, "teaches us with delight". So it constitutes the best form of entertainment. One by which not only we enjoy our passtimes but become better human individuals inadvertantly by learning and acquiring new knowledge. Personally I have developed the habit of retreating to Literature from the infirmities of everyday life and take refuge in the remote heavens of imagination within words.
Liteature records history; it grasp what Hegel calls: "Zeitgeist" or the spirit of the time. Historyis not but an ideological construct, but in literature we gain a first hand access to the events of the past, which are, though still ideologically distorted, provides us with a fresher and more vivid image of the past. In this sense Literature plays an invaluable role in recording Human collective experience on planet Earth.
Liteature is the most joyous and most fruitful way of wishfull thinking. In literature we transpass all limitations, and make the impossible possible. In literature we exercize our unique human ability, which is to imagine the unimaginable, to contemplate upon the impossible. Literature takes us to exotic times and places and lets the justice be done in a poetic way. It is a sport of imagination that paves the way for future human endeavors by giving us hope, and enabling us to think the unthinkable.