Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Seminal World Literature

There is a device used by Guardian journalists that goes something like: "Poets of international renown, including Robert Browning, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Onku Okwame and Lord Byron ...". Lola Okolosie gives it an outing this morning, as in "...authors such as Anita Desai, Chinua Achebe, and Harper Lee".

The issue is over the inclusion of  "seminal world literature written in English", of which I am greatly in favour. However, this is not an exercise to demonstrate that those from the ex-colonies have mastered the mother-language, but one to demonstrate that literature of fine quality can originate from outside England. From North America has come a canon of literature principally in the form of fiction that has transformed the genre; and then Alan Paton from South Africa, Marcus Clarke and Thomas Keneally from Australia, Canada's Michael Ondaatje and Ireland's Samuel Beckett have all give us works that belong on the shelves of every Englishman aspiring to erudition. And there are many, many others. Including Anita Desai and Harper Lee.

The key to inclusion is in the word 'seminal'. To be seminal a work of literature must be not only original in style, form or content but must be influential in the subsequent development of the genre. Any other criteria indicate only that the term has been applied in the context of its alternative Onanistic meaning. 


G. Tingey said...

Can we add Tom Sharpe to that list?
Pretty please?

Demetrius said...

See you later, inseminator.