Introduction to Literature

Literature is a verbal art. It can add much meaning to humanity as a whole. Here is a brief introduction to literature and a description of what makes a work of literature spellbinding.
| Saturday, November 29, 2008
Ezra Pound rightly said, "Great Literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree". Literature can quite simply be defined or referred to as a verbal art. A work of literature intends to explore life, emotions, feelings and experiences of humans. It asks questions and seeks answers. Any good piece of literature aims at impacting the audience on multiple levels including intellectually and emotionally wherein the work of literature is regarded as extremely moving and profoundly beautiful. Based on the genre of literature the writer aims to manipulate or use the language so as to create maximum impact. For e.g.: A short story may use characters well while a dramatist may use dialogues and descriptions beautifully. What remains common in literature is that the writer weaves words so as to create a vision or an interesting journey for the reader.

Literature as a whole is a vast subject so introduction to literature can occur only through a study of major works of literature and developing a sense of appreciation together with critical thinking capabilities about the different works in literature. Any work of literature to be appreciated needs to have a lasting impression on its readers. It may be shocking or provocative, deeply moving and meaningful. It should allow readers to use their imaginations and be engaging in the use of language, imagery, symbols and allow people to interpret it.

Beautiful literature should also allow people to have a pleasing experience and at the same time the language and its flow should seem totally natural. A good work of literature also stands the test of time and continues to remain relevant across different cultures since it is successful in conveying a universal message. E.g.: Shakespeare’s drama continues to be relevant across different countries and cultures because of the basic human emotions explored in it. While talking about introduction to literature it is important to identify the different genres or types of literature that are a part of literature.
  • Broadly literature may include fictional and non fictional literature. Fictional literature includes drama which consists of theatrical dialogue on stage. It may include tragedy, melodrama and comedy. E.g.: Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare are plays that can be classified as tragedy and drama.

  • Myth includes tales of magic and fantasy and does not have elements of reality in them. Short stories are smaller than novels while novels may include comic, drama, detective elements or plots and are sub divided into parts. Novels written from the perspective of women in a male dominated society ordinarily forms part of feminist literature, e.g.: A Room of its Own by Virginia Woolf is an example of feminist literature.

  • Realism is based on truths visible in the society or problems within the society. Romance centres on love and relationships. Satire is based on criticism of contemporary society.

  • Biography is the story of a person about his/her own life as told by that person and is a part of non fictional literature. Autobiography is the life story of a person actually written by the person. Fable is a story that is written to teach a lesson or a moral. A folktale is usually passed down within a culture and is based on supernatural characters. Legend is a historical account that may be part fact and part fiction and that is passed on down the generations. Other kinds of literature include poetry, essay, literary criticism and travel literature.
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