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Portal:Literature

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Literature is a term that does not have a universally accepted definition, but which has variably included all written work; writing that possesses literary merit; and language that foregrounds literariness, as opposed to ordinary language. Etymologically the term derives from Latin literatura/litteratura "writing formed with letters", although some definitions include spoken or sung texts. Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and whether it is poetry or prose; it can be further distinguished according to major forms such as the novel, short story or drama; and works are often categorised according to historical periods, or according to their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations (genre).

Literature may consist of texts based on factual information (journalistic or non-fiction), a category that may also include polemical works, biographies, and reflective essays, or it may consist of texts based on imagination (such as fiction, poetry, or drama). Literature written in poetry emphasizes the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as sound, symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, ordinary meanings, while literature written in prose applies ordinary grammatical structure and the natural flow of speech. Literature can also be classified according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. While the concept of genre has broadened over the centuries, in general, a genre consists of artistic works that fall within a certain central theme; examples of genre include romance, mystery, crime, fantasy, erotica, and adventure, among others.

More about literature

Selected work

Susanna Clarke in 2006
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the 2004 first novel by British writer Susanna Clarke. An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centring on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundaries between reason and unreason, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane, and Northern and Southern English cultural tropes/stereotypes. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. It inverts the Industrial Revolution conception of the North/South divide in England: in this book the North is romantic and magical, rather than rational and concrete.

The narrative draws on various Romantic literary traditions, such as the comedy of manners, the Gothic tale, and the Byronic hero. The novel's language is a pastiche of 19th-century writing styles, such as those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke describes the supernatural with mundane details. She supplements the text with almost 200 footnotes, outlining the backstory and an entire fictional corpus of magical scholarship. The novel was well received by critics and reached number three on the New York Times best-seller list. It was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Selected figure

An 18th-century woodblock in the ukiyo-e style, depicting Murasaki Shikibu being inspired by the moon
Murasaki Shikibu ( , English: Lady Murasaki) (c. 978 – c. 1014 or 1025) was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. Murasaki Shikibu is a nickname; her real name is unknown, but she may have been Fujiwara Takako.

Murasaki wrote The Diary of Lady Murasaki, a volume of poetry, and The Tale of Genji. It is uncertain when she began to write The Tale of Genji, but it was probably while she in her mid to late twenties. In about 1005, Murasaki was invited to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Empress Shōshi at the Imperial court, probably because of her reputation as a writer. She continued to write during her service, adding scenes from court life to her work. Within a decade of its completion, Genji was distributed throughout the provinces; within a century it was recognized as a classic of Japanese literature and had become a subject of scholarly criticism. Early in the 20th century her work was translated; a six-volume English translation was completed in 1933. Scholars continue to recognize the importance of her work, which reflects Heian court society at its peak. Since the 13th century her works have been illustrated by Japanese artists and well-known ukiyo-e woodblock masters.

Selected excerpt

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Selected illustration

Lord Byron - Childe Harold's Pilgimage - Dugdale edition.jpg
Credit: I. H. Jones

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. This illustration, which depicts a giant described in Canto I, Stanza 39, is the frontispiece to an 1825 printing of the book.

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Today in literature

24 October

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Regions: Australian literature · Indian literature · Persian literature

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