By: Bipin Karki
Literature is the reflection of socio-historical, political, cultural, economic aspects of the society. It is the mirror of the society. Specially, literature is in written form. It can be further distinguished according to major form of it such as novel, poetry, story and drama. Literature does not have the fixed, final, single meaning. It differs according to sex, gender, education, class, nationality, belief and so on. In literature, writers use the figurative language such as irony, metaphor, pun, paradox, ambiguity, simile, conceit, etc. In literature, there is an artistic expression. It conveys ideas, feelings, view, ambitions, and emotions of a writer in a beautiful language. It is imaginative because writer changes the name, character, place and so on and modifies them in different ways. In literature, the literary writers show their creativity. In literature, human life and society are colored with the polished language of literary writers. It is larger than life and more powerful than the real.
Different critics have different opinions regarding the origin and definition of literature. There are also contradictions among different critics but their main argument seems to be somehow similar. Widdowson states that “the origin of literature started along with some oral performances like folk songs, ballets, speeches, hymns and so on. These are the essentials aspects of ancient period. To make the god happy they used to perform drama. They think that, if drama will not perform god will be unhappy and plague may occur” Widdowson 29. According to him, literature originated in oral forms such as folk songs, hymas and so on. Later, with the origin of different writer, the form of literature changed and it got a written form. Literature is that form of art which not only pleases human being; it also draws the attention of god and pleases the god. Literary art touches the platonic ideas which are presented in a realist form. In ancient time also, it was supposed that literary performance can solve different kinds of riddles and accordingly drama is performed taking it as a means of solution of the riddles.
Plato accuses the literary writer as imitators. He says that literature is twice removed from the reality. All human beings are copied from the nature, whatever they write is also copied so, there is twice copy .
In this brief survey of the originating classical discourse of ‘literature’; the Neo-Platonist tradition, beginning with Plotinus (third century A.D), took the Aristotelian position in imitation much further. For platinum, poets had a truly noble role- almost god like in their ability to create- since their art touched the realm of platonic ‘ideas’ on which, as we have heard, the created world was modeled. Ironically, then, Plato’s own ideas about the unsatisfactoriness of the poet and poetry in the pursuit of truth wear turned back against him by the Neo-Platonists: poetic imitation was regarded as the highest of all imitations because it offered access to the divine archetypes rather than merely copying existing materialities. (Widdowson 29)
Plato was negative towards poetry, he criticize poetry. He believed that poetry as mimetic art. He believed that poets simply copy the word of appearance. He says that poets should be banished from the nation. But the neo Platonists and Aristotle are in favor of literature or poetry. ‘Neo-Platonist views were profoundly influential throughout the Renaissance (Widdiwson 30).’
Literature changes from the folk songs, oral myths to the English word literature. Widdoson argues that “The English word literature dories either directly or by way of the Acognate French literature from the Latin literature. The root word from which is littera meaning is letter of the alphabet” (31). After a while it is not only a word. It is like to read and write. In this sense the definition of literature is gradually wide.
In the late eighteenth century the literature development lead it to the professional. During this period literature get professionalized which help in the commercialization of literature almost at the end of eighteenth century. Widdowson states that:
This self conscious pride in the paid professional status of the individual author or writer word which themselves become more frequent in the later part of the eighteenth century reveals the shift from aristocratic patronage as the matrix for the production of literary writing to the commercial environment in which individuals author sell different kinds of written wares in different kinds of market. (33)
As this, literature became more professional. Coming the eighteenth century, literature got new enlighten it is because it became more professional genre expanding its area. It started to cover all the aspects of the world. By covering every aspects of human being, literature became more realistic.
English language and literature got the value of academic subject in nineteenth century. “This subject is offered by the University college of London in 1820” (Widdowson 42). Its purpose of teaching literature and language is to make people civilized, moral or of having good human quality.
According to OED’s definition “Literature is the pieces of writing that are valued as work of art, especially novels, plays and poems (in contrast to technical books and newspaper, magazines etc.)” (898).It focuses on the written documents not in the visual text.
By the means of written literary works, it provides us pleasure, fun and entertainment. The literary works without pleasure, entertainment are not considered as literary work. It is the characteristics of literature as literary work. Widdowson argues “It has in it an element of entertaining display and surely we expect literature to be in some sense entertaining, or, to put it in slightly different terms to afford pleasure. That literature is an adult game, a sort of make- believe, is suggested in some of the words we applied to pieces of literature- “fiction”, “story”, “tale”, ‘play’” (1).By means of literature, people become free from irritation, boredom, anxiety, sufferings, pain and so on. It shows that literature provides pleasure, entertainment and it works as a medicine of irritation, anxiety, pain, suffering etc.
Literary devices have mainly four kinds of genre (forms). They are different on its characteristics. They are play, essay, poem and story.
The play is performed on the stage by the characters. The characters perform their role through dialogue. That is why dialogue is the core quality of play. “The distinctive appearance of a script, with its stage directions, character parts and divisions into acts and scenes, identifies drama as a unique form of literature. A play is written to be performed in front of an audience by characters and presents the story through and action” (908). It is made for performance. It is to be seen, dialogue and acted
In the essay, the essayist puts main idea and tries to support those main ideas with details and arguments. The essayist expresses his/her ideas, feelings, views, emotions in a convincing way. In this sense, persuasion is the major feature of essay. It is directly addressed to the readers. “The essay in its pure form uses words to establish ideas that are addressed directly by the essayist to the reader. Thus, it’s essential quality is persuasion” (5). Essay attempts the reader to persuade something by means of argument which is directly addressed to the reader by the author.
In a poem a poet uses personal feelings, emotions and views which are not directly addressed to any reader rather they are overheard by the reader. In the poem the poet speaks himself/ herself rather than to any reader while speaking. The poet thinks deeply or meditates and discloses his/her feelings. Poets use the figurative language, such as irony, metaphor, simile, pun and so on.
A story is narrated through a narrator. It is the inner quality of the story. The words of a story are directly addressed towards reader. It gives moral lesson. The elements of a story are plot, characters, point of view, style, tone and language, symbolism etc.
Literature has got the direct relation to readers. It cannot exist without reader. Literature is made by the reader. There is a great role of reader. Literature has not the single, final, fix meaning it depends upon the readers’ social, economic, historical age gender knowledge etc. “Every literary work has somewhat different meanings to different people depending on their age, gender, nationality … and experiences” (8).so there are multiples meaning of literary texts. If any writer writes any literary works and if there is not any reader it is meaningless, but if there is reader then it is fruitful, and then only it get success. Literature speaks through the ideas of reader. In literary text readers have to create meaning. For, them what is said is equally important to what is not said in the text. It represents what is not said in the society. In conclusion, literature having different genres tends to reflect the society. It explores the class, gender, race conflict, exploitation, discrimination and so on by the means of its different forms. It visualizes the society, the socio-economic condition, political, historical etc. It tries to minimize the problems of the society and have an ideal society. Literature provides delight, pleasure, entertainment, fun, romance and so on. It decreases irritation, boredom, anxiety, pain and sufferings. It tries to explore the problems of the society by using figurative language. It is said that women should read literature. It teaches moral lesson. It provides lesson to be moral and ideal women guides the family and if females are ideal, their family become moral. If it is moral then the society becomes moral. So women should be taught literature. By the means of literature, society can be changed, developed and idealized. It is a means of development. Hence, literature visualizes, reflects the economic, political, historical and political condition of the society.
Berman, Morto and William, Borto. An Introduction to Literature. Second Edition.
Kirszner,G. Laurie and Mandell, R. Stephin. Literature, Fourth Edition, United states of America, Heinle and Heinle:1991.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of current English, Seventh Edition.
Scholes, Robert. Comley, R, Nancy. Klaus and H Carl,Silverman. Michael, Elements of Literature. New Delhi: Oxford University press, 1998.
Widdowson, Peter. Literature. London: Routledge, 1999.