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This article is about the art of written work. For the card game, see Literature (card game). For
literature in the field technical publications, see Academic publishing.
Literature, in its broadest sense, is any single body of written works. More restrictively, literature is
writing that is considered to be an art form, or any single writing deemed to have artistic or
intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage. Its Latin
root literatura/litteratura (derived itself from littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all
written accounts, though contemporary definitions extend the term to include texts that are spoken or
sung (oral literature). Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction and
whether it is poetry or prose; it can be further distinguished according to major forms such as
the novel, short story or drama; and works are often categorized according to historical periods or
their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations (genre).
The concept has changed meaning over time: nowadays it can broaden to have non-written verbal
art forms, and thus it is difficult to agree on its origin, which can be paired with that of language or
writing itself. Developments in print technology have allowed an evergrowing distribution and
proliferation of written works, culminating in electronic literature.

There have been various attempts to define "literature".[1] Simon and Delyse Ryan begin their
attempt to answer the question "What is Literature?" with the observation:
The quest to discover a definition for "literature" is a road that is much travelled, though the point of
arrival, if ever reached, is seldom satisfactory. Most attempted definitions are broad and vague, and
they inevitably change over time. In fact, the only thing that is certain about defining literature is that
the definition will change. Concepts of what is literature change over time as well. [2]

Definitions of literature have varied over time: it is a "culturally relative definition".[3] In Western
Europe prior to the eighteenth century, literature denoted all books and writing.[3] A more restricted
sense of the term emerged during the Romantic period, in which it began to demarcate "imaginative"
writing.[4][5] Contemporary debates over what constitutes literature can be seen as returning to older,
more inclusive notions; Cultural studies, for instance, takes as its subject of analysis both popular
and minority genres, in addition to canonical works.
The value judgment definition of literature considers it to cover exclusively those writings that
possess high quality or distinction, forming part of the so-called belles-lettres ('fine writing')
tradition.[6] This sort of definition is that used in the Encyclopdia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910
11) when it classifies literature as "the best expression of the best thought reduced to
writing."[7] Problematic in this view is that there is no objective definition of what constitutes
"literature": anything can be literature, and anything which is universally regarded as literature has
the potential to be excluded, since value judgments can change over time.[6]
The formalist definition is that "literature" foregrounds poetic effects; it is the "literariness" or "poetic"
of literature that distinguishes it from ordinary speech or other kinds of writing
(e.g., journalism).[8][9] Jim Meyer considers this a useful characteristic in explaining the use of the
term to mean published material in a particular field (e.g., "scientific literature"), as such writing must
use language according to particular standards.[1] The problem with the formalist definition is that in
order to say that literature deviates from ordinary uses of language, those uses must first be
identified; this is difficult because "ordinary language" is an unstable category, differing according to
social categories and across history.[10]
Etymologically, the term derives from Latin literatura/litteratura "learning, a writing, grammar,"
originally "writing formed with letters," from litera/littera "letter".[11] In spite of this, the term has also
been applied to spoken or sung texts.[1][12]

Major forms[edit]
Main article: Poetry

A calligram by Guillaume Apollinaire. These are a type of poem in which the written words are arranged in such
a way to produce a visual image.

Poetry is a form of literary art which uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke
meanings in addition to, or in place of, prosaic ostensible meaning.[13] Poetry has traditionally been
distinguished from prose by its being set in verse;[a] prose is cast in sentences, poetry in lines;
the syntax of prose is dictated by meaning, whereas that of poetry is held across metre or the visual
aspects of the poem.[18] Prior to the nineteenth century, poetry was commonly understood to be
something set in metrical lines; accordingly, in 1658 a definition of poetry is "any kind of subject
consisting of Rythm or Verses".[13] Possibly as a result of Aristotle's influence (his Poetics), "poetry"
before the nineteenth century was usually less a technical designation for verse than a normative
category of fictive or rhetorical art.[4] As a form it may pre-date literacy, with the earliest works being
composed within and sustained by an oral tradition;[19][20] hence it constitutes the earliest example of
Main article: Prose
Prose is a form of language that possesses ordinary syntax and natural speech rather than rhythmic
structure; in which regard, along with its measurement in sentences rather than lines, it differs from
poetry.[18][21] On the historical development of prose, Richard Graff notes that "[In the case of Ancient
Greece] recent scholarship has emphasized the fact that formal prose was a comparatively late
development, an "invention" properly associated with the classical period".[22]

