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What is Literature

Anas Tariq is a student of BS-English . He studies at Department of English and Applied Linguistics , University of Peshawar.

What is Literature


A written or oral piece which reflects human emotions, nature, and society is called literature.

Literature is a very broad term. It covers a wide range of ideas. A single definition of Literature might not be possible. Everyone defines it according to his/her views. I admire the definition of T.S.Eliot, “The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink". This definition can be elaborated by describing allegories of blood and ink. Blood denotes elements that reside inside the human body. These are abstract elements that can be only felt I.e. zeal, love, hate, anger, enthusiasm, courage, cowardice, zealous, hope, etc.
This definition romanticizes literature and literature is romantic but it covers only one aspect of literature.
I define literature as, The written or oral piece which reflects human emotions, nature, and society.
Life is the period of an individual from birth to death. Literature is directly related to the life of an individual because it reflects life. It surfaced positive, negative, and love, hate, and hurdles and comforts of life.
Everything which surrounds our body is nature one is outside nature one is inside nature which is a combination of mind and heart. Both have a great impact on the life of an individual and also glorify literature. William Wordsworth was a pantheist. He considers nature a living force. He celebrates nature to find God in it and learn morality from nature. In one of his poems “My Heart Leaps Up,” he uses the elements of nature, the rainbow, to be in the celestial light.
Literature is divided into fiction and non-fiction literature.
Fiction literature includes imagination and has fictitious characters which are not real but exist in the mind of the writer. It includes poetry, drama, novel, and story. Non-fiction literature is not dependent on imagination and characterization I.e. Essays and biographies.
Story, drama, novel, and poetry are genres of fiction and are different from each other.
According to William Wordsworth poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquillity.
"Poetry is emotion put into measure. Thomas Hardy".
"Poetry is the language of the imagination and the passions". William Hazlitt.
Story and novel are series of events but have a different scope of action I.e. Story has the short scope of action while the the the the the novel has a long scope of action is the description of space and time). Moreover, We can also differentiate story and novel by elements i.e. story has a plot while sub-plot is not mandatory, the story has two to three characters while in novel sub-plot is mandatory and has more characters.
Drama is a different genre in which there is no narration. It is the live actions of characters. Drama relies on the exchange of dialogues.
Essay emerges in English literature after Francis Bacon. The meaning of an essay is to do something new. An essay is the combination of paragraphs that describe a certain subject.
It is pertinent to mention the significance of literature. Many important questions originate in the mind of the individual. Like, why we study literature and why someone writes different things. What are the effects and importance of literature?
Literature is the stream of ideas. It is the world of developed thoughts. It contains experiences of veteran personalities. It discusses all ups and downs of life. Literature may have an authentic description of the future. It is said that poets create a world of imagination and on the power of imagination they think ahead of their time while scientists and engineers deal with the existing time. Whatsoever imagined by poets come into existence later on. The cars, the airplanes, and large machines are the results of prolonged imagination.
So, whosoever study literature will take advantage of the ideas and experiences of writers. The reader will have developed thoughts and will better know how to deal with life. Literature also makes a person civilized, according to, Bertrand Russell, civilization is not the development of material adjuncts, it is the development of thought and literature that develops it.
Now imagine a society where everyone read, read, and read. They will have developed positive and constructive thoughts and in turn, they will make a civilized society.
Does every written material is good literature? The answer will be no. It is because if literature promulgates filthy ideas, negative experiences then it will pollute the reader’s mind and will make negative development. Now important thing is, why someone writes something bad and negative. It is because of society.
Society and literature are interconnected, society shape literature while literature shape society.
“Literature is a reflection of society" is a very common definition of literature and it makes clear the effects of literature and society on each other. The things which we see in literature are mostly present in society. Literature of certain regions reflects the norms, behaviors, rituals, culture, and religion of that region. So, if the behaviors and norms of society are well organized then the literature of that society will be rich, serious, and worthy. It is a common stance that “degradation of literature is the degradation of society". I.e. if society is involved in sullen affairs then it will make literature indecent. In short, we can say that society and literature influence each other.
This is a short article in which I have tried my best to surface all-important ideas related to literature. Such that, literature is a written piece that reflects human emotions, nature, and society. It may be fiction or non-fiction. How society and literature are interconnected to each other.

Written by: Anas Tariq

The writer currently studies at the Department of English & Applied Linguistics
The University of Peshawar.

© 2020 Anas Tariq

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