In pondering the 5 traits of literature from Jonathan Culler’s “Literary Theory”, I realized that even simple popular songs are great works of literature. The songs are catchy. Perhaps if we learn from song-writing how to write good social media posts, our social marketing would improve in memorability. Just a thought.
Anywho, below are the 5 traits of literature, and an example for each. Most of my examples involve songs, just because songs are so great:
1. LITERATURE AS THE FOREGROUNDING OF LANGUAGE
Jason Mraz’s version of “Winter Wonderland” is a great example.
The whole song positions and repeats words in a rhythmic, catchy way, especially with the memorable, alliterative last line of the chorus: “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.”
2. LITERATURE AS THE INTEGRATION OF LANGUAGE
This one actually isn’t a song, but the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” is an integration of language. It forms a relation between keeping calm and carrying on. Normally, when we think of those two words, carry on just means to do what you’re doing, but to add the words “Keep calm” in front adds a sort of empowerment to “carrying on”. The hard c and k sounds also add to the harmony of the phrase.
3. LITERATURE AS FICTION
“If I had a Million Dollars” by the BareNaked Ladies is a great example of fiction literature. The whole song “projects a fictional world”, to borrow the words from our reading. The singers talk about all the things they would do in a world where they would have a million dollars.
If I had a million dollars. Talk about what life would be like if you had the fictional reality of a million dollars.
4. LITERATURE AS AN AESTHETIC OBJECT
I can’t think of more aesthetic songs/literature than in Christmas songs, particularly “Silver Bells”. It is full of imagery about the city lights, the children laughing, people bustling, etc… You can just picture yourself in the city, getting ready for the Christmas holiday. Here’s a youtube video to help you envision it:
5. LITERATURE AS INTERTEXTUAL OR SELF-REFLEXIVE CONSTRUCT
Parodies are intertextual literature, and Weird Al is great at it. He took the whole Star Wars Series, and stuck it into the song “American Pie” by Don McClean, mimicking some of the phrases from Don McLean’s original song to tell the saga of Anakin/Darth Vader. Enjoy Weird Al’s “My My This Here Anakin Guy”:
Once again, songs have a lot to teach us about literature. Maybe we can learn a few things from their construction to write better social media posts.