Literary merit

Literary merit

Literary merit is a quality of written work, generally applied to the genre of literary fiction. A work is said to have literary merit (to be a work of art) if it is a work of quality, that is if it has some aesthetic value. The concept is important in law because it is used to decide, for example, if a text is pornographic in nature (if a text has literary merit then it is usually held to be non-pornographic).

Some people have suggested that the concept of "literary merit" is practically impossible to define, and it is hard to see how such an idea can be used with any precision or consistency by policy makers, magistrates or judges. A common response to this criticism is that, while the process of establishing literary merit is difficult, fraught with dangers, and often subjective, it is the only method currently available to separate work that has significant cultural value from work that is ephemeral.

However, others would point out that any enlightened human being can very clearly differentiate between what has literary merit and what has not (i.e. 'War and Peace' has literary merit and 'The Da Vinci Code' does not). This is linked to J. S. Mill's idea of there being higher and lower pleasures: if someone were to fully experience the higher pleasures then they would inevitably choose them over the lower pleasures.

See also

*Artistic merit
*Western canon


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