Mary Ellen, taking a course called Electric Literature (ain’t that cool?) at Trinity College in Hartford, CT recently brought up the question of defining literature beyond the restriction of the written word.
I’ve just started reading Richard A. Posner’s The Little Book of Plagiarism and found this:
“But “plagiarism” turns out to be difficult to define. A typical dictionary definition is ‘literary theft.’ The definition is incomplete because there can be plagiarism of music, pictures, or ideas, as well as of verbal matter, though most of the time I’ll assume that the plagiarist is a writer.” (p. 11)
Now Posner is not a literature professor; he is a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School (and I took that pretty much straight off the book jacket). It appears that to him that literature is separate from music, pictures or ideas and verbal matter. Obviously ideas can be expressed in literary form as well as any other.
So, in this day of new media, when novels are written in hypertext and read online, how will the definition of literature be affected?