Monday, April 13, 2009

Introduction to Literature


• Literature is the art of written works.
• Literature refers to the language deliberately structured in such a way to have identifiable artistic qualities.
• Literature is a special kind of language that differs from the ordinary discourse with which we conduct our daily affair.
• Literature serves as a social document, giving us insight into the law customs, institutions, attitudes, and values of the age in which it was written or in which it is set.


Literature has different meanings depending on who is using it. It could be any symbolic record, encompassing everything from images and sculptures to letters.

In a narrow sense literature could mean only text composed of letters or other examples of symbolic written language (Egyptian Hieroglyphs).

An even more narrow interpretation is that text has a physical form such as on paper or some other portable form, to the exclusion of inscription or digital media.

History of Literature

One of the earliest known literary works is the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem dated around 2700 B.C, which deals with themes of heroism, friendship, loss, and the quest for eternal life. Different historical periods have emphasized various characteristics of literature. Early works often had an overt or covert religious or didactic purpose. Moralizing or prescriptive literature stems from such sources. The exotic nature of romance flourished from the Middle Ages onwards, whereas the Age of Reason manufactured nationalistic epics and philosophical tracts. Romanticism emphasized the popular folk literature and emotive involvement, but gave way in the 19th-century West to a phase of realism and naturalism, investigations into what is real. The 20th century brought demands for symbolism or psychological insight in the delineation and development of character.

Forms of Literature

Poetry Drama/a play
Prose Essay

• Poetry
A poem is a composition written in verse. Poems rely heavily on imagery, precise word choice, and metaphor; they may take the form of measures consisting of patterns of stresses (metric feet) or of patterns of different- length syllables, and they may or may not utilize rhyme.

Some poetry uses specific forms: the haiku, the limerick, or the sonnet, for example. A traditional haiku written in Japanese must have something to do with nature, contain seventeen onji (syllables), distributed over three lines in groups of five, seven, and five, and should also have a kigo, a specific word indicating a season. A limerick has five lines, with a rhyme scheme of AABBA, and line lengths of 3, 3,2,2,3 stressed syllables. It traditionally has a less reverent attitude towards nature. Poetry not adhering to a formal poetic structure is called "free verse"

• Prose
Consists of writing that does not adhere to any particular formal structures (other than simple grammar); "non-poetic" writing, perhaps. The term sometimes appears pejoratively, but prosaic writing simply says something without necessarily trying to say it in a beautiful way, or using beautiful words. Prose writing can of course take beautiful form; but less by virtue of the formal features of words (rhymes, alliteration, metre) but rather by style, placement, or inclusion of graphics. But one need not mark the distinction precisely, and perhaps cannot do so. One area of overlap is "prose poetry", which attempts to convey using only prose, the aesthetic richness typical of poetry.

• Essays
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.
'Essay' in English derives from the French 'essai', meaning 'attempt'. Thus one can find open-ended, provocative and/or inconclusive essays. The term "essays" first applied to the self-reflective musings of Michel de Montaigne, and even today he has a reputation as the father of this literary form.
Genres related to the essay may include:
• the memoir, telling the story of an author's life from the author's personal point of view
• the epistle: usually a formal, didactic, or elegant letter.

• Fiction
Narrative fiction (narrative prose) generally favors prose for the writing of novels, short stories, graphic novels, and the like. Singular examples of these exist throughout history, but they did not develop into systematic and discrete literary forms until relatively recent centuries. Length often serves to categorize works of prose fiction. Although limits remain somewhat arbitrary, modern publishing conventions dictate the following:
• A Mini Saga is a short story of exactly 50 words
• A Flash fiction is generally defined as a piece of prose under a thousand words.
• A short story comprises prose writing of between 1000 and 20,000 words (but typically more than 5000 words), which may or may not have a narrative arc.
• A story containing between 20,000 and 50,000 words falls into the novella category.
• A work of fiction containing more than 50,000 words falls squarely into the realm of the novel.
A novel consists simply of a long story written in prose, yet the form developed comparatively recently

• Drama/a play
A play or drama offers another classical literary form that has continued to evolve over the years. It generally comprises chiefly dialogue between characters, and usually aims at dramatic / theatrical performance rather than at reading. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, opera developed as a combination of poetry, drama, and music. Nearly all drama took verse form until comparatively recently. Shakespeare could be considered drama. Romeo and Juliet, for example, is a classic romantic drama generally accepted as literature.
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. From Wikipedia.

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