What is Literature? Definitions and its Role in Society

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The word “Literature” comes from the Latin word“literra, litteratura or litteratus” which means “writing formed with letters”.Now let us look at the broader definition of literature.

Literature can be any written work in general, but it is notably an artistic or intellectual piece of writing. It is one of the fine arts, such as painting, dance, and music, that offers readers aesthetic enjoyment. It is distinguished from other literary works simply by one extra feature: aesthetic attractiveness. It is not literature if a written piece lacks aesthetic appeal and serves solely practical purposes. Its genres, such as poetry, drama, or prose, combines intellectual labor and aesthetic attractiveness. When a written work lacks aesthetic elegance, it is not literature.

How do different writers define literature?

Many great writers have defined and articulated its significance and meaning in their unique way. Here are a few renowned definitions of literature from time-honored authors.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

Ezra Pound

It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.”

Henry James

Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac.”

Oscar Wild

Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart.”

Salman Rushdie

These definitions of literature by famous writers highlight distinct facets of it and demonstrate how versatile it can be.

How is literature a mirror of life?

Literature is an essential component of any culture and has a tremendous impact on the ways and thoughts of its citizens. In fact, society is the sole theme of literature. It molds a society’s views and values. As a result, it influences society and shapes it.

In our social lives, we require a lot of literature. People cannot survive in the absence of literature. People’s pleasure, grief, laughter, tears, agony, pride, love, and affection are all conveyed in literature. Life and society are reflected in literature.

The authors attempt to highlight history, tradition, civilization, culture, culture, humanity, and the world’s sadness. Poets and writers explore new possibilities through navigating the ups and downs of individual, family, society, and state life. The perception of that vista opens up new avenues of thought-consciousness. This is the country’s and the nation’s magnificence.

Essays in literature frequently address a country’s issues and offer remedies. Producers produce films and write novels on morals, mental diseases, patriotism, and other topics. They link all the societal problems with such works. Different genres can likewise give a societal image. We must remember that the picture painted by literature is not always accurate. Writers may use it to alter society in their own unique ways.

Literature shapes a society

Literature has had a significant effect on societal progress. It has moulded civilizations, altered political systems, and revealed inequity. Literature gives us a full glimpse of human experiences, allowing us to relate on the most fundamental levels of desire and passion.

However, much as it has built communities, many writers’ writings and works have deteriorated society to their most primal form.

Our society’s norms and laws are guided by supernatural powers of which we are unaware. Some new regulations have emerged, while others have outlasted the rest. Still, our lives continue; we give birth, and we die. When we think about it, we realize that books produced in specific comparable times have affected society and people’s beliefs and behaviors. They made the decisions on how individuals felt, thought, and acted. Literature quietly snuck into people’s lives and continues to do so, influencing the subconscious and thereby framing society. It tells the tale of our life.

It is a well-known fact that classical literature, for example, had a significant impact on society regarding gender prejudice, which eventually led to the notion of gender equality. Many female writers have written about women and have portrayed them as tough, independent, and strong! The legends of classical romance also impacted how individuals express their love. The classical era is still reflected in the traditional ways of proposing, such as kneeling and exchanging red flowers and kisses.

In today’s world, literature is no longer considered “innocent” but somewhat ironic. It reflects our political, social, and personal disenchantment, and it no longer dares to hope it can generate anything new. It can only transform the old into something new. In addition, a new sense of skepticism about the function of art and literature itself is emerging in modern writing. Prior generations understood literature and other art forms to be “anti-Establishment,” that is, they were supposed to challenge and disrupt long-held norms and ideals. On the other hand, art saw the masses as people who needed to be educated but were bound by social and religious tradition and indifference to the point that they could not be. It is a third tendency in modern writing to accept the premise that all we know depends on our perspective, which was first popularised in the early 20th century. You perceive things in a different light than I do. Thus, there is no such thing as “Truth” since there is no entirely objective observer. With new information, my truth and yours might alter at any time.

Literature of the present day claims that two “truths” may (and frequently do) exist simultaneously. A step further is taken by modern literature in questioning the integrity of “facts,” which are subject to cultural bias, historical perspective, linguistic games, and other unrecognized or purposefully withheld information. Current literature, like contemporary life, may sometimes appear schizophrenic due to its capacity to incorporate paradoxes. Despite its criticism of the value and use of language, it employs exact language to convey its thoughts. Even while it depicts the fragmentation and collapse of society, it unifies all of the disparate pieces.

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