lowercase literature

a collection of flash fiction, short stories, and excerpts from author Jeff Gard

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Why is it “lowercase literature”?

A literary scholar might define Literature as exemplary writings that excel in aesthetic expression, universal insights into the human condition, and long-lasting or permanent value. Unfortunately, this definition often overlooks everyday genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance.

But the idea of Literature as something better than everyday stories originated in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The term itself is much older. In the 15th century, the Latin word literatura referred more generically to book learning or the use of letters in writing. It meant grammar. So, in a sense, all writing could be considered literature in the oldest sense of the word.

I’m not going to claim that my writing is great or literary. First, I’ll leave it to others to judge the merits of my work. To call oneself a literary fiction writer seems a bit presumptuous to me when one of the conditions of Literature is its long-term value. Sure, we could claim that some books and stories are better written than others and some offer more insight into the human condition, but this determination is hardly based on scientific evidence or error-free reasoning. Opinion and subjectivity will always play a part in assigning works to either the hallowed literary canon or to the trash heap of pulp fiction.

Second, I want to stress that there is immense value in everyday stories, especially in the genres. The people who read these stories do so for many legitimate reasons. Some seek an escape from their current reality. Others just like a good story. After all, literacy is based on the ability to read, not on the subject matter, the style, or the narrative.

Finally, I want to emphasize that reading should be enjoyable. Whether it is Literature or literature, read what you like and let future scholars squabble over the relative merits of what survives. Most of my stories fall into genres, which means they will probably never be considered great. Regardless of this fact, I hope you enjoy my stories. But if you don’t, I take no offense.

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