Thursday, March 11, 2010

What is Literature?

By C.L. Dyck

Literature, like mathematics or philosophy, is simply another way of
looking at the universe. Perhaps one of the smartest statements I ever
ran across was from a home educator who said essentially that subject
areas are just different lenses through which we can examine our

Likewise, different genres of writing are different lenses through
which to examine the world, the heart and the nature of God. The whole
idea of genre is based on major themes of human existence. Romance:
the heart. Crime: the sin nature. Fantasy: generally examines good and
evil within people. Sci-fi: good and evil between people, in the form
of great social questions.

Literature is a laboratory for running trials on the most cherished
ideas of our existence. For Christians, that's our faith, particularly
as it intersects with our God-given interests, circumstances and
abilities. At the same time, we may be testing out the practical
workings of our faith in various potential circumstances the world
proffers. This is a high calling, to write the theses of Christian
living. At the same time, it's an extra challenge, because in writing
the faith element, we're also automatically carrying the weight of two
genres: Christian plus romance, suspense, historical, etc.

Yet the whole world preaches one thing or another. Secular fiction is
a trial for other beliefs. Authors can't help it. People all have
cherished ideas, whether or not they formulate them into an
identifiable creed. We are all curious about the degree to which
people are essentially good or essentially bad, investigating the
blend of the two. We all operate on some idea of whether there's
anything transcendent out there or not.

It can be a difficult thing as a Christian writer to throw oneself
into a hypothetical situation, particularly if it's one that has been
done to death in pop culture, and really think about “what would I
do?” At the same time, we have the opportunity to comfort others with
the selfsame comfort with which God comforts us. International fiction
has a unique potential here, because from around the world, in many
different cultures, we're all examining that question in relation to
our faith. Here we have a proving ground for Jesus Christ's reality
above and beyond community and cultural assent. Among these pages,
from these varied windows on the world, we can see a door in heaven
standing open.

For those struggling in faith or questioning what it really is, these
authors offer many lenses through which to examine both our existence
and that of God. And, whether you're an author or simply a liver of
life, the tale is worth the telling; worth the hearing.

So. What's your story?


C.L. Dyck is a published homeschooling writer with an interest in
speculative fiction. She blogs at where she is
currently running a sci-fi serial story with international themes.


  1. I think of literature as thoughts captured on media, not just a lens for different ways to see the world, but also a repository of those views, a historical record that reveals the thinking patterns and habits and biases of those who have thought before. It's interesting to see how our thinking has changed through the ages, and just how much has stayed the same. It's easy to feel disconnected from people who have been dead for centuries, but when I read somebody like Job, his sufferings and ultimate triumph through God are as personal and relevant as today's screaming headlines and RSS feeds.

  2. Cathi-Lyn, interesting post! Thanks for sharing your perspective on International Fiction :-)

  3. Johne (Phy), thanks for coming by!

    "also a repository of those views, a historical record that reveals the thinking patterns and habits and biases of those who have thought before."

    Oh, indeed! One of my favourite things about Ray Gun Revival (the monthly ezine Johne runs) is how it takes me back to finding my dad's old annuals in the family farmhouse, with cowboys, war adventures, or spaceships a la classic 1950s. I love encountering writers who blend the idioms of both the past and present.

    Narelle, thanks for the encouragement and for welcoming me so warmly! Much appreciated! It's a delight to be a guest among this diverse and fascinating group.

  4. Thanks for an important discussion. The Bible is literature in various genres: chronicle, fable, letter, poetry, and so on, all inspired by God to teach us. Literature in general always re-presents the world to us to answer important questions: what is real? what is good? what is most important? where are we headed? In my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over (the first in a series of three set in a coastal Texas high school), there is a scene in Angela's English class in which the teacher and students come up with a definition of literature. If interested in knowing more, please click on my name and follow the link to my website. Thanks!