By Muhammad Faseeh ul Hassan

Literature is the thought of thinking souls.

Thomas Carlyle

Definition of literature.

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing 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.

Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, “literature” is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.

Taken to mean only written works, literature was first produced by some of the world’s earliest civilizations—those of Ancient Egypt and Sumeria—as early as the 4th millennium BC; taken to include spoken or sung texts, it originated even earlier, and some of the first written works may have been based on a pre-existing oral tradition. As urban cultures and societies developed, there was a proliferation in the forms of literature. Developments in print technology allowed for literature to be distributed and experienced on an unprecedented scale, which has culminated in the twenty-first century in electronic literature.

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).

Genres

Literary genre is a mode of categorizing literature. A French term for “a literary type or class”.

Poetry

Poem is a genre of literature in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm.

Oxford Dictionary

Poetry is a form of literary art which uses the aesthetic qualities of language (including music and rhythm) to evoke meanings beyond a prose paraphrase. Poetry has traditionally been distinguished from prose by its being set in verse; prose is cast in sentences, poetry in lines.

Happily, if poetry is almost impossible to define, it is extremely easy to recognize in experience; even untutored children are rarely in doubt about it when it appears:

Little Jack Jingle,
He used to live single,
But when he got tired of this kind of life,
He left off being single, and liv’d with his wife.

Prose

Written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure. When identifying a piece of writing as prose, the piece should be written in a typical, straightforward manner. It will follow grammatical structures rather than a meter or verse pattern as found in poetry.

 However, developments in modern literature, including free verse and prose poetry have tended to blur any differences, and American poet T.S. Eliot suggested that while: “the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure”

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 prose.

Fiction

  • Novel

A novel is a long fictional prose narrative. In English, the term emerged from the Romance languages in the late 15th century, with the meaning of “news”; it came to indicate something new, without a distinction between fact or fiction. It maybe called as fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.

The novel constitutes “a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years”, with its origins in classical Greece and Rome, in medieval and early modern romance, and in the tradition of the Italian renaissance novella.

  • Novella

novella or mezzobula is a work of narrative prose fiction, longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. Publishers and literary award societies typically describe a novella’s word count as falling between 15,000 and 40,000 words, although definitions vary.

A novella generally features fewer conflicts than a novel, yet more complicated ones than a short story. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. Novellas may or may not be divided into chapters (good examples of those with chapters are Animal Farm by George Orwell and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

  • Short Story

Short Story is a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting and focuses on a self-contained incident or series of linked incidents, with the intent of evoking a “single effect” or mood. A dictionary definition is “an invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot.”

In terms of length, word count is typically anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 for short stories, however some have 20,000 words and are still classed as short stories. Stories of fewer than 1,000 words are sometimes referred to as “short short stories”, or “flash fiction“.

  • Essays

An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Formal essays are characterized by “serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length,” whereas the informal essay is characterized by “the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme,”

Drama

Drama is literature intended for performance. The form is often combined with music and dance, as in opera and musical theater. A play is a subset of this form, referring to the written dramatic work of a playwright that is intended for performance in a theater; it comprises chiefly dialogue between characters, and usually aims at dramatic or theatrical performance rather than at reading.

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6 Replies to “Introduction to literature”

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