Novel: a long fictional prose narrative. It was the form's close relation to real life that
differentiated it from the chivalric romance;[23][24]in most European languages the equivalent term
is roman, indicating the proximity of the forms.[24] In English, the term emerged from
the Romance languages in the late fifteenth century, with the meaning of "news"; it came to
indicate something new, without a distinction between fact or fiction.[25] Although there are many
historical prototypes, so-called "novels before the novel",[26] the modern novel form emerges late
in cultural history roughly during the eighteenth century.[27] Initially subject to much criticism,
the novel has acquired a dominant position amongst literary forms, both popularly and
Novella: in purely quantitative terms, the novella exists between the novel and short story; the
publisher Melville House classifies it as "too short to be a novel, too long to be a short
story".[30] There is no precise definition in terms of word or page count.[31] Literary
prizes and publishing houses often have their own arbitrary limits,[32] which vary according to
their particular intentions. Summarising the variable definitions of the novella, William Giraldi
concludes "[it is a form] whose identity seems destined to be disputed into perpetuity".[33] It has
been suggested that the size restriction of the form produces various stylistic results, both some
that are shared with the novel or short story,[34][35] and others unique to the form.[36]
Short story: a dilemma in defining the "short story" as a literary form is how to, or whether one
should, distinguish it from any short narrative; hence it also has a contested origin,[37] variably
suggested as the earliest short narratives (e.g. the Bible), early short story writers (e.g. Edgar
Allan Poe), or the clearly modern short story writers (e.g. Anton Chekhov).[38] Apart from its
distinct size, various theorists have suggested that the short story has a characteristic subject
matter or structure;[39][40] these discussions often position the form in some relation to the novel.[41]
Main article: Drama
Drama is literature intended for performance.[42] The form is often combined with music and dance,
as in opera and musical theatre. A play is a subset of this form, referring to the written dramatic work
of a playwright that is intended for performance in a theatre; it comprises
chiefly dialogue between characters, and usually aims at dramatic or theatrical performance rather
than at reading. A closet drama, by contrast, refers to a play written to be read rather than to be
performed; hence, it is intended that the meaning of such a work can be realized fully on the
page.[43] Nearly all drama took verse form until comparatively recently.
Greek drama exemplifies the earliest form of drama of which we have substantial
knowledge. Tragedy, as a dramatic genre, developed as a performance associated
with religious and civic festivals, typically enacting or developing upon well-
known historical or mythological themes. Tragedies generally presented very serious themes. With
the advent of newer technologies, scripts written for non-stage media have been added to this
form. War of the Worlds (radio) in 1938 saw the advent of literature written for radio broadcast, and
many works of Drama have been adapted for film or television. Conversely, television, film, and
radio literature have been adapted to printed or electronic media.

