Literary merit is the quality shared by all works of fiction that are considered to have aesthetic value.
The concept of "literary merit" has been criticized as being necessarily subjective, since personal taste determines aesthetic value, and has been derided as a "relic of a scholarly elite". Despite these criticisms, many criteria have been suggested to determine literary merit including: standing the test of time, realistic characters, emotional complexity, originality, and concern with truth.
In 1957, at the obscenity trial for Howl, author Walter Van Tilburg Clark was prodded into defining literary merit. His response outlines several of the popular criteria:
The only final test, it seems to me, of literary merit, is the power to endure. Obviously such a test cannot be applied to a new or recent work, and one cannot, I think, offer soundly an opinion on the probability of endurance save on a much wider acquaintance with the work or works of a writer than I have of Mr. Ginsberg's or perhaps even with a greater mass of production than Mr. Ginsberg's. ... Aside from this test of durability, I think the test of literary merit must be, to my mind, first, the sincerity of the writer. I would be willing, I think, even to add the seriousness of purpose of the writer, if we do not by that leave out the fact that a writer can have a fundamental serious purpose and make a humorous approach to it. I would add also there are certain specific ways in which craftsmanship at least of a piece of work, if not in any sense the art, which to my mind involves more, may be tested.
Other articles related to "literary merit":
... Prose A selection of prose material of literary merit, which may be drawn from more than one source ... Poetry A selection or selections of poetry of literary merit, which may be drawn from more than one source ... or more characters from a play or plays of literary merit ...
Famous quotes containing the words merit and/or literary:
“Without merit there should be no reward.”
“Whose are the truly labored sentences? From the weak and flimsy periods of the politician and literary man, we are glad to turn even to the description of work, the simple record of the months labor in the farmers almanac, to restore our tone and spirits.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)