Mentor of the Month: Anne Frank: A Question

Normally I start the mentor of the month thing with a quote, but now I’m going to start with a question. First, let me preface:

I just came across a new book by Francine Prose called Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. Prose is exporing the idea of Anne Frank’s diary as art, as literature vs. historical record. Because it’s been a long while since I’ve Diary of Young Girl, I’m now reading the ‘Definitive Edition’ along with Prose’s book.

In the first chapter Prose proposes that Anne Frank’s diary isn’t a diary at all–that it’s a memoir in epistolary form. Her argument stems from the knowledge that Anne Frank edited her diary after hearing a call on the radio for diaries, journals, letters, etc. to record Holland’s experience during WWII. Anne even titled her book: The House Behind.

Now my question is this (or rather, questions are these):
1. Is literature only literature if it is intended to be read by others?
2. Is literature only literature if the author/creator edits his/her work to make the work more palatable (i.e. if you edit a piece so that there is cohesion to plot, character, etc.)?
3. Can something that was written for yourself become literature? (By literature I mean that others may critique it against a standard–whatever that standard is….)


jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. First, I don't think the author determines if something is literature, so I don't think the author's intention counts.
    Second, I'm not sure how editing can make the difference on whether its literature. Maybe there is an author out there who can write perfect first drafts. And I do think Anne Frank is literature.

  2. The current #1 definition of “literature” according to is “Imaginative or creative writing.” The root of the word it Latin and means “writing formed with letters” so what I'm typing here would be literature by that definition.

    In my mind, small “l” literature does have a creative, edited aspect to it. So, I guess, by my own definition of literature, Frank's diary does not fit.

    However, capital “L” Literature is more than that. It's a story (which one could argue the diary is) that speaks to a wide cross section of people over many many years. It usually also impacts the same person in different ways at different points in their lives, but it does impact. So by that definition her diary is Literature.

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