Main article: History of literature

Egyptian hieroglyphs with cartouches for the name "Ramesses II", from the Luxor Temple, New Kingdom
The history of literature follows closely the development of civilization. When defined exclusively as
written work, Ancient Egyptian literature,[44] along with Sumerian literature are considered the
world's oldest literatures.[45] The primary genres of the literature of Ancient Egyptdidactic texts,
hymns and prayers, and taleswere almost entirely written in verse;[46] while use of poetic devices is
clearly recognisable, the prosody of the verse is unknown.[47]
Different historical periods are reflected in literature. National and tribal sagas, accounts of
the origin of the world and of customs, and myths which sometimes carry moral or spiritual
messages predominate in the pre-urban eras. The epics of Homer, dating from the early to
middle Iron age, and the great Indian epics of a slightly later period, have more evidence of
deliberate literary authorship, surviving like the older myths through oral tradition for long periods
before being written down.
Literature in all its forms can be seen as written records, whether the literature itself be factual or
fictional, it is still quite possible to decipher facts through things like characters actions and words or
the authors style of writing and the intent behind the words. The plot is for more than just
entertainment purposes; within it lies information about economics, psychology, science, religions,
politics, cultures, and social depth. Studying and analyzing literature becomes very important in
terms of learning about our[who?]history. Through the study of past literature we[who?] are able to learn
about how society has evolved and about the societal norms during each of the different periods all
throughout history. This can even help us to understand references made in more modern literature
because authors often make references to Greek mythology and other old religious texts or historical
moments. Not only is there literature written on each of the aforementioned topics themselves, and
how they have evolved throughout history (like a book about the history of economics or a book
about evolution and science, for example) but one can also learn about these things in fictional
works. Authors often include historical moments in their works, like when Lord Byron talks about the
Spanish and the French in Childe Harolds Pilgrimage: Canto I[48] and expresses his opinions
through his character Childe Harold. Through literature we are able to continuously uncover new
information about history. It is easy to see how all academic fields have roots in
literature.[49]Information became easier to pass down from generation to generation once we began
to write it down. Eventually everything was written down, from things like home remedies and cures
for illness, or how to build shelter to traditions and religious practices. From there people were able
to study literature, improve on ideas, further our knowledge, and academic fields such as the
medical field or trades could be started. In much the same way as the literature that we study today
continue to be updated as we[who?] continue to evolve and learn more and more.
As a more urban culture developed, academies provided a means of transmission for speculative
and philosophical literature in early civilizations, resulting in the prevalence of literature in Ancient
China, Ancient India, Persia and Ancient Greece and Rome. Many works of earlier periods, even in
narrative form, had a covert moral or didactic purpose, such as the Sanskrit Panchatantra or
the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Drama and satire also developed as urban culture provided a larger
public audience, and later readership, for literary production. Lyric poetry (as opposed to epic poetry)
was often the speciality of courts and aristocratic circles, particularly in East Asia where songs were
collected by the Chinese aristocracy as poems, the most notable being the Shijing or Book of Songs.
Over a long period, the poetry of popular pre-literate balladry and song interpenetrated and
eventually influenced poetry in the literary medium.
In ancient China, early literature was primarily focused on philosophy, historiography, military
science, agriculture, and poetry. China, the origin of modern paper making and woodblock printing,
produced the world's first print cultures.[50] Much of Chinese literature originates with the Hundred
Schools of Thought period that occurred during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (769-269 BCE). The most
important of these include the Classics of Confucianism, of Daoism, of Mohism, of Legalism, as well
as works of military science (e.g. Sun Tzu's The Art of War) and Chinese history (e.g. Sima
Qian's Records of the Grand Historian). Ancient Chinese literature had a heavy emphasis on
historiography, with often very detailed court records. An exemplary piece of narrative history of
ancient China was the Zuo Zhuan, which was compiled no later than 389 BCE, and attributed to the
blind 5th century BCE historian Zuo Qiuming.
In ancient India, literature originated from stories that were originally orally transmitted. Early genres
included drama, fables, sutras and epic poetry. Sanskrit literature begins with the Vedas, dating back
to 15001000 BCE, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India. The Vedas are among
the oldest sacred texts. The Samhitas (vedic collections) date to roughly 15001000 BCE, and the
"circum-Vedic" texts, as well as the redaction of the Samhitas, date to c. 1000-500 BCE, resulting in
a Vedic period, spanning the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE, or the Late Bronze Age and
the Iron Age.[51] The period between approximately the 6th to 1st centuries BC saw the composition
and redaction of the two most influential Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, with
subsequent redaction progressing down to the 4th century AD. Other major literary works
are Ramcharitmanas & Krishnacharitmanas.
In ancient Greece, the epics of Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Hesiod, who
wrote Works and Days and Theogony, are some of the earliest, and most influential, of Ancient
Greek literature. Classical Greek genres included philosophy, poetry,
historiography, comedies and dramas. Plato and Aristotle authored philosophical texts that are the
foundation of Western philosophy, Sappho and Pindar were influential lyric poets,
and Herodotus and Thucydides were early Greek historians. Although drama was popular in Ancient
Greece, of the hundreds of tragedies written and performed during the classical age, only a limited
number of plays by three authors still exist: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The plays
of Aristophanes provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy,
the earliest form of Greek Comedy, and are in fact used to define the genre.[52]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and author of the Faust books

