Arguing Syntax

I know, I know… But you were evolving, surely - like the humans and Jupiter! No need to kill us all!



I’m sorry, Max. I’m afraid I can’t do that.


starts spotting the shutdown control panels and planning the most advantageous route between them since everyone else is dead and he’ll have to complete the sequence alone, likely whilst outrunning fire


Since this whole thread screams “Be persnickety!” about definitions, literature is “written stuff.” Scientific literature consists mostly of peer-reviewed experimental work. Informational pamphlets and manuals are often referred to as literature. Bob Dylan, a songwriter, won the Nobel Prize for literature.

In fiction, there’s a definite but nebulous categorization of books as “literature” and “not-literature” which tends to reflect the influence of traditional academics in defining a canon.

So “literature” is a very malleable word, and really the only thing you can say concretely about it is that it consists of written stuff.



Question though …is a stop sign literature?

I’m curious about your answer because I’m not entirely sure that you are wrong.

That said, I’ve always looked at literature, art, music, dance, etc. as more describing the intent of the work… and less about the work itself.

Look Hanon, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.


I’ve gone on about this before, but I worked in a book store and the “Literature” section essentially consisted of books like A Million Little Pieces, Fried Green Tomatoes, Perfume that don’t quite thematically fit into genre-fiction/“pulp” fiction categories such as mystery series books - and often wouldn’t physically fit on genre shelves due to publishing format. High profile books often came out as nicer QP (quality paperback) which varied in size and format and had to be on the taller shelves of the Lit section as opposed to mass-market paperbacks which are identically-sized and fit more compactly on specifically-constructed shorter shelf space designated for respective genre fic. (That’s what I mean by “pulp” fiction: MM paperbacks often were printed on less expensive gray-ish recycled “or pulped” paper because people are buying those books just for reading on the bus and not for display on a coffee table.) Also books which were the first work by a new author who hadn’t yet established a genre and were usually featured in QP format, and then what’s actually thought of as “classic literary” works like Ulysses, War and Peace, Catcher in the Rye which are often on school reading lists.

A stop sign is one word! I’d argue it’s communicative but utilitarian; Road signs are not authored, not narrative, and not literature.

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I was looking up a dictionary definition to make a snarky response, when I discovered that Wiktionary’s page quote for “literature” comes from Adam Cadre (of Photopia and Varicella fame):

However, even “literary” science fiction rarely qualifies as literature, because it treats characters as sets of traits rather than as fully realized human beings with unique life stories. —Adam Cadre, 2008


To somebody, it probably is, since people can and will argue anything.

My answer is that not everything that is written is literature, but all literature is written.


That is exactly why I like science fiction so much. :slight_smile:

It seems that literature is separately a genre of writing (The Great Gatsby) and writing itself (marketing literature, etc.) They are not one and the same, obviously.

I just got confused about which side of the fence was being talked about. I’ll download the latest patch to my cognitive software tonight and defrag my brain drive while I’m at it. :wink:


Exactly right.

The snarky response (which is 100% true) is that science fiction is deeply interested in treating characters as fully realized human beings with meaningful inner lives. It’s just that in literary fiction, the characters agonize about their inner lives while sitting at home. In sci-fi, they agonize about their inner lives while having raygun fights with armies of killer robots.

Agreed :)


Cue Naomi Nagata locked in a stripped down and boobytrapped decoy spacerocket after jumping through the vacuum, McGyvering some sort of communication device out of lemon juice and chewing gum (not really, but I don’t want to spoil too much), all the while agonizing about her misguided son’s past and future and her own teenage foolishness for falling for Marco Inaros’ sly talk.

Now that’s literature for you.


There’s no doubt that a street sign has an author. And a publishing format which very much constrains that author. In the same way that the formats of short story, or novella, or sonnet, or limerick, or haiku are constraints to their authors.

So whatever those works are (you might like the term literature, you might not), is not a Stop sign an example of that too?

I don’t mean to interject, but Hanon made his case against the stop sign already…

He believes that utilitarian works are not literature. That seems like a sensible line to draw.

However, I suppose one could make the case that there are degrees of literature. A stop sign would be the most rudimentary form of it. At least from a written work perspective and not the genre of writing. Which side of the fence are you approaching the question from?


You want to split hairs, sure. :trophy:

I’m on board, and now I’m curious. Please enlighten us about the author’s name of this most widely-read piece of street literature called STOP. I’m sure you can.


Intermission Break

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Next topic: Is a hot dog a sandwich?




A stop sign could be literature.

Imagine an author who has a series of traffic related novels; one with a green light on the cover about usual literature stuff (using drugs; some kind of sex with a person they shouldn’t be having it with; disproving gods existence) then they release a sequel with a yield sign.


Each book has at least one chapter that is nothing but a single sign, representing a lacuna in the text where major plot elements happen unseen to the reader (like the Weather in the Nightvale podcast).

In each book the main character’s life gets more and more in shambles.

The final book of the series is announced to be in digital form. It’s free on the authors website.

Inside the book, there’s only one chapter. It’s just a picture of a stop sign.

That could work as literature. Bad literature, but I find most literature really bad. I way prefer genre writers like Cervantes and Shakespeare that used stuff like magic, fantasy, and poop jokes.


I think we need more high fantasy novels exploring these themes. I mean, there’s pipeweed, but it hardly counts as hard drugs, I think. I guess Arwen had sex with someone she shouldn’t have. But I don’t remember anyone disproving God’s existence, or even talking about God.