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Ancient Chinese literature had a heavy emphasis on historiography, with often very detailed court records. In ancient India, literature originated from stories that were originally orally transmitted. Early genres included drama , fables , sutras and epic poetry.

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The Vedas are among the oldest sacred texts. The Samhitas vedic collections date to roughly — BCE, and the "circum-Vedic" texts, as well as the redaction of the Samhitas, date to c. In ancient Greece, the epics of Homer , who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey , and Hesiod , who wrote Works and Days and Theogony , are some of the earliest, and most influential, of Ancient Greek literature. Classical Greek genres included philosophy, poetry , historiography, comedies and dramas.

Plato and Aristotle authored philosophical texts that are the foundation of Western philosophy , Sappho and Pindar were influential lyric poets , and Herodotus and Thucydides were early Greek historians. Although drama was popular in Ancient Greece, of the hundreds of tragedies written and performed during the classical age , only a limited number of plays by three authors still exist: Aeschylus , Sophocles , and Euripides.

The plays of Aristophanes provide the only real examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy , the earliest form of Greek Comedy, and are in fact used to define the genre.

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Roman histories and biographies anticipated the extensive mediaeval literature of lives of saints and miraculous chronicles, but the most characteristic form of the Middle Ages was the romance , an adventurous and sometimes magical narrative with strong popular appeal. Controversial, religious, political and instructional literature proliferated during the Renaissance as a result of the invention of printing, while the mediaeval romance developed into a more character-based and psychological form of narrative, the novel , of which early and important examples are the Chinese Monkey and the German Faust books.

In the Age of Reason philosophical tracts and speculations on history and human nature integrated literature with social and political developments.

The inevitable reaction was the explosion of Romanticism in the later 18th century which reclaimed the imaginative and fantastical bias of old romances and folk-literature and asserted the primacy of individual experience and emotion. But as the 19th century went on, European fiction evolved towards realism and naturalism , the meticulous documentation of real life and social trends. Much of the output of naturalism was implicitly polemical, and influenced social and political change, but 20th century fiction and drama moved back towards the subjective, emphasizing unconscious motivations and social and environmental pressures on the individual.

Writers such as Proust , Eliot , Joyce , Kafka and Pirandello exemplify the trend of documenting internal rather than external realities. Genre fiction also showed it could question reality in its 20th century forms, in spite of its fixed formulas, through the enquiries of the skeptical detective and the alternative realities of science fiction. The separation of "mainstream" and "genre" forms including journalism continued to blur during the period up to our own times. William Burroughs , in his early works, and Hunter S. Thompson expanded documentary reporting into strong subjective statements after the second World War , and post-modern critics have disparaged the idea of objective realism in general.

Theorists suggest that literature allows readers to access intimate emotional aspects of a person's character that would not be obvious otherwise. Mitchell, for example, explains how one author used young adult literature to describe a state of "wonder" she had experienced as a child. For example, language learning uses literature because it articulates or contains culture, which is an element considered crucial in learning a language.

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An example is the integration of subliminal messages in literary texts or the rewriting of traditional narratives to help readers address their problems or mold them into contemporary social messages. Hogan also explains that the time and emotion which a person devotes to understanding a character's situation makes literature "ecological[ly] valid in the study of emotion". Some psychologists regard literature as a valid research tool, because it allows them to discover new psychological ideas. Psychologist Maslow's "Third Force Psychology Theory" helps literary analysts to critically understand how characters reflect the culture and the history to which they belong.

It also allows them to understand the author's intention and psychology. It also suggests that neurological development hinders actualizing this and a person becomes estranged from his or her true self. Lawrence 's 'pristine unconscious' is a metaphor for the real self". Poetry is a form of literary art which uses the aesthetic qualities of language including music and rhythm to evoke meanings beyond a prose paraphrase. Prior to the 19th century, poetry was commonly understood to be something set in metrical lines; accordingly, in a definition of poetry is "any kind of subject consisting of Rhythm or Verses".

Prose is a form of language that possesses ordinary syntax and natural speech , rather than a regular metre ; in which regard, along with its presentation in sentences rather than lines, it differs from most poetry.

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Eliot suggested that while: "the distinction between verse and prose is clear, the distinction between poetry and prose is obscure". On the historical development of prose, Richard Graff notes that "[In the case of Ancient Greece ] recent scholarship has emphasized the fact that formal prose was a comparatively late development, an "invention" properly associated with the classical period ". Philosophical, historical, journalistic, and scientific writings are traditionally ranked as literature.

They offer some of the oldest prose writings in existence; novels and prose stories earned the names "fiction" to distinguish them from factual writing or nonfiction, which writers historically have crafted in prose. A novel is a long fictional prose narrative.

In English, the term emerged from the Romance languages in the late 15th century, with the meaning of "news"; it came to indicate something new, without a distinction between fact or fiction. Walter Scott defined it as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents", whereas in the novel "the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society". Although there are many historical prototypes, so-called "novels before the novel", [60] the modern novel form emerges late in cultural history—roughly during the eighteenth century.

In purely quantitative terms, the novella exists between the novel and short story; the publisher Melville House classifies it as "too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story". Summarizing the variable definitions of the novella, William Giraldi concludes "[it is a form] whose identity seems destined to be disputed into perpetuity".

A dilemma in defining the "short story" as a literary form is how to, or whether one should, distinguish it from any short narrative; hence it also has a contested origin, [71] variably suggested as the earliest short narratives e. Edgar Allan Poe , or the clearly modern short story writers e.

Anton Chekhov. An essay consists of a discussion of a topic from an author's personal point of view, exemplified by works by Michel de Montaigne or by Charles Lamb. As advances and specialization have made new scientific research inaccessible to most audiences, the "literary" nature of science writing has become less pronounced over the last two centuries. Now, science appears mostly in journals. Scientific works of Aristotle , Copernicus , and Newton still exhibit great value, but since the science in them has largely become outdated, they no longer serve for scientific instruction.

Yet, they remain too technical to sit well in most programs of literary study. Outside of " history of science " programs, students rarely read such works. Philosophy has become an increasingly academic discipline. More of its practitioners lament this situation than occurs with the sciences; nonetheless most new philosophical work appears in academic journals. Major philosophers through history— Plato , Aristotle , Socrates , Augustine , Descartes , Kierkegaard , Nietzsche —have become as canonical as any writers.

Philosophical writing spans from humanistic prose to formal logic , the latter having become extremely technical to a degree similar to that of mathematics. A significant portion of historical writing ranks as literature, particularly the genre known as creative nonfiction , as can a great deal of journalism, such as literary journalism. However, these areas have become extremely large, and often have a primarily utilitarian purpose: to record data or convey immediate information. As a result, the writing in these fields often lacks a literary quality, although it often and in its better moments has that quality.

Major "literary" historians include Herodotus , Thucydides and Procopius , all of whom count as canonical literary figures. Law offers more ambiguity. Some writings of Plato and Aristotle , the law tables of Hammurabi of Babylon , or even the early parts of the Bible could be seen as legal literature. Roman civil law as codified in the Corpus Juris Civilis during the reign of Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire has a reputation as significant literature. The founding documents of many countries, including Constitutions and Law Codes , can count as literature.

Drama is literature intended for performance.

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A play is a subset of this form, referring to the written dramatic work of a playwright that is intended for performance in a theater; it comprises chiefly dialogue between characters , and usually aims at dramatic or theatrical performance rather than at reading. A closet drama , by contrast, refers to a play written to be read rather than to be performed; hence, it is intended that the meaning of such a work can be realized fully on the page. Greek drama exemplifies the earliest form of drama of which we have substantial knowledge