Literary fiction is a genre that is often regarded as being more complex and sophisticated than popular fiction. While it is not always easy to define what literary fiction is, it is generally characterized by its stylistic and linguistic qualities, its depth of characterization, and its exploration of complex themes and issues. In this article, I will explore the role of literary fiction as a genre in literature and why it remains an important aspect of our literary culture.
Literary fiction has a rich and varied history, dating back to the early works of authors such as William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Over time, the genre has evolved and expanded to include a diverse range of voices, styles, and themes. One of the key reasons why literary fiction remains an important genre is its ability to offer a deep and nuanced exploration of human experiences and emotions. As author and literary critic John Updike once noted, “Literary fiction, unlike popular fiction, is not a marketable commodity. It’s a work of art.”
One of the defining characteristics of literary fiction is its emphasis on language and style. While popular fiction often uses straightforward language and a simple narrative structure, literary fiction tends to be more complex and intricate, with a focus on the beauty and power of language. In an interview with The Paris Review, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson spoke about the importance of language in her writing: “The language itself has a kind of incantatory power. It creates an atmosphere and a tone, and it conveys a sense of the world that is unique to that particular writer.”
Another important aspect of literary fiction is its exploration of complex and sometimes difficult themes and issues. While popular fiction often focuses on entertainment and escapism, literary fiction is often more concerned with exploring the human condition, addressing social and political issues, and offering a commentary on the world we live in. As author and critic James Wood has noted, “The great novelists have always been great moralists, and the best literary fiction continues to be an important way for us to engage with the ethical questions of our time.”
It is not surprising that many readers have suggested that Midnight at Noon, a novel I published in 2015, should be taught in academia. This is a novel that x-rays the issue of class antagonisms in society, Haiti’s geopolitical dilemma, its subjugation, and the nonchalant attitude of its elite.
Perhaps one of the most important roles of literary fiction is its ability to foster empathy and understanding. Through the exploration of diverse perspectives and experiences, literary fiction can help us to see the world through the eyes of others, and to better understand their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. As author and journalist Jhumpa Lahiri noted in an interview with The New York Times, “I think that what fiction can do is to make us imagine ourselves into other people’s situations, other people’s lives. And that’s a very powerful tool for empathy.”
While literary fiction remains an important genre in literature, it is not without its critics. Some argue that it is elitist, inaccessible, and irrelevant to the concerns of everyday readers. Others suggest that literary fiction has become too self-indulgent and disconnected from the real world, with too much emphasis on style and too little on substance.
However, despite these criticisms, the role of literary fiction in literature remains vital. It provides a space for writers to explore complex themes and issues, to experiment with language and style, and to offer unique perspectives on the world we live in. Moreover, it allows readers to engage with new ideas, to broaden their understanding of the human experience, and to connect with others in ways that are both profound and meaningful.
In conclusion, the role of literary fiction as a genre in literature is multifaceted and complex. While it may not be for everyone, it remains an important aspect of our literary culture, providing a space for writers and readers to engage with the world in meaningful and transformative ways. Whether you are a fan of literary fiction or not, there is no denying the importance and impact of this genre on the literary landscape.
Note: Ardain Isma teaches Introduction to Research Methods at Embry Riddle University. He is the Chief Editor of CSMS Magazine. He is also a novelist and essayist.
To order a copy of Ardain’s latest novel, you can click on these links below:
Bittersweet Memories of Last Spring
You can also check out his two previous novels: Midnight at Noon
Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost
You can also visit Village Publishing to get more info about other platforms where Ardain’s novels can be found.
Watch CSMS YouTube channel “The Conversation.”