Books, reading and literature

What is literature?

Any body of text is really a form of literature. If you collected all your old shopping lists, then you could consider this to be literary to some, small extent, for instance. More commonly, however, the term literature refers to the written word as an art form. As such, certain texts tend to be excluded in this tighter definition. Instruction manuals, phone books and newspapers tend not to be considered to have much literary value. Therefore, novels, poetry anthologies and even biographies are more often thought of as genuine literature. In some cases, notable non-fiction works count as literature, too, such as history books. That said, the main literary works that are best-known around the world are normally works of fiction.

 When was literature first established?

 If we ignore the wider definitions of literature, then written forms of works of art really established themselves to wide readerships in the Romantic period in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course, many classical allusions were made in such works, so some argue that literature really dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome, in the western tradition, at least. Poetry is the oldest form in nearly all cultures. However, much ancient poetry is in an oral tradition which is spoken and remembered rather than written down. Essentially, literature's popular establishment coincides with the advent of widespread printing on prose, as well as poetry, in particular, the rise of the novel.

Can literature reform society?

There are many examples of political treatises in a literary form from history. Mary Wollstonecraft's 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' of 1792 is just one example of literature which has led to social change. However, artful literary works also play their part in aspects of societal reformation, too. In the nineteenth century, many of Charles Dickens' works, for example, focussed on social issues which led to changes in the politics of the day. Later literary works by writers such as Maya Angelou have also helped to change society, too. Much of her work centred on attitudes toward race in the United States. Literature makes a contribution to reforming society but cannot do it without a broader context of change.

Why is literature important in our lives?

Many people gain great joy from reading true literature, even if it was written centuries ago. Both prose and poetry provide great insights into all of the important things in life, such as social justice, love, spirituality and even darker subjects, like grief, sometimes. By reading about something, we can experience it from a safe distance. It helps people to get through tough times and to teach valuable life lessons.

Will literature die?

Literature may change, but it is likely to be around for as long as people are. Formats and conceits in literary works have always been altered and developed, and this will not change. Modern literature can now be published on the internet without the need for a printing press, and this will encourage more of it to be produced, not less.

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Poetry is a form of literature. It is often distinguished from prose which tends to operate in a standard grammatical manner that replicates speech. The text you are reading now is prose. Poems, on the other hand, favour stylistics over straightforward meaning. Therefore, poems will often – although by no means always – use meter, or word rhythm, as well as rhyming, to make more of an overall impact. Like prose, poetry can make use of similes, metaphors and alliteration. It will often use such linguistic methods as well as phonaesthetics, or the beauty of a word – or combination of them – as they are sounded. Though poetry can be read, and some of it is designed to be seen on the page, much of it is written to be read aloud or performed.
At its most basic level, philosophy is the study of wisdom. In fact, the word itself derives from the Greek word for wisdom. However, it is not the study of all things, despite it having this connotation some time ago. Modern philosophy is now regarded as the pursuit of answers to the most fundamental human questions. In this regard, of course, it is often compared to religion. Typically, philosophers will pose questions on subjects like existence, values, the mind, will and language - among others – which they then attempt to answer. Some philosophers specialise in critical questioning, whereas others focus on rational argument. Others still develop their ideas through group discussions. Various branches of philosophy also exist, such as metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy and logic, to name but a few.
Primary education is a term that refers to the formal teaching of children after they have progressed from pre-school settings and before they have reached secondary school. Although the ages of children in primary education vary around the world, this usually means from about the age of five to around the age of eleven. In some cases, primary education is carried out at home, but by far the majority of children attend a primary school to receive it. As such, it is a professional pursuit in nearly every part of the world with only qualified teachers being able to work in it. In some cases, unqualified assistants may also be used, but a professional is still required to oversee such work.
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