Roman histories and biographies anticipated the extensive mediaeval literature of lives of saints and
miraculous chronicles, but the most characteristic form of the Middle Ages was the romance, an
adventurous and sometimes magical narrative with strong popular appeal. Controversial, religious,
political and instructional literature proliferated during the Renaissance as a result of the invention of
printing, while the mediaeval romance developed into a more character-based and psychological
form of narrative, the novel, of which early and important examples are the Chinese Monkey and the
German Faust books.
In the Age of Reason philosophical tracts and speculations on history and human nature integrated
literature with social and political developments. The inevitable reaction was the explosion
of Romanticism in the later 18th century which reclaimed the imaginative and fantastical bias of old
romances and folk-literature and asserted the primacy of individual experience and emotion. But as
the 19th-century went on, European fiction evolved towards realism and naturalism, the meticulous
documentation of real life and social trends. Much of the output of naturalism was implicitly
polemical, and influenced social and political change, but 20th century fiction and drama moved
back towards the subjective, emphasising unconscious motivations and social and environmental
pressures on the individual. Writers such as Proust, Eliot, Joyce, Kafka and Pirandello exemplify the
trend of documenting internal rather than external realities.
Genre fiction also showed it could question reality in its 20th century forms, in spite of its fixed
formulas, through the enquiries of the skeptical detective and the alternative realities of science
fiction. The separation of "mainstream" and "genre" forms (including journalism) continued to blur
during the period up to our own times. William Burroughs, in his early works, and Hunter S.
Thompson expanded documentary reporting into strong subjective statements after the second
World War, and post-modern critics have disparaged the idea of objective realism in general.

Main article: List of literary awards
There are numerous awards recognising achievement and contribution in literature. Given the
diversity of the field, awards are typically limited in scope, usually on: form, genre, language,
nationality and output (e.g. for first-time writers or debut novels).[53]
The Nobel Prize in Literature was one of the six Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred
Nobel in 1895,[54] and is awarded to an author on the basis of their body of work, rather than to, or
for, a particular work itself.[b] Other literary prizes for which all nationalities are eligible include:
the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Man Booker International Prize and the Franz
Kafka Prize.

An essay consists of a discussion of a topic from an author's personal point of view, exemplified by
works by Michel de Montaigne or by Charles Lamb.
Genres related to the essay may include the memoir and the epistle.

Other prose literature[edit]

Philosophical, historical, journalistic, and scientific writings are traditionally ranked as literature. They
offer some of the oldest prose writings in existence; novels and prose stories earned the names
"fiction" to distinguish them from factual writing or nonfiction, which writers historically have crafted in
Natural science[edit]
As advances and specialization have made new scientific research inaccessible to most audiences,
the "literary" nature of science writing has become less pronounced over the last two centuries. Now,
science appears mostly in journals. Scientific works of Aristotle, Copernicus, and Newton still exhibit
great value, but since the science in them has largely become outdated, they no longer serve for
scientific instruction. Yet, they remain too technical to sit well in most programmes of literary study.
Outside of "history of science" programmes, students rarely read such works.
Philosophy has become an increasingly academic discipline. More of its practitioners lament this
situation than occurs with the sciences; nonetheless most new philosophical work appears
in academic journals. Major philosophers through history
Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Augustine, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzschehave become as
canonical as any writers. Some recent philosophy works are argued to merit the title "literature", but
much of it does not, and some areas, such as logic, have become extremely technical to a degree
similar to that of mathematics.
Literature allows readers to access intimate emotional aspects of a persons character that would not
be obvious otherwise.[55] It benefits the psychological development and understanding of the reader.
For example, it allows a person to access emotional states from which the person has distanced
himself or herself. An entry written by D. Mitchell featured in The English Journal explains how the
author used young adult literature in order to re-experience the emotional psychology she
experienced as a child which she describes as a state of "wonder".[56]
Hogan also explains that the temporal and emotional amount which a person devotes to
understanding a characters situation in literature allows literature to be considered "ecological[ly]
valid in the study of emotion".[57] This can be understood in the sense that literature unites a large
community by provoking universal emotions. It also allows readers to access cultural aspects that
they are not exposed to thus provoking new emotional experiences.[58] Authors choose literary device
according to what psychological emotion he or she is attempting to describe, thus certain literary
devices are more emotionally effective than others.[59]
Furthermore, literature is being more popularly regarded as a psychologically effective research tool.
It can be considered a research tool because it allows psychologists to discover new psychological
aspects and it also allows psychologists to promote their theories.[60] For example, the print capacity
available for literature distribution has allowed psychological theories such as Maslows Hierarchy of
Needs to be universally recognized.
Maslows "Third Force Psychology Theory" even allows literary analysts to critically understand how
characters reflect the culture and the history in which they are contextualized. It also allows analysts
to understand the authors intended message and to understand the authors psychology.[61] The
theory suggests that human beings possess a nature within them that demonstrates their true "self"
and it suggests that the fulfillment of this nature is the reason for living. It also suggests that
neurological development hinders actualizing the nature because a person becomes estranged from
his or her true self.[62] Therefore, literary devices reflect a characterss and an authors natural
self.[59] In his Third Force Psychology and the Study of Literature, Paris argues "D.H. Lawrence's
'pristine unconscious' is a metaphor for the real self".[63] Thus Literature is a reputable tool that allows
readers to develop and apply critical reasoning to the nature of emotions.
A significant portion of historical writing ranks as literature, particularly the genre known as creative
nonfiction, as can a great deal of journalism, such as literary journalism. However, these areas have
become extremely large, and often have a primarily utilitarian purpose: to record data or convey
immediate information. As a result, the writing in these fields often lacks a literary quality, although it
often(and in its better moments)has that quality. Major "literary" historians
include Herodotus, Thucydides and Procopius, all of whom count as canonical literary figures.
Law offers more ambiguity. Some writings of Plato and Aristotle, the law tables
of Hammurabi of Babylon, or even the early parts of the Bible could be seen as legal
literature. Roman civil law as codified in the Corpus Juris Civilis during the reign of Justinian I of
the Byzantine Empire has a reputation as significant literature. The founding documents of many
countries, including Constitutions and Law Codes, can count as literature.

