There are a lot of things that come to mind when a person hears the word literature. Usually, one thinks of a book, story, classical work or some variation of the aforementioned but to ask someone to define the term literature, proves to be a much trickier task. Many are stumped when asked this question. People often answer by giving examples of literary works but fail to actually give an encompassing definition of the term. Welcome to the world of Webster (Dictionary that is).
Webster’s Dictionary defines the term literature as the body of written works of a language, period, or culture. This definition seems be broad but continuing on in the definition there was one part that really stood as a more adequate representation of what literature is about. The definition reads as follows; the body of written work produced by scholars or researchers in a given field. This particular definition seems to hit at the core of literature; scholarship and specialization.
Some feel that that all written works are forms of literature. I contend that a true work of literature must be written by a person who has studied a given field (specialization) and produced a work that allows the reader to gain some form of a lesson or viewpoint (scholarship), whether agreeing with the writer or taking an opposing stance of the information set fourth in the work.
This is not to say that these types of works do not have any entertainment value but they have a type of entertainment that wraps the lesson, argument or viewpoint in an engaging style rather than being force-fed the authors’ stance. A true work of literature should evoke some form of discussion on the works main point. A work of literature needs all of the above, not only to be called a true work of literature but to also cement its place in history, which is the last piece of the puzzle when defining the term.
Literature stands the test of time and can be discussed by great grandchildren as well as great grandmothers and all those in between. This all goes to say that the importance of literature is its ability to connect a community known as the human race.
Classical works of literature have been translated so that all human beings can share in a great piece, even being translated to an audio, so that those who can not read will not be stopped from participating in the act of community that literature provides. It is amazing that even though some might not share the same culture as others, they could start a discussion around a piece of literature. The literature in this instance acts as a unifier rather than just a book or story, thus proving the power of literature and the overall power of the written word.
A true work of literature must have scholarship, specialization, a unifying human element and an entertaining delivery in order to stand the test of time. The points mentioned above give literature criteria on which to be compared.
The importance of literature goes far beyond just having “a good read.” Literature possesses an intangible that can have a great impact on people’s lives. Great works of our time have brought nations together, stopped feuds, healed wounds, and have even taught humans how to be “human” again. Literature is extremely important and necessary to the growth of this world and for a creation of a global society.