The Literary Blog Hop brings together blogs that post on novels with literary qualities. Though the last two novels I've posted on have been summer books, before those two I posted on The Time Machine and "Rappacinni's Daughter", so hopefully my Literature Club card hasn't been revoked.
This week's question for the blog hop is
Should literature have a social, political, or any other type of agenda? Does having a clear agenda enhance or detract from its literary value?
My first answer is that every type of writing has some sort of agenda, even if it's simply an agenda to entertain. I think what the question is asking, though, is about books with an overt agenda, that frame the raft trip down the Mississippi to tell you how people should get along no matter what their skin color. I think the presence of such an agenda can be distracting from the literary value, but it depends on the skill of the author.
Let's take the example of two books that deal with a similar agenda: the denigration of the industrial working class in the early 1900's. In The Jungle, Upton Sinclair tells what could be a touching story of hardship in the meatpacking factories of Chicago, but clumsily overdoes the pathos. The plight of the workers and the Socialism presented as the savior are so extreme as to be cartoonish.
In Howards End, on the other hand, the working class people are portrayed as less desperate, the upper class people as less villainous and the solution as promoting understanding between the two classes, rather than a political panacea. Even this would come across as weak and idealistic if not for Forster's great skill with prose. Despite having an agenda, his work is more literary than Sinclair's not because of the agenda, but the writing in which he expresses it.