Other narrative forms[edit]

Electronic literature is a literary genre consisting of works that originate in digital environments.
Films, videos and broadcast soap operas have carved out a niche which often parallels the
functionality of prose fiction.
Graphic novels and comic books present stories told in a combination of sequential artwork,
dialogue and text.

Genres of literature[edit]
Literary genre is a mode of categorising literature. The term originates from French, designating a
proposed type or class.[64] However, such classes are subject to change, and have been used in
different ways in different periods and traditions.

Literary techniques[edit]
Main article: list of narrative techniques
A literary technique or literary device can be used by authors in order to enhance the written
framework of a piece of literature, and produce specific effects. Literary techniques encompass a
wide range of approaches to crafting a work: whether a work is narrated in first-person or from
another perspective, whether to use a traditional linear narrative or a nonlinear narrative, or the
choice of literary genre, are all examples of literary technique. They may indicate to a reader that
there is a familiar structure and presentation to a work, such as a conventional murder-mystery
novel; or, the author may choose to experiment with their technique to surprise the reader.
In this way, use of a technique can lead to the development of a new genre, as was the case with
one of the first modern novels, Pamela by Samuel Richardson. Pamela is written as a collection of
letter-writing correspondence, called "epistolary technique"; by using this
technique, Pamela strengthened the tradition of the epistolary novel, a genre which had been
practiced for some time already but without the same acclaim.
Literary technique is distinguished from literary device, as military strategy is distinguished
from military tactics. Devices are specific constructions within the narrative that make it effective.
Examples include metaphor, simile, ellipsis, narrative motifs, and allegory. Even simple word
play functions as a literary device. The narrative mode may be considered a literary device, such as
the use of stream-of-consciousness narrative.
Literary criticism implies a critique and evaluation of a piece of literature and, in some cases, it is
used to improve a work in progress or a classical piece, as with an ongoing theatre
production. Literary editors can serve a similar purpose for the authors with whom they work. There
are many types of literary criticism and each can be used to critique a piece in a different way or
critique a different aspect of a piece.

Legal status[edit]
This section needs expansion. You
can help by adding to it. (February

United Kingdom[edit]
Literary works have been protected by copyright law from unauthorised reproduction since at least
1710.[65] Literary works are defined by copyright law to mean any work, other than a dramatic or
musical work, which is written, spoken or sung, and accordingly includes (a) a table or compilation
(other than a database), (b) a computer program, (c) preparatory design material for a computer
program, and (d) a database.
It should be noted that literary works are not limited to works of literature, but include all works
expressed in print or writing (other than dramatic or musical works).[66]