25 January 2009
Casuga on literariness
Canada-based poet and critic Albert Casuga posted a comment on my entry on "Literariness" (8 January 2009). He asked, not necessarily rhetorically, "When I wrote my earliest poems in Ilocano, were they 'more literary' than when I used Spanish or English in my later works?" This is the core issue of interest to this blog. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Albert. Not being competent in Ilocano, I cannot answer the question myself as far as your own works are concerned, but on a theoretical (perhaps, meta-theoretical) plane, I have to say that there must be some way to tell if a work is "more literary" than another, and if language is crucial to literariness, then there must be a general principle that can apply to the literariness of works in non-mother tongues. What that general principle is, I do not know, but I hope that readers, writers, and philosophers around the world will start trying to discover or to formulate it.
Posted by Isagani R. Cruz at 4:41 AM
Albert B. Casuga said...
How is one work "more literary" than another? The use of language, for one, should be indicator. Assuming that the writer is competent in the use of his medium (language in all its forms -- written or oral), his expression must necessarily lead to an aesthetic reaction or appreciation of his "achieved" content. Functions of "literary" literature I alluded to earlier in this blog should be palpable in the work because they are determinable in the empirical form (poem, story, novel, drama, etc.) from the language, structure, and even ideographic presentation on the page, screen, or other visual equipment.
Does the literary work fulfill valuative functions; e.g., focusing on the significance of a human condition, arriving at a precise definition of an aesthetic experience, and fulfilling the ultimate function of "knowing phenomena, realities (essential and existential), truths -- from metaphysical to cosmological -- everything that is relevant to one's sustenance of man's right/privilege to "know" and to "name" circumstances or adjuncts of his essence and existence. Will the literary work help the reader discover facets of his humanity he is otherwise poorer without?
I dare say that these should be enough to make a work more "literary" than another. After all, to use language, to write literature, is an extension of "knowing" and a "reaching out" to dimensions that may not be within the corporeal reach of writer and reader.
The primary equipment of this function is language as it shapes up an objective correlative to house all stimuli to the aesthetic response that only homo sapiens/ homo symbolicus are capable of. Plots, settings, characters, figures of thought and language are all part of this epistemological construct -- the writer's skill in interlacing them into a meaningful "being" that is a sum total of all the processes of "becoming" is an act only the author can conjure.
Is there strong evidence of creation? Is it art not artifice? Is it alive not stale? Is it worth the trouble at all? If the piece of literature precents evidences of these, it must be "more literary" than another. Because language is crucial to literariness, a universal principle of "competence, efficiency, and artistry" must characterize its use by the writer in either mother or borrowed tongue. -- ALBERT B. CASUGA
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