Origin and Development of Literature

Origin and Development of Literature


UNIT 3: Origin and Development of Literature
In this Unit, the following aspects will be covered:
  • Introduction 
  • Origin of literature
  • Development of literature
  • Conclusion 
Literature as many other subjects, fields, and disciplines, it started, evolved, and developed to the present perspective in which we see it through. In some cases, origin and development of literature is in the mostly the same way as the development of language.

Origin of Literature
The origin of literature is entirely connected with the productive activities. Therefore, literature originated from the combinations of activities such as:
- Fishing activities,
- Construction activities,
- Hunting activities,
- Farming(planting and harvesting),
- Pastoral activities,
- Ritual celebrations, and
- Other cultural economic activities which involved teamworks and gatherings of people.
All these activities existed since ancient times. In these productive activities, speech was developed as a result of the labor process in various team works and other social movements and gatherings. These activities helped men produce songs and these songs were accompanied by the physical movements of arms and legs that simplified the works. Speech was at first used as a directive in locating and assigning certain activities to be done. Syllables and words were later produced. The speech grew and became a language, a fully conscious mode of communication between individuals and groups during the growing of social development of labor.  

Development of Literature
Because the language is the medium through which the materials like literature are conveyed, then, the literature itself probably began the very first the language was growing out of people’s social interactions.
The origin of the term. The term ‘literature is derived from the Latin word ‘Littera’ which means ‘letter of the alphabet’ or in plural ‘Litterae’, meaning ‘letters’.  This means that originally the term ‘literature’ meant ‘anything written down, writing or kinds of writing’ although there was much oral literature found in any society. However, in the 18th century, the term ‘literature’ took its modern (present-day) use and the current meaning generally attached to the term ‘literature’ that ‘literature is a body of writing by a people or by peoples using the same language orally or in written forms.

Therefore, literature is a form of human expression. But not everything expressed orally or in words is counted as literature even when it is well organized. Some forms of writings belong to literature as an art only if they are said to succeed in possessing ‘artistic merit’, that is, a natural skill in art and human creativity in the course of literary writings.
There are also various kinds of literature according to which language is used and which people are involved in it. Thus, we can have the French literature, English literature, Chinese literature, African literature, and Tanzanian literature as well.

The emphasis in this Unit is placed on how important it is to know the origin and development of a certain aspect. And knowing the origin and development of literature will open the students to various ways in which their local literature have developed into their present forms. For example, most of activities discussed in this Unit are common to most of our societies, and these societies carried its own literature forms through songs, stories, and other traditions. 

Here teacher may guide students to discuss in pairs or in groups on how their local literature or any forms of literature like Kiswahili developed into the present forms. 
They should draw examples on what they always sing or narrate when they are in team works like those groups of men who crush maize at the farm or when they are fishing. These songs and activities will be their foundations to have fuller understanding of language and literature.


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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