Definitions of Literature

Definitions of Literature


UNIT 2: Various Definitions of Literature
In this Unit, the following aspects will be covered:
  • Introduction 
  • What is literature
  • Various definitions of literature
  • Conclusion 
The question What is Literature? is always a general term that whenever one sees it, he/she thinks of what kind of literature is being asked. But it is always a good idea to distinguish literature from other academic disciplines and thorough exploration of its various genres. However, to answer this question, you should first know the meaning of Literature. Literature as a separate discipline has been defined by several authors in various perspectives. 

What is Literature?
One and useful definition of literature has been ‘it is simply anything that is written: textbooks, brochures, newspapers, manuals and so on. For instance, if you are thinking to buy a motorcycle, you will probably want to see the literature (instructions manual) about it. If you are Physics student, you will have to read the literature about Physics too! Thus, we may conclude that all written materials like historical books, magazines, dictionaries, novels, encyclopedias, plays, short stories, and so on are literatures.

Various definitions of Literature:
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2008) defines Literature as written artistic words, especially those with a high lasting artistic value.
Literature is any artwork which uses language. It is a medium in which a person/artist creates an artwork out of tools he/she has. In literature, the tools used to create artwork are words which are used in expressing human experience, feelings, emotions and thoughts. Literature is a total experience shaped into beauty and attractiveness.
Literature is defined as a piece of writing that is valued as a work of art, especially novel, play, and poetry.
Literature is also defined as the written or oral composition that tells stories, dramatic situations, and expresses emotions, and analyzes and advocates ideas.
Literature also refers to the creative and imaginative writing which is designed to engage readers emotionally and intellectually through the major literary genres such as novels, drama, and poetry and other sub genres like fable, parable, and short stories.
Literature is a reflection of social, political, economic, and cultural realities. It is a part and parcel of man’s self-realization and a symbol of man’s success and failure. It explains human nature, caliber and his/her destination.

Conclusively, there are various definitions of literature but all of them amount to one, that is, literature is an art that uses language creatively to portray social and personal experience.


Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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