[A]nything can be literature, and…any belief that the study of literature is the study of a stable, well-definable entity, as entomology is the study of insects, can be abandoned as a chimera…Literature, in the sense of a set of works of assured and unalterable value, distinguished by certain shared, inherent properties, does not exist.
– Terry Eagleton, “Introduction: What is Literature?”
Is it necessary to define literature before one is able to teach it? While scholars such as George Levine might make this claim, Elaine Showalter asserts that such definitions often “mean entering a long dark tunnel from which few teachers, let alone clear ideas about literature emerge” (21).
Is this one reason to focus on method over content?
Showalter, Elaine. Teaching Literature. Indianapolis: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.