2. Definition of literature

Lecture one: Literature

    Before we indulge into the analysis of literary works, it is necessary to yield a definition to what literature is. In fact, defining literature, like any other field related to human sciences, is not an easy task, for it is highly personal and varies from time to time and according to different geographical regions and other individual attributes.

1-Definition of literature:

     The term literature originates from the Latin “litera” meaning alphabetic letter, and “literatura” meaning writing with letters.

The Oxford dictionary defines literature as:  

      -Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.

The Merriam Webster student dictionary also defines literature as:

    -Written works having excellence of form or expression and ideas of lasting and widespread interest.
    -Written material.

     From the above definitions, it is revealed that literature is originally any creative written substance that conveys meaning, with some sort of unique style and special form which gain it aesthetic value. However, it should be noted that old English literature was marked by “Oral tradition” where poems, folk tales, and a whole literary culture were recited by word of mouth without being needy of a written system. Hence literature can be written or spoken.

3 Written vs oral literature

2-Written VS oral literature:

-Much of the oral literature did not survive because of its ephemeral nature.

-Oral literature can be told and heard by literate or illiterate individuals; whereas written literature requires a certain level of literary competency for writers and readers.

- Written literature (texts) cannot change easily once they are printed; while oral literature can be easily altered (you almost never hear the same story with the same exact words).

-Oral literature is generally narrative and linked to poems and folklores, while the written one is concerned with other genres (drama, short stories and novels).

-Oral literature reveals meaning directly while the written one supports an endless number of interpretations.

- No matter the differences between oral and written literature, for they both deal with the complexities of human life.

-Both express thoughts, emotions, ideas, and human messages.

-Both require a link between reality and imaginaation

Meaning in literature can be read at two levels:

*Denotative language:  is the true, authentic, and literal meaning of a word as it is strictly defined in a dictionary.

   -The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “home” as “The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”

*Connotative language: It refers to the figurative, imaginative and emotional association surrounding a word. I.e. the first impressions we have when we hear the word.

   -Home refers to comfort, love, warmth, safety, affection, childhood, nostalgia, roots, family, identity, souvenirs...etc.