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Literature (from Latin litteraetantri (plural); letter) is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources (although, under circumstances unpublished sources can be exempt). Literally translated, the word literature means “acquaintance with letters” (as in the “arts and letters”). The two major classification of literature are poetry and prose. “Literature” is sometimes differentiated from popular and ephemeral classes of writing.
Terms such as “literary fiction” and “literary merit” are used to distinguish individual works as art-literature rather than vernacular writing, and some critics exclude works from being “literary”, for example, on grounds of weak or faulty style, use of slang, poor characterization and shallow or contrived construction.
Others exclude all genres such as romance, crime and mystery, science fiction, horror and fantasy. Pop lyrics, which are not technically a written medium at all, have also been drawn into this controversy.
POETRY A poem is a composition written in verse (although verse has been equally used for epic and dramatic fiction).
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 (as in classical prosody); and they may or may not utilize rhyme. Relaxation Through Poetry is a tool used to help someone relax in times of stress. One cannot readily characterize poetry precisely.
Typically though, poetry as a form of literature makes some significant use of the formal properties of the words it uses – the properties of the written or spoken form of the words, independent of their meaning.
Meter depends on syllables and on rhythms of speech; rhyme and alliteration depend on the sounds of words. Arguably, poetry pre-dates other forms of literature. Early examples include the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (dated from around 2700 B. C. ), parts of the Bible, the surviving works of Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey), and the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
In cultures based primarily on oral traditions the formal characteristics of poetry often have a mnemonic function, and important texts: legal, genealogical or moral, for example, may appear first in verse form. Some poetry uses specific forms. Examples include the haiku, the limerick, and the sonnet. A traditional haiku written in Japanese relate to 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” Language and tradition dictate some poetic norms: Persian poetry always rhymes, Greek poetry rarely rhymes, Italian or French poetry often does, English and German poetry can go either way. Perhaps the most paradigmatic style of English poetry, blank verse, as exemplified in works by Shakespeare and Milton, consists of unrhymed iambic pentameters.
Some languages prefer longer lines; some shorter ones. Some of these conventions result from the ease of fitting a specific language’s vocabulary and grammar into certain structures, rather than into others; for example, some languages contain more rhyming words than others, or typically have longer words. Other structural conventions come about as the result of historical accidents, where many speakers of a language associate good poetry with a verse form preferred by a particular skilled or popular poet. Works for theatre (see below) traditionally took verse form.
This has now become rare outside opera and musicals, although many would argue that the language of drama remains intrinsically poetic. In recent years, digital poetry has arisen that takes advantage of the artistic, publishing, and synthetic qualities of digital media. 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 ‘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–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. •works by Lady Murasaki, the Arabic Hayy ibn Yaqdhan by Ibn Tufail, the Arabic Theologus Autodidactus by Ibn al-Nafis, and the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong.
Early novels in Europe did not count as significant litera perhaps because “mere” prose writing seemed easy and unimportant. It has become clear, however, that prose writing can provide aesthetic pleasure without adhering to poetic forms. Additionally, the freedom authors gain in not having to concern themselves with verse structure translates often into a more complex plot or into one richer in precise detail than one typically finds even in narrative poetry. This freedom also allows an author to experiment with many different literary and presentation styles—including poetry—in the scope of a single novel.
Other prose literature Philosophical, historical, journalistic, legal 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 prose. Natural science 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 possess 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 Philosophy, too, 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, Augustine, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—have become as canonical as any writers. Some recent philosophy works are argued to merit the title “literature”, such as some of the works by Simon Blackburn; but much of it does not, and some areas, such as logic, have become extremely technical to a degree similar to that of mathematics. History A great deal of historical writing ranks as literature, particularly the genre known as creative nonfiction. So 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 Law offers a less clear case. Some writings of Plato and Aristotle, or even the early parts of the Bible, might count as legal literature.
The law tables of Hammurabi of Babylon might count. 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; however, most legal writings rarely exhibit much literary merit, as they tend to be rather garrulous. Drama 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 (see theatre) rather than at reading. During the 18th and 19th 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.
Oral literature The term oral literature refers not to written, but to oral traditions, which includes different types of epic, poetry and drama, folktales, ballads. However the use of this oxymoron is controversial and not generally accepted by the scientific community. Some prefer to avoid the etymological question using “oral narrative tradition”, “oral sacred tradition”, “oral poetry” or directly using epics or poetry (terms that no necessarily imply writing), others prefer to create neologisms as orature.
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