I am currently doing some homework on literary genres and from the list of literary genres on Wikipedia, I came across some non-fiction genres such as Speech, Textbook, and others.

This prompted the thought of weather a computer program is considered literature, and if so would it be a literary genre?

By Wikipedia's description, in American law they are 'literary works, under the definition in the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C § 101', under the 'United States' heading.

However, on law.cornell.edu, I found that it is described as 'A “computer program” is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.'.

Collins dictionary describes literature as 'written material' which could technically mean that computer program is not valid literature as it cannot be written to perform its task. Computer program is not described as literature on this site either.

As there is an inconclusive answer I would appropriate the opinion of someone who knows more than me.

closed as primarily opinion-based by jejorda2, WS2, Drew, Helmar, Chenmunka Sep 9 '16 at 10:12

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    There are a number of issues here, the legal one, the esthetic one (which may or may not impinge on the legal one), and then the informal one (looking at what the dictionary meaning mean in informal discourse). The legal one is up to legal judgement, not ours here. The esthetic one is judged esthetically, also not for here. The informal dictionary one is too simple (the answer is boringly 'no'). Of course in all engineering there are esthetic components (eg a 'beautiful' design). – Mitch Sep 8 '16 at 18:29
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    A computer program is a "literary work” within the scope of the U.S. Copyright Act. That doesn't mean it is - or isn't - "literature" as we understand it in everyday speech. – michael.hor257k Sep 8 '16 at 18:36
  • I feel like this is something akin to asking if something can be 'art'. Surely it's possible, if we define it as such, but as @Mitch eloquently stated, this may be a little broad to receive a 'yes or no' type response. Afterall, the word 'literature' is itself often quite nebulous, ex: is Dr. Seuss literature? Rarely, according to the book stores I visit :^) – Kanga_Roo Sep 8 '16 at 18:40
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    If people consider a computer program a therapist, why couldn't they consider one to be literature? – deadrat Sep 8 '16 at 18:50
  • It is the 'operation' of the program that would be considered a therapist, but the source text that would be considered literature. One would have to be literate in that language to appreciate it as such. – AmI Sep 8 '16 at 19:36

I would advise against your including this in your homework if it is in English because, whatever the US Copyright Act or Wikipedia say, a teacher of English Literature (and the man in the street) is unlikely to regard it as literature.

Indeed, I write computer programs myself, but do not regard them as literature. They may be an original intellectual construct, perhaps with some mathematical or logical beauty, but they are merely a set of instructions to a machine on how to perform a task. However satisfied I was with them, I would not read them aloud at a literary festival. (Andy Warhol may have disagreed on this.)

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    This made me laugh, thank you very much for your quick answer. I will stick with the more 'classic genres' – abc123 Sep 8 '16 at 18:50
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    Some programs are very beautiful; I'm fond of Quicksort in Pascal as an example. It's one of the fastest and best sorting algorithma around, and it's massively recursive and short. On the other hand, there is an entire programming subculture built around obfuscated C programs. – John Lawler Sep 8 '16 at 19:24
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    @JohnLawler — Alas, I came to programming after Pascal, although my son learnt in on my Mac. However the Computing Science Dept in Glasgow used it as an initial programming language for their MSc IT course for many years, before jumping to Java — which is where I started. – David Sep 8 '16 at 19:43

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