The Place of Monsignor John Vranek in Czech-American Poetry

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Rozmajzl, Mary Magdalen DE N.D.
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What is literature? This question has been asked repeatedly, and a satisfactory answer can hardly be found. Some say that literature is one thing and others say that it is something else. In the broadest sense, literature includes all written or printed matter, but in the narrow and proper sense it has a special meaning. The writer, however, is not going to attempt or accept any definition. A few facts about qualities and characteristics must suffice. |In the first place, one would hardly designate as true literature writing which aims primarily to give information, such as textbooks, dictionaries, or encyclopedias. Literature must interest the reader and must hold him by its beauty and power. It may give information, but its primary appeal must be to the aesthetic sense; that is, to the faculty or power by means of which we appreciate the beautiful, be it in the physical moral, or intellectual order. But this is the work of art; and therefore the literature we are about to consider must be an art. |If literature is an art, it must be intimately associated with life, for the one involves the other. This becomes evident from its appeal to that quality of human experience by which we are conscious of pleasure and beauty. But it is more than simply an art—it is a fine art. The fact that fine art has its origin in the intellect, makes literature a distinctly human product; for by his intellect man differs chiefly from the brute. |In the intellect arise thoughts, images, and emotions. Since it is this faculty which perceives the beautiful, these thoughts, images, and emotions are intensified in the perception of beauty, and the soul of the artist is stirred and directed to record them in some permanent and effective form of expression. One medium of such representation is language. Words, then, constitute a lasting expression. But for this "lasting" expression words must be carefully arranged with a view to their utmost meaning, connotation and beauty. Not only what is said but how it is said makes writing a permanent art. |This is true of literature in general. But we are at present interested in American literature. What is American literature? Another question difficult to answer! Much depends on point of view. Are we going to lay emphasis on "American” or on "literature”? Formerly emphasis was on the latter; today the tendency seems to stress the former. But we can follow a middle path. To be classed as American, a composition must be worthy of the name — American; and in order that it may be included in what we call literature and have the necessary permanence, it must have those qualities which make a piece of writing fine art.
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