What is good literature

What is good literature?

Very, very seldom do I manage to give in to the acute temptation and actually borrow a book from the library instead of buying it and putting it on the pile with the others. To "What is good literature?" - How to distinguish good books from bad ones ”from Hans-Dieter Gelfert I only got through a detour by making a reservation, apparently others wanted to know too. It is also an indication that such a “special work” between entertainment and textbooks is already in its third edition.

Gelfert was a professor at the Free University of Berlin who has worked as a freelance author since retiring. His main subject was (and is) English literature, which is also the main focus of his publications today. But he has also published various works on literary interpretation (How do you interpret a novel? / A short story? / A drama? - individual books in each case), including “What is good literature?”.

Using the various stages in the creation of the final form of the poem “Der Brunnen” by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, the reader learns to assess the language, moods and literary content, as well as the evaluation of the classic genres of poetry, drama and epic, but precisely those in the second Part of the following general and special explanations on topics such as “Poets as interpreters of the world”, “Demanding, entertaining and trivial literature” or “What is world literature” are so good and self-contained that they would also work as detached essays. The book, which is written loosely and without a know-it-all, is also useful as a practical guide. 13 criteria for aesthetic evaluation are given to you:

Perfection, coherence, expressiveness, cosmopolitanism, general validity, interestingness, originality, complexity, ambiguity, authenticity, resistance, crossing boundaries, that certain something

However, Gelfert does not present these criteria apodictically as the measure of things, but discusses them, introduces them and critically illuminates them himself. Especially when it comes to the question of the creation of a canon or world literature, the author remains open to several positions in his argumentation: although he agrees with the cultural pessimists with regard to a certain decline and flattening of the level, he also points out that funding is more demanding Literature remains possible only through cross-subsidization through fictional box office hits.

Overall, “What is good literature?” an interesting introduction to the world of literary criticism and interpretation, which makes you want to go deeper into the subject, which is made easier by detailed recommendations for secondary literature in the appendix.

Hans-Dieter Gelfert - What is good literature?

C.H.Beck 978-3-406-60486-7

As a lawyer, Tilman advises publishers, authors and other creative people on copyright and media law. As a blogger, he has made a name for himself in both literary criticism and mediation in the industry. Lawyer Winterling is also a member of the jury (including Hamburg Literature Awards) and moderator of readings, as well as being a sought-after interview partner (including Deutschlandfunk, Radio Eins) when it comes to reporting on legal topics and blogging in an understandable and entertaining manner.