Definition and Purpose

March 10, 2015 – 09:37 am

Pages of a book flying away in the wind - Dimitri Otis/ Photodisc/ Getty ImagesDimitri Otis/ Photodisc/ Getty Images

Definition: What is literature? Why do we read it? Why is literature important?

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, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.

Why do we read literature?

Literature represents a language or a people: culture and tradition. But, literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artifact. Literature introduces us to new worlds of experience. We learn about books and literature; we enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays; and we may even grow and evolve through our literary journey with books.

Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author says and how he/she says it. We may interpret the author's message. In academic circles, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory, using a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approach.

Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze literature, there is still an artistic quality to the works. Literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us. Even when it is ugly, literature is beautiful.

Also Known As: Classics, learning, erudition, belles-lettres, lit, literary works, written work, writings, books.

Common Misspellings: Litericher.

Examples: "The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." - Robert Louis Stevenson


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