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Portal:Literature

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Introduction

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form, or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Its Latin root literatura/litteratura (derived itself from littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all written accounts. The concept has changed meaning over time to include texts that are spoken or sung (oral literature), and non-written verbal art forms. Developments in print technology have allowed an ever-growing distribution and proliferation of written works, culminating in electronic literature.

Selected work

1897 illustration of La Peau de chagrin drawn by Adrien Moreau
La Peau de chagrin (The Magic Skin or The Wild Ass's Skin) is an 1831 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of his physical energy. La Peau de chagrin belongs to the Études philosophiques group of Balzac's sequence of novels, La Comédie humaine.

Although the novel uses fantastic elements, its main focus is a realistic portrayal of the excesses of bourgeois materialism. Balzac's renowned attention to detail is used to describe a gambling house, an antique shop, a royal banquet, and other locales. He also includes details from his own life as a struggling writer, placing the main character in a home similar to the one he occupied at the start of his literary career. The central theme of La Peau de chagrin is the conflict between desire and longevity. The magic skin represents the owner's life-force, which is depleted through every expression of will, especially when it is employed for the acquisition of power. Ignoring a caution from the shopkeeper who offers him the skin, the protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit at the story's end.

Selected figure

A 1797 painting of Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie
Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an eighteenth-century English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft's life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. After Wollstonecraft's death, her widower published a Memoir (1798) of her life, revealing her unorthodox lifestyle, which inadvertently destroyed her reputation for almost a century. However, with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, Wollstonecraft's advocacy of women's equality and critiques of conventional femininity became increasingly important. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and work as important influences.

Selected excerpt

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Selected illustration

Charles Robert Leslie - Sir Walter Scott - Ravenswood and Lucy at the Mermaiden's Well - Bride of Lammermoor.jpg
Credit: James Davis Cooper

The Bride of Lammermoor is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott; a member of his Waverley Novels series. Set in the Lammermuir Hills of south-east Scotland, it tells a tragic love story that Scott indicated was based on an actual incident. This illustration depicts the two lovers, Lucy Ashton and Edgar Ravenswood, the Ashton family's political enemy.

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Today in literature

19 November

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Concepts: Biographies · Books · Comics · Magazines · Manga · Novels · Poetry · Short stories · Translation studies
Genres: Alternate history · Children's literature · Crime · Fantasy · Horror · Mythology · Romance · Science fiction
Authors: Honoré de Balzac · Roald Dahl · William Shakespeare
Series: Artemis Fowl · Chronicles of Narnia · Discworld · Harry Potter · His Dark Materials · Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy · Inheritance Cycle · James Bond · King Arthur · Middle-earth · Percy Jackson · Redwall · A Series of Unfortunate Events · Shannara · Sherlock Holmes · A Song of Ice and Fire · Star Wars · Sword of Truth · Twilight · Warriors · Water Margin · Wizard of Oz
Regions: Australian literature · Indian literature · Persian literature

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