I grew up considering literature to be the kind of works I read in English class: Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, Catcher in the Rye. Even In my free time, I enjoyed similar works (and still do). My taste has always been broad, however, so I also liked other things. More "commercial" things, like Pendragon, Harry Potter, and pretty much anything else I could get my book-loving hands on. I loved to read. I would read toilet paper packages if there was nothing else around. Instruction manuals. Nutrition facts. And in my mind, I knew these things were "literature," but they weren't… Literature. Please read that last word in a snobby-sounding, accented voice, because that's totally how I said it.
Merriam-Webster appears to agree with Growing-Up Me on that:
So there's literature, and then there's less-than-literature. We even make a distinction between "literary" and "commercial" fiction, as though one is related to literature and the other is simply business-based, somehow; as though their intrinsic value relates to different things.
Well. Since leaving the academic world, I've learned a thing or two, and I have to say to Merriam-Webster, Growing-Up Me, and most of my English teachers/professors:
Literature (snobby accent again) is not the only literature out there. It's not the only type of writing with literary value. I've seen blog posts more beautiful than some canonized works. There have been advertisements that made me cry. There's even been—yes—graffiti that made me think more intensely than Dickens or Hemingway could (not that I don't dig those two, because I do).
Don't get me wrong; I'm not one who thinks all art is created equal. Obviously there are some works that are better than others. But who decides that? And who decided that means that only the "best" are literature and the rest are tossed into the not-quite-literature-but-almost pile? The truth is that anything written can be beautiful and worthwhile, because language in itself is beautiful and worthwhile—no matter the format.
Today's Prompt (if you're brave enough): Go graffiti something. If you're not brave enough or have other constraints: Write a story in which someone graffitis something.