We are nervous about anything that seems elitist or inaccessible, and we apologise for the arts in a way that we never do for science.From an essay involving an controversy about who won and who didn't win a literary prize, something I really don't care about. But the test... the test is interesting. I don't know whether it's right, and actually I don't care. What difference does it make, the definition of "literature"? Unless you care about the prize. But it seems interesting, even though I don't care if it succeeds in testing what it purports to test. And frankly, I think it's quite silly to care about the 2 capacities. It's a double aptitude test, looking backward at the capacity the writer brought to the project of writing the thing and forward to the increased capacity the reader took away from reading it. What about the reading itself?
Nobody blames maths for being difficult – and it isn't difficult – but it is different, and demands some time and effort. It is another kind of language. Literature is also another kind of language. I don't mean literature is obscure or rarefied or precious – that's no test of a book – rather it is operating on a different level to our everyday exchanges of information and conversation.
October 19, 2011
The test — proposed by Jeanette Winterson — for what counts as literature.