Is there such a thing as literature, a thing distinct from the writing and telling of stories? Is it a degree of interest, of quality, of complexity, or the role that a story has, which converts it into literature? Is it simply the fact that someone is moved to study it in a way that was not originally intended, that makes it literature? Is there a thing which we can call literature and whose analysis is worth turning into an object of intellectual study? And paying people to do it? And taking seriously what they say?
If we look at the origins of story-telling...
Story-telling is common to all human societies. All human beings, everywhere in the world, even the most primitive, un-contacted hunter-gatherers, live in a conceptual world entirely of their own making. Our social behaviour is not instinctive, like that of monkeys, but has been created by us, and by generations of our forebears. We make it collectively, through stories, and we understand it and transmit it through stories. Stories are used by all societies to explain their origins and their structure, to justify their beliefs and their hierarchies, their moral codes and manners, to entertain and to reinforce the authority of the teller, to control the thoughts and acts of the listener, to strengthen their sense of their place in the world, and to reduce their fear of their weakness and mortality. In all societies, there are authorised story-tellers, who must be listened to, and the unauthorised, who are seen as liars.
These things are done in different ways in different societies and within different sub-groups of larger or more complex societies, but the reasons, the motivations are the same. The right to tell stories is an important one. It is the right to create truths about the society itself.
In this sense literature is just another word for story, or perhaps for a culture of stories, and has no useful meaning of its own.