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Literature is a term used to describe written and sometimes spoken material. Derived from the Latin litteratura meaning "writing formed with letters," literature most commonly refers to works of the creative imagination, including poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and in some instances, song. Simply put, literature represents the culture and tradition of a language or a people. It's difficult to precisely define, though many have tried, but it's clear that the accepted definition of literature is constantly changing and evolving. For many, the word literature suggests a higher art form, merely putting words on a page doesn't necessarily mean creating literature. A canon is the accepted body of works for a given author. Some works of literature are considered canonical, that is culturally representative of a particular genre. But what we consider to be literature can vary from one generation to the next. For instance, Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick was considered a failure by contemporary reviewers. However, it's since been recognized as a master work, and is frequently cited as one of the best works of western literature for its thematic complexity and use of symbolism to tell the story of Captain Ahab and the white whale. By reading Moby Dick in the present day, we can gain a fuller understanding of literary traditions in Melville's time.

In this way, literature is more than just a historical or cultural artifact, but can serve as an introduction to a new world of experience. Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author writes or says, and how he or she says it. We may interpret and debate an author's message by examining the words he or she chooses in a given novel or work, or observing which character or voice serves as the connection to the reader. In academia, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory, using a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approach to better understand the context and depth of a work. Works of literature, at their best, provide a kind of blueprint of human civilization. From the writings of ancient civilizations like Egypt, and China, to Greek philosophy and poetry; from the epics of Homer to the plays of Shakespeare, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Maya Angelou, works of literature give insight and context to all the world's societies. Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze it, literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us on a deeply personal level. Even when it is ugly, literature is beautiful.

Philosophy and Literature

Philosophy and literature‹ is an area of study devoted to both written works of artistic creation and philosophical works, with a view to how both categories can illuminate experience and address human perplexities. This conclusion is reached through a discussion taking an overview of mainly analytic philosophy over the last twenty-odd years, particularly with a perspective on how the initial hostility between philosophy and literature has been overcome. The justification for claiming that philosophy and literature‹ is a viable field of its own can only be found by looking at how both parts of the conjunction makes fruitful use of the other, while also making good the claim that these two pursuits belong together.

Philosophy and Literature has explored the dialogue between literary and philosophical studies. The journal offers fresh, stimulating ideas in the aesthetics of literature, theory of criticism, philosophical interpretation of literature, and literary treatment of philosophy. Philosophy and Literature challenges the cant and pretensions of academic priesthoods through its assortment of lively, wide-ranging essays, notes, and reviews that are written in clear, jargon-free prose. Plato is responsible both for philosophy as we know it and the idea that philosophy and literature should have quarreled from ancient times. It is shown that this alleged quarrel was Plato's invention, and used to open up for the new discourse of truth-seeking philosophy. Paradoxically, it seems, Plato was a writer who had learnt much from the great tragedians, yet spurned their creations as mere inspiration and without knowledge – as well as dangerous to the souls of the ideal republic. This paradox, however, is only apparent. Any new discourse will have to find converts, and cannot therefore use the as yet unknown means of communication. In short, it will have to use the language of the cave. The purpose of this visit to the past is mainly to show that it is not easy to justify putting the word ›and‹ between the two opponents of this alleged quarrel. Ever since Plato, philosophy's conception of itself as the discourse of reason has pitted it against the fanciful creations of literary fiction.

Type of Prose

Prose Fiction is generally long, detailed, and written episodically in many cases. There are many types or genres of prose such as short stories, novellas, novelettes, novels, fables, etc.
Some examples of prose fiction are Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. It should be noted that not all prose are fictional. We have prose in the forms of biography and autobiography, among others. Examples of this form of prose include Wole Soyinka's Ake: The Years of Childhood and Chinua Achebe's There Was a Country, among others.
There are four types of prose in literature,

  1. Fictional Prose (Includes novels, novellas, short stories)
  2. Non-fictional Prose (Includes biographies, essays, journals)
  3. Heroic Prose (Includes legends, tales)
  4. Poetry Prose ( poetry written in prose instead of using verse but maintaining poetic qualities)

Prose is a form of language that has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure, rather than rhythmic structure, such as in the case of traditional poetry. Normal everyday speech is spoken in prose, and most people think and write in prose form. Prose comprises of full grammatical sentences, which consist of paragraphs, and forgoes aesthetic appeal in favor of clear, straightforward language. It can be said to be the most reflective of conversational speech. Some works of prose do have versification, and a blend of the two formats that is called “prose poetry.”


In literature, a drama is the portrayal of fictional or non-fictional events through the performance of written dialog (either prose or poetry). Dramas can be performed on stage, on film, or the radio. Dramas are typically called plays, and their creators are known as “playwrights” or “dramatists.” Drama is a mode of fictional representation through dialogue and performance. It is one of the literary genres, which is an imitation of some action. Drama is also a type of a play written for theater, television, radio, and film.

Lighter in tone, comedies are intended to make the audience laugh and usually come to a happy ending. Comedies place offbeat characters in unusual situations causing them to do and say funny things. Based on darker themes, tragedies portray serious subjects like death, disaster, and human suffering in a dignified and thought-provoking way. Featuring exaggerated or absurd forms of comedy, a farce is a nonsensical genre of drama in which characters intentionally overact and engage in slapstick or physical humor. An exaggerated form of drama, melodramas depict classic one-dimensional characters such as heroes, heroines, and villains dealing with sensational, romantic, and often perilous situations. This versatile genre of drama combines theater, dialogue, music, and dance to tell grand stories of tragedy or comedy. A relatively new genre, docudramas are dramatic portrayals of historic events or non-fictional situations.

Literature Techniques


Alliteration is a series of words or phrases that all (or almost all) start with the same sound. These sounds are typically consonants to give more stress to that syllable. You’ll often come across alliteration in poetry, titles of books and poems (Jane Austen is a fan of this device, for example—just look at Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility), and tongue twisters.


An allegory is a story that is used to represent a more general message about real-life (historical) issues and/or events. It is typically an entire book, novel, play, etc.


Allusion is when an author makes an indirect reference to a figure, place, event, or idea originating from outside the text. Many allusions make reference to previous works of literature or art.


An anachronism occurs when there is an (intentional) error in the chronology or timeline of a text. This could be a character that appears in a different time period than when he actually lived, or a technology that appears before it was invented. Anachronisms are often used for comedic effect.


An epigraph is when an author inserts a famous quotation, poem, song, or other short passage or text at the beginning of a larger text (e.g., a book, chapter, etc.). An epigraph is typically written by a different writer (with credit given) and used as a way to introduce overarching themes or messages in the work. Some pieces of literature, such as Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick, incorporate multiple epigraphs throughout.


A flashback is an interruption in a narrative that depicts events that have already occurred, either before the present time or before the time at which the narration takes place. This device is often used to give the reader more background information and details about specific characters, events, plot points, and so on.


Foreshadowing is when an author indirectly hints at—through things such as dialogue, description, or characters’ actions—what’s to come later on in the story. This device is often used to introduce tension to a narrative.


Imagery is when an author describes a scene, thing, or idea so that it appeals to our senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, or hearing). This device is often used to help the reader clearly visualize parts of the story by creating a strong mental picture.


  • Specsavers National Book Awards
  • Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Man Booker Prize
  • Pulitzer Prize
  • Costa Book Awards
  • Neustadt International Prize for Literature
  • Hugo Award
  • Guardian First Book Award
  • National Book Award
  • Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction