Literature | Euro Palace Casino Blog

literature | Euro Palace Casino Blog

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Translation of literature for Arabic Speakers. Encyclopedia article about literature. What made you want to look up literature?

Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! There's always room for another article.

Fakes, fraudsters, charlatans and more. And is one way more correct than the others? The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary.

How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Or something like that. Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Listen to the words and spell through all three levels. Examples of literature in a Sentence She took courses in history and literature.

Her education gave her an appreciation for great literature. He's an expert in American literature. Perez, miamiherald , "This boxer might be facing one of his longest time off after his opponent was suspended Miami Herald," 16 Apr.

First Known Use of literature 15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1. History and Etymology for literature Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus.

Learn More about literature. Resources for literature Time Traveler! Explore the year a word first appeared.

The purest or, at least, the most intense literary form is the lyric poem, and after it comes elegiac, epic, dramatic, narrative, and expository verse.

Most theories of literary criticism base themselves on an analysis of poetry , because the aesthetic problems of literature are there presented in their simplest and purest form.

Poetry that fails as literature is not called poetry at all but verse. The Greeks thought of history as one of the seven arts, inspired by a goddess, the muse Clio.

The essay was once written deliberately as a piece of literature: Today most essays are written as expository, informative journalism , although there are still essayists in the great tradition who think of themselves as artists.

Now, as in the past, some of the greatest essayists are critics of literature, drama, and the arts. Some examples of this biographical literature were written with posterity in mind, others with no thought of their being read by anyone but the writer.

Some are in a highly polished literary style; others, couched in a privately evolved language, win their standing as literature because of their cogency, insight, depth, and scope.

Many works of philosophy are classed as literature. The Dialogues of Plato 4th century bc are written with great narrative skill and in the finest prose; the Meditations of the 2nd-century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius are a collection of apparently random thoughts, and the Greek in which they are written is eccentric.

Yet both are classed as literature, while the speculations of other philosophers, ancient and modern, are not. Certain scientific works endure as literature long after their scientific content has become outdated.

This is particularly true of books of natural history, where the element of personal observation is of special importance. Oratory , the art of persuasion, was long considered a great literary art.

The oratory of the American Indian , for instance, is famous, while in Classical Greece, Polymnia was the muse sacred to poetry and oratory. Today, however, oratory is more usually thought of as a craft than as an art.

Most critics would not admit advertising copywriting, purely commercial fiction, or cinema and television scripts as accepted forms of literary expression, although others would hotly dispute their exclusion.

The test in individual cases would seem to be one of enduring satisfaction and, of course, truth. Indeed, it becomes more and more difficult to categorize literature, for in modern civilization words are everywhere.

Man is subject to a continuous flood of communication. Most of it is fugitive, but here and there—in high-level journalism, in television, in the cinema, in commercial fiction, in westerns and detective stories, and in plain, expository prose—some writing, almost by accident, achieves an aesthetic satisfaction, a depth and relevance that entitle it to stand with other examples of the art of literature.

If the early Egyptians or Sumerians had critical theories about the writing of literature, these have not survived. From the time of Classical Greece until the present day, however, Western criticism has been dominated by two opposing theories of the literary art, which might conveniently be called the expressive and constructive theories of composition.

The Greek philosopher and scholar Aristotle is the first great representative of the constructive school of thought.

His Poetics the surviving fragment of which is limited to an analysis of tragedy and epic poetry has sometimes been dismissed as a recipe book for the writing of potboilers.

Certainly, Aristotle is primarily interested in the theoretical construction of tragedy, much as an architect might analyze the construction of a temple, but he is not exclusively objective and matter of fact.

He does, however, regard the expressive elements in literature as of secondary importance, and the terms he uses to describe them have been open to interpretation and a matter of controversy ever since.

Its standards are almost entirely expressive. Where Aristotle is analytical and states general principles, the pseudo-Longinus is more specific and gives many quotations: Thus, at the beginning of Western literary criticism, the controversy already exists.

Is the artist or writer a technician, like a cook or an engineer, who designs and constructs a sort of machine that will elicit an aesthetic response from his audience?

Or is he a virtuoso who above all else expresses himself and, because he gives voice to the deepest realities of his own personality, generates a response from his readers because they admit some profound identification with him?

This antithesis endures throughout western European history— Scholasticism versus Humanism , Classicism versus Romanticism , Cubism versus Expressionism —and survives to this day in the common judgment of our contemporary artists and writers.

It is surprising how few critics have declared that the antithesis is unreal, that a work of literary or plastic art is at once constructive and expressive, and that it must in fact be both.

Critical theories of literature in Asian cultures , however, have been more varied. There is an immense amount of highly technical, critical literature in India.

Some works are recipe books, vast collections of tropes and stylistic devices; others are philosophical and general.

In the best period of Indian literature , the cultural climax of Sanskrit c. There are no long epic poems in Chinese, no verse novels of the sort written in England by Robert Browning or Alfred Lord Tennyson in the 19th century.

In Chinese drama, apart from a very few of the songs, the verse as such is considered doggerel. The versified treatises on astronomy, agriculture, or fishing, of the sort written in Greek and Roman times and during the 18th century in the West, are almost unknown in East Asia.

Chinese poetry is almost exclusively lyric, meditative, and elegiac, and rarely does any poem exceed lines—most are little longer than Western sonnets; many are only quatrains.

In Japan this tendency to limit length was carried even further. From the 17th century and onward, the most popular poetic form was the haiku , which has only 17 syllables.

This development is relevant to the West because it spotlights the ever-increasing emphasis which has been laid on intensity of communication, a characteristic of Western poetry and of literature generally as it has evolved since the late 19th century.

In East Asia all cultivated people were supposed to be able to write suitable occasional poetry, and so those qualities that distinguished a poem from the mass consequently came to be valued above all others.

In some literatures notably classical Chinese, Old Norse, Old Irish , the language employed is quite different from that spoken or used in ordinary writing.

This marks off the reading of literature as a special experience. In the Western tradition, it is only in comparatively modern times that literature has been written in the common speech of cultivated men.

The Elizabethans did not talk like Shakespeare nor 18th-century people in the stately prose of Samuel Johnson or Edward Gibbon the so-called Augustan plain style in literature became popular in the late 17th century and flourished throughout the 18th, but it was really a special form of rhetoric with antecedent models in Greek and Latin.

The first person to write major works of literature in the ordinary English language of the educated man was Daniel Defoe ? Robinson Crusoe is much more contemporary in tone than the elaborate prose of 19th-century writers like Thomas De Quincey or Walter Pater.

Other writers have sought to use language for its most subtle and complex effects and have deliberately cultivated the ambiguity inherent in the multiple or shaded meanings of words.

Eliot in his literary essays is usually considered the founder of this movement. Actually, the platform of his critical attitudes is largely moral , but his two disciples , I.

The basic document of the movement is C. Only a generation later, however, their ideas were somewhat at a discount. However, ambiguity remained a principal shaping tool for the writer and a primary focus in literary criticism.

Certainly, William Blake or Thomas Campion , when they were writing their simple lyrics, were unaware of the ambiguities and multiple meanings that future critics would find in them.

Nevertheless, language is complex. Words do have overtones; they do stir up complicated reverberations in the mind that are ignored in their dictionary definitions.

Great stylists, and most especially great poets, work with at least a half-conscious, or subliminal, awareness of the infinite potentialities of language.

This is one reason why the essence of most poetry and great prose is so resistant to translation quite apart from the radically different sound patterns that are created in other-language versions.

The translator must project himself into the mind of the original author; he must transport himself into an entirely different world of relationships between sounds and meanings, and at the same time he must establish an equivalence between one infinitely complex system and another.

Since no two languages are truly equivalent in anything except the simplest terms, this is a most difficult accomplishment. Certain writers are exceptionally difficult to translate.

There are no satisfactory English versions, for example, of the Latin of Catullus , the French of Baudelaire , the Russian of Pushkin , or of the majority of Persian and Arabic poetry.

On the other hand, the Germans insist that Shakespeare is better in German than he is in English, a humorous exaggeration perhaps.

But again, Shakespeare is resistant to translation into French. His English seems to lack equivalents in that language. The very greatest translations may become classics in their own right, of enduring literary excellence the King James Version of the Bible , appearing in , is an outstanding example , but on the whole the approximate equivalence of most translations to their originals seems to have a very short life.

The original work remains the same, of lasting value to its own people, but the translation becomes out of date with each succeeding generation as the language and criteria of literary taste change.

Nothing demonstrates the complexity of literary language more vividly. Yet the values of great literature are more fundamental than complexity and subtleties of meaning arising from language alone.

Works far removed from contemporary man in time and in cultural background, composed in a variety of languages utterly different from one another in structure, have nevertheless been translated successfully enough to be deeply moving.

The 20th century witnessed an immense mass of the oral literature of preliterate peoples and of the writings of all the great civilizations translated into modern languages.

Translations of these literatures often distorted the original stories and, at best, captured only their essence. However, without these translations, such stories would most likely be forever lost.

The craft of literature, indeed, can be said to be in part the manipulation of a structure in time, and so the simplest element of marking time, rhythm , is therefore of basic importance in both poetry and prose.

Prosody, which is the science of versification, has for its subject the materials of poetry and is concerned almost entirely with the laws of metre , or rhythm in the narrowest sense.

It deals with the patterning of sound in time; the number, length, accent , and pitch of syllables; and the modifications of rhythm by vowels and consonants.

In most poetry, certain basic rhythms are repeated with modifications that is to say, the poem rhymes or scans or both but not in all.

Since lyric poetry is either the actual text of song or else is immediately derived from song, it is regular in structure nearly everywhere in the world, although the elements of patterning that go into producing its rhythm may vary.

The most important of these elements in English poetry, for example, have been accent, grouping of syllables called feet , number of syllables in the line, and rhyme at the end of a line and sometimes within it.

Other elements such as pitch, resonance , repetition of vowels assonance , repetition of consonants alliteration , and breath pauses cadence have also been of great importance in distinguishing successful poetry from doggerel verse, but on the whole they are not as important as the former, and poets have not always been fully conscious of their use of them.

The rhythms of prose are more complicated, though not necessarily more complex, than those of poetry. The rules of prose patterning are less fixed; patterns evolve and shift indefinitely and are seldom repeated except for special emphasis.

So the analysis of prose rhythm is more difficult to make than, at least, the superficial analysis of poetry.

The craft of writing involves more than mere rules of prosody. First, the literary situation has to be established.

The reader must be directly related to the work, placed in it—given enough information on who, what, when, or why—so that his attention is caught and held or, on the other hand, he must be deliberately mystified, to the same end.

Aristotle gave a formula for dramatic structure that can be generalized to apply to most literature: Nevertheless, the scheme does provide a norm from which there is infinite variation.

Neoclassical dramatists and critics, especially in 17th-century France, derived from Aristotle what they called the unities of time, action, and place.

This meant that the action of a play should not spread beyond the events of one day and, best of all, should be confined within the actual time of performance.

Nor should the action move about too much from place to place—best only to go from indoors to outdoors and back. There should be only one plot line, which might be relieved by a subplot, usually comic.

These three unities—of time, place, and action—do not occur in Aristotle and are certainly not observed in Classical Greek tragedy.

They are an invention of Renaissance critics, some of whom went even further, insisting also on what might be called a unity of mood.

Great early novels such as the Chinese Dream of the Red Chamber ; first published in English and the Japanese Tale of Genji early 11th century usually develop organically rather than according to geometrical formulas, one incident or image spinning off another.

The 19th century was the golden age of the novel , and most of the more famous examples of the form were systematically plotted, even where the plot structure simply traced the growth in personality of an individual hero or heroine.

The latter 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed an attack on old forms, but what the new writers evolved was simply a new architecture.

Novelists such as Joseph Conrad , Ford Madox Ford , Virginia Woolf , and, in his later period, Henry James developed a multiple-aspect narrative, sometimes by using time shifts and flashbacks and by writing from different points of view, sometimes by using the device dating back to Classical Greek romances of having one or more narrators as characters within the story.

This technique, which was first perfected in the verse novels of Robert Browning , in fact reached its most extreme development in the English language in poetry: The content of literature is as limitless as the desire of human beings to communicate with one another.

The thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands, since the human species first developed speech have seen built up the almost infinite systems of relationships called languages.

A language is not just a collection of words in an unabridged dictionary but the individual and social possession of living human beings, an inexhaustible system of equivalents, of sounds to objects and to one another.

Its most primitive elements are those words that express direct experiences of objective reality, and its most sophisticated are concepts on a high level of abstraction.

Words are not only equivalent to things, they have varying degrees of equivalence to one another.

Eventually a language comes to be, among other things, a huge sea of implicit metaphors , an endless web of interrelated symbols.

As literature, especially poetry, grows more and more sophisticated, it begins to manipulate this field of suspended metaphors as a material in itself, often as an end in itself.

Thus, there emerge forms of poetry and prose, too with endless ramifications of reference, as in Japanese waka and haiku, some ancient Irish and Norse verse, and much of the poetry written in western Europe since the time of Baudelaire that is called modernist.

By the time literature appears in the development of a culture , the society has already come to share a whole system of stereotypes and archetypes: Literature may use such symbols directly, but all great works of literary art are, as it were, original and unique myths.

The subject matter of literature is as wide as human experience itself. Myths, legends , and folktales lie at the beginning of literature, and their plots, situations, and allegorical metaphorical narrative judgments of life represent a constant source of literary inspiration that never fails.

This is so because mankind is constant—people share a common physiology. Even social structures, after the development of cities, remain much alike.

Whole civilizations have a life pattern that repeats itself through history. Egyptian scribes, Japanese bureaucrats , and junior executives in New York City live and respond to life in the same ways; the lives of farmers or miners or hunters vary only within narrow limits.

Love is love and death is death, for a southern African hunter-gatherer and a French Surrealist alike. So the themes of literature have at once an infinite variety and an abiding constancy.

They can be taken from myth , from history, or from contemporary occurrence, or they can be pure invention but even if they are invented, they are nonetheless constructed from the constant materials of real experience, no matter how fantastic the invention.

As time goes on, literature tends to concern itself more and more with the interior meanings of its narrative, with problems of human personality and human relationships.

This can be presented explicitly, where the characters talk about what is going on in their heads, either ambiguously and with reserve, as in the novels of Henry James, or overtly, as in those of Dostoyevsky.

Literature, however, is not solely concerned with the concrete, with objective reality, with individual psychology , or with subjective emotion.

Some deal with abstract ideas or philosophical conceptions. Much purely abstract writing is considered literature only in the widest sense of the term, and the philosophical works that are ranked as great literature are usually presented with more or less of a sensuous garment.

In short, most philosophical works that rank as great literature do so because they are intensely human. Sometimes the pretense of purely abstract intellectual rigour is in fact a literary device.

Throughout literary history, many great critics have pointed out that it is artificial to make a distinction between form and content, except for purposes of analytical discussion.

The issue is, indeed, usually only raised at all by those critics who are more interested in politics, religion, or ideology than in literature; thus, they object to writers who they feel sacrifice ideological orthodoxy for formal perfection, message for style.

But style cannot really be said to exist on paper at all; it is the way the mind of the author expresses itself in words. Since words represent ideas, there cannot be abstract literature unless a collection of nonsense syllables can be admitted as literature.

Even the most avant-garde writers associated with the Cubist or nonobjective painters used language, and language is meaning , though the meaning may be incomprehensible.

At the other extreme, the style of the early 20th-century American novelist Theodore Dreiser —bumbling, clumsy, dogged, troubled—perfectly embodies his own attitudes toward life and is, in fact, his constant judgment of his subject matter.

Sometimes an author, under the impression that he is simply polishing his style, may completely alter his content. As Flaubert worked over the drafts of Madame Bovary , seeking always the apposite word that would precisely convey his meaning, he lifted his novel from a level of sentimental romance to make it one of the great ironic tragedies of literature.

Yet, to judge from his correspondence, he seems never to have been completely aware of what he had done, of the severity of his own irony.

Literature may be an art, but writing is a craft, and a craft must be learned. Talent, special ability in the arts, may appear at an early age; the special personality called genius may indeed be born, not made.

But skill in matching intention and expression comes with practice. They wrote spontaneously whatever came into their heads; but they wrote constantly, voluminously, and were, by their own standards, skilled practitioners.

There are certain forms of literature that do not permit such highly personal behaviour—for instance, formal lyric poetry and classic drama.

These structures are, however, quite simple and so cannot be said to determine the content. Yet their plays, and the poetry in which they are written, differ completely.

Corneille is intellectually and emotionally a Neoclassicist—clear and hard, a true objectivist, sure of both his verse and the motivations of his characters.

Racine was a great romantic long before the age of Romanticism. His characters are confused and tortured; his verse throbs like the heartbeats of his desperate heroines.

He is a great sentimentalist in the best and deepest meaning of that word. Verse on any subject matter can of course be written purely according to formula.

The 18th century in England saw all sorts of prose treatises cast in rhyme and metre, but this was simply applied patterning.

Works such as The Botanic Garden [2 vol. Neoclassicism , especially in its 18th-century developments, confused—for ordinary minds, at any rate—formula with form and so led to the revolt called Romanticism.

A similar revolution in taste was taking place all over Europe and also in China where the narrow pursuit of formula had almost destroyed poetry.

Each had his own personal form. Time passes and the pendulum of taste swings. All form in literature is expressive. All expression has its own form, even when the form is a deliberate quest of formlessness.

The automatic writing cultivated by the surrealists, for instance, suffers from the excessive formalism of the unconscious mind and is far more stereotyped than the poetry of the Neoclassicist Alexander Pope.

Form simply refers to organization, and critics who attack form do not seem always to remember that a writer organizes more than words.

Thus, his organization stretches far back in his mental process. Form is the other face of content, the outward, visible sign of inner spiritual reality.

In preliterate societies oral literature was widely shared; it saturated the society and was as much a part of living as food, clothing, shelter, or religion.

Many tribal societies remained primarily oral cultures until the 19th century. In early societies the minstrel might be a courtier of the king or chieftain, and the poet who composed liturgies might be a priest.

But the oral performance itself was accessible to the whole community. With the invention of writing this separation was accelerated until finally literature was being experienced individually by the elite reading a book , while folklore and folk song were experienced orally and more or less collectively by the illiterate common people.

Elite literature continuously refreshes itself with materials drawn from the popular. Almost all poetic revivals, for instance, include in their programs a new appreciation of folk song, together with a demand for greater objectivity.

On the other hand folk literature borrows themes and, very rarely, patterns from elite literature. Many of the English and Scottish ballads that date from the end of the Middle Ages and have been preserved by oral tradition share plots and even turns of phrase with written literature.

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See the full definition for literature in the English Language Learners Dictionary. See words that rhyme with literature.

Translation of literature for Spanish Speakers. Translation of literature for Arabic Speakers. Encyclopedia article about literature.

What made you want to look up literature? Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! There's always room for another article.

Fakes, fraudsters, charlatans and more. And is one way more correct than the others? The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary.

How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Or something like that. Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Listen to the words and spell through all three levels. Examples of literature in a Sentence She took courses in history and literature.

Her education gave her an appreciation for great literature. He's an expert in American literature. Perez, miamiherald , "This boxer might be facing one of his longest time off after his opponent was suspended Miami Herald," 16 Apr.

First Known Use of literature 15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1. History and Etymology for literature Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus.

These structures are, however, quite simple and so cannot be said to determine the content. Yet their plays, and the poetry in which they are written, differ completely.

Corneille is intellectually and emotionally a Neoclassicist—clear and hard, a true objectivist, sure of both his verse and the motivations of his characters.

Racine was a great romantic long before the age of Romanticism. His characters are confused and tortured; his verse throbs like the heartbeats of his desperate heroines.

He is a great sentimentalist in the best and deepest meaning of that word. Verse on any subject matter can of course be written purely according to formula.

The 18th century in England saw all sorts of prose treatises cast in rhyme and metre, but this was simply applied patterning.

Works such as The Botanic Garden [2 vol. Neoclassicism , especially in its 18th-century developments, confused—for ordinary minds, at any rate—formula with form and so led to the revolt called Romanticism.

A similar revolution in taste was taking place all over Europe and also in China where the narrow pursuit of formula had almost destroyed poetry.

Each had his own personal form. Time passes and the pendulum of taste swings. All form in literature is expressive.

All expression has its own form, even when the form is a deliberate quest of formlessness. The automatic writing cultivated by the surrealists, for instance, suffers from the excessive formalism of the unconscious mind and is far more stereotyped than the poetry of the Neoclassicist Alexander Pope.

Form simply refers to organization, and critics who attack form do not seem always to remember that a writer organizes more than words.

Thus, his organization stretches far back in his mental process. Form is the other face of content, the outward, visible sign of inner spiritual reality.

In preliterate societies oral literature was widely shared; it saturated the society and was as much a part of living as food, clothing, shelter, or religion.

Many tribal societies remained primarily oral cultures until the 19th century. In early societies the minstrel might be a courtier of the king or chieftain, and the poet who composed liturgies might be a priest.

But the oral performance itself was accessible to the whole community. With the invention of writing this separation was accelerated until finally literature was being experienced individually by the elite reading a book , while folklore and folk song were experienced orally and more or less collectively by the illiterate common people.

Elite literature continuously refreshes itself with materials drawn from the popular. Almost all poetic revivals, for instance, include in their programs a new appreciation of folk song, together with a demand for greater objectivity.

On the other hand folk literature borrows themes and, very rarely, patterns from elite literature. Many of the English and Scottish ballads that date from the end of the Middle Ages and have been preserved by oral tradition share plots and even turns of phrase with written literature.

A very large percentage of these ballads contain elements that are common to folk ballads from all over western Europe; central themes of folklore, indeed, are found all over the world.

Whether these common elements are the result of diffusion is a matter for dispute. They do, however, represent great psychological constants, archetypes of experience common to the human species, and so these constants are used again and again by elite literature as it discovers them in folklore.

There is a marked difference between true popular literature, that of folklore and folk song, and the popular literature of modern times.

Popular literature today is produced either to be read by a literate audience or to be enacted on television or in the cinema; it is produced by writers who are members, however lowly, of an elite corps of professional literates.

Thus, popular literature no longer springs from the people; it is handed to them. Their role is passive. At the best they are permitted a limited selectivity as consumers.

Folk songs and folk tales began somewhere in one human mind. They were developed and shaped into the forms in which they are now found by hundreds of other minds as they were passed down through the centuries.

Folk song has always been popular with bohemian intellectuals , especially political radicals who certainly are an elite. Since World War II the influence of folk song upon popular song has not just been great; it has been determinative.

Popular fiction and drama, westerns and detective stories, films and television serials, all deal with the same great archetypal themes as folktales and ballads, though this is seldom due to direct influence; these are simply the limits within which the human mind works.

The number of people who have elevated the formulas of popular fiction to a higher literary level is surprisingly small. The latter half of the 20th century witnessed an even greater change in popular literature.

Writing is a static medium: In radio , television, and the cinema the medium is fluent; the audience is a collectivity and is at the mercy of time.

It cannot pause to reflect or to understand more fully without missing another part of the action, nor can it go back or forward.

Marshall McLuhan in his book Understanding Media became famous for erecting a whole structure of aesthetic, sociological, and philosophical theory upon this fact.

But it remains to be seen whether the new, fluent materials of communication are going to make so very many changes in civilization, let alone in the human mind—mankind has, after all, been influenced for thousands of years by the popular, fluent arts of music and drama.

Even the most transitory television serial was written down before it was performed, and the script can be consulted in the files. In a sense it was more fluent than music, because it was harder to remember.

Man in mass society becomes increasingly a creature of the moment, but the reasons for this are undoubtedly more fundamental than his forms of entertainment.

Literature, like all other human activities, necessarily reflects current social and economic conditions. Class stratification was reflected in literature as soon as it had appeared in life.

Among the American Indians , for instance, the chants of the shaman, or medicine man , differ from the secret, personal songs of the individual, and these likewise differ from the group songs of ritual or entertainment sung in community.

In the Heroic Age, the epic tales of kings and chiefs that were sung or told in their barbaric courts differed from the folktales that were told in peasant cottages.

The more cohesive a society, the more the elements—and even attitudes—evolved in the different class strata are interchangeable at all levels.

In the tight clan organization that existed in late medieval times at the Scottish border, for example, heroic ballads telling of the deeds of lords and ladies were preserved in the songs of the common people.

But where class divisions are unbridgeable, elite literature is liable to be totally separated from popular culture.

An extreme example is the Classical literature of the Roman Empire. Its forms and its sources were largely Greek—it even adopted its laws of verse patterning from Greek models, even though these were antagonistic to the natural patterns of the Latin language—and most of the sophisticated works of the major Latin authors were completely closed to the overwhelming majority of people of the Roman Empire.

Printing has made all the difference in the negotiability of ideas. The writings of the 18th-century French writers Voltaire , Rousseau, and Diderot were produced from and for almost as narrow a caste as the Roman elite, but they were printed.

Within a generation they had penetrated the entire society and were of vital importance in revolutionizing it. Class distinctions in the literature of modern times exist more in the works themselves than in their audience.

The elite who read serious literature are not necessarily members of a social or economic upper class.

It is a curious phenomenon that, since the middle of the 18th century in Europe and in the United States, the majority of readers of serious literature—as well as of entertainment literature—have been women.

The extent of the influence that this audience has exerted on literature itself must be immense. Hippolyte Taine , the 19th-century French critic, evolved an ecological theory of literature.

He looked first and foremost to the national characteristics of western European literatures, and he found the source of these characteristics in the climate and soil of each respective nation.

His History of English Literature 5 vol. It is doubtful that anyone today would agree with the simplistic terms in which Taine states his thesis.

It is obvious that Russian literature differs from English or French from German. English books are written by Englishmen, their scenes are commonly laid in England, they are usually about Englishmen and they are designed to be read by Englishmen—at least in the first instance.

But modern civilization becomes more and more a world civilization, wherein works of all peoples flow into a general fund of literature.

It is not unusual to read a novel by a Japanese author one week and one by a black writer from West Africa the next.

Writers are themselves affected by this cross-fertilization. Certainly, the work of the great 19th-century Russian novelists had more influence on 20th-century American writers than had the work of their own literary ancestors.

Poetry does not circulate so readily, because catching its true significance in translation is so very difficult to accomplish. Nevertheless, through the midth century, the influence of French poetry was not just important; it was preeminent.

The tendentious elements of literature—propaganda for race, nation, or religion—have been more and more eroded in this process of wholesale cultural exchange.

Popular literature is habitually tendentious both deliberately and unconsciously. It reflects and stimulates the prejudices and parochialism of its audience.

Most of the literary conflicts that seized the totalitarian countries during the 20th century stemmed directly from relentless efforts by the state to reduce elite literature to the level of the popular.

The great proletarian novels of our time have been produced not by Russians but by African Americans, Japanese, Germans, and—most proletarian of all—a German-American living in Mexico, B.

Government control and censorship can inhibit literary development, perhaps deform it a little, and can destroy authors outright; but, whether in the France of Louis XIV or in the Soviet Union of the 20th century, it cannot be said to have a fundamental effect upon the course of literature.

A distinguishing characteristic of modern literature is the peculiar elite which it has itself evolved.

In earlier cultures the artist, though he may have felt himself alienated at times, thought of himself as part of his society and shared its values and attitudes.

Usually the clerkly caste played a personal, important role in society. The writer shared few of the values of the merchant or the entrepreneur or manager.

And so the literary and artistic world came to have a subculture of its own. The antagonism between the two resultant sets of values is the source of what we call alienation—among the intellectuals at least the alienation of the common man in urban, industrial civilization from his work, from himself, and from his fellows is another matter, although its results are reflected and intensified in the alienation of the elite.

For about years now, the artistic environment of the writer has not usually been shared with the general populace. The subculture known as bohemia and the literary and artistic movements generated in its little special society have often been more important—at least in the minds of many writers—than the historical, social, and economic movements of the culture as a whole.

Even massive historical change is translated into these terms—the Russian Revolution, for instance, into Communist-Futurism, Constructivism, Socialist Realism.

Western European literature could be viewed as a parade of movements—Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Futurism , Structuralism , and so on indefinitely.

Some of the more journalistic critics, indeed, have delighted to regard it in such a way. At first, changes in literary values are appreciated only at the upper levels of the literary elite itself, but often, within a generation, works once thought esoteric are being taught as part of a school syllabus.

Today his methods and subject matter are commonplace in the commercial fiction of the mass culture. A few writers remain confined to the elite.

His subtleties are ultimately grounded in his personality. Literature has an obvious kinship with the other arts. Presented, a play is drama; read, a play is literature.

Conversely, the techniques required in writing for film have influenced many writers in structuring their novels and have affected their style.

Many ballets and modern dances are based on stories or poems. Sometimes, music and dance are accompanied by a text read by a speaker or chanted by a chorus.

The midth century was the heyday of literary, historical, and anecdotal painting , though, aside from the Surrealists, this sort of thing died out in the 20th century.

Critics have invented a variety of systems for treating literature as a collection of genres. Often these genres are artificial, invented after the fact with the aim of making literature less sprawling, more tidy.

Theories of literature must be based upon direct experience of the living texts and so be flexible enough to contain their individuality and variety.

Perhaps the best approach is historical, or genetic. What actually happened, and in what way did literature evolve up to the present day?

There is a surprising variety of oral literature among surviving preliterate peoples, and, as the written word emerges in history, the indications are that the important literary genres all existed at the beginning of civilized societies: The true heroic epic never evolved far from its preliterate origins, and it arose only in the Heroic Age which preceded a settled civilization.

The literary epic is another matter altogether. Modern critics have described long poems such as T. It is interesting to note that, in periods when the culture values artificiality, the lyric becomes stereotyped.

Then, after a while, the poets revolt and, usually turning to folk origins, restore to lyric poetry at least the appearance of naturalness and spontaneity.

The forms of satire are as manifold as those of literature itself—from those of the mock epic to the biting epigram. A great many social and political novels of today would have been regarded as satire by the ancients.

Many of the great works of all time are satires, but in each case they have risen far above their immediate satirical objectives. But, again, it is an archetypal myth, telling the adventures of the soul of man—of the individual—in the long struggle with what is called the human condition.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu has sometimes been considered by obtuse critics as no more than a satire on the sexual promiscuity of the Heian court.

In fact, it is a profoundly philosophical, religious, and mystical novel. Extended prose fiction is the latest of the literary forms to develop.

We have romances from Classical Greek times that are as long as short novels; but they are really tales of adventure—vastly extended anecdotes.

Though it survives only in fragments, supposedly one-eleventh of the whole, even these would indicate that it is one of the greatest picaresque novels, composed of loosely connected episodes of robust and often erotic adventure.

The other great surviving fiction of Classical times is the Metamorphoses known as The Golden Ass by Apuleius 2nd century ad. In addition to being a picaresque adventure story, it is a criticism of Roman society, a celebration of the religion of Isis, and an allegory of the progress of the soul.

It contains the justly celebrated story of Cupid and Psyche, a myth retold with psychological subtlety. Style has much to do with the value and hence the survival of these two works.

The prose romances of the Middle Ages are closely related to earlier heroic literature. The Western novel is a product of modern civilization, although in East Asia novels began a separate development as early as the 10th century.

Extended prose works of complex interpersonal relations and motivations begin in 17th-century France with The Princess of Cleves by Madame de La Fayette.

The 19th century was the golden age of the novel. It became ever more profound, complex, and subtle or, on the other hand, more popular, eventful, and sentimental.

By the beginning of the 20th century it had become the most common form of thoughtful reading matter and had replaced, for most educated people, religious, philosophical, and scientific works as a medium for the interpretation of life.

Like lyric poetry, drama has been an exceptionally stable literary form. Before World War I , however, all traditional art forms, led by painting, began to disintegrate, and new forms evolved to take their place.

In drama the most radical innovator was August Strindberg — , and from that day to this, drama forced to compete with the cinema has become ever more experimental, constantly striving for new methods, materials, and, especially, ways to establish a close relationship with the audience.

All this activity has profoundly modified drama as literature. The disassociation and recombination of ideas of the Cubists, the free association of ideas of the Surrealists, dreams, trance states, the poetry of preliterate people—all have been absorbed into the practice of modern poetry.

This proliferation of form is not likely to end. At the same time, writers may prefer to simplify and polish the forms of the past with a rigorous, Neoclassicist discipline.

In a worldwide urban civilization, which has taken to itself the styles and discoveries of all cultures past and present, the future of literature is quite impossible to determine.

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