What Is Literature?  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

What is literature? (French title: Qu'est ce que la littérature?) is a 1947 book by Jean-Paul Sartre. (Alternative title: Literature and Existentialism)

The book is divided into three topics of discussion:

  1. Sartre condemns the bourgeoisie as being devoid of culture.
  2. Sartre claims authors and poets are outside of language and are trapped.
  3. Sartre states that the writer must write for a public which has the freedom of changing everything.

The basic roots of existentialism are left to one side by Satre in this book, as he devises an understanding of the effect they and literature have on those who are subjected to them.

The second chapter of this book, entitled 'Why Write?' has been reprinted as a free standing essay.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "What Is Literature?" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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