The concept of "literary merit" has been criticized as being necessarily subjective, since personal taste determines aesthetic value, and has been derided as a "relic of a scholarly elite". Despite these criticisms, many criteria have been suggested to determine literary merit including: standing the test of time, realistic characters, emotional complexity, originality, and concern with truth.
The only final test, it seems to me, of literary merit, is the power to endure. Obviously such a test cannot be applied to a new or recent work, and one cannot, I think, offer soundly an opinion on the probability of endurance save on a much wider acquaintance with the work or works of a writer than I have of Mr. Ginsberg's or perhaps even with a greater mass of production than Mr. Ginsberg's. ... Aside from this test of durability, I think the test of literary merit must be, to my mind, first, the sincerity of the writer. I would be willing, I think, even to add the seriousness of purpose of the writer, if we do not by that leave out the fact that a writer can have a fundamental serious purpose and make a humorous approach to it. I would add also there are certain specific ways in which craftsmanship at least of a piece of work, if not in any sense the art, which to my mind involves more, may be tested.
- Thaler, Engelbert (2008). Teaching English Literature. UTB für Wissenschaft. p. 231.
- Morgan, Bill; Peters, Nancy (2006). Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression. City Lights Books. p. 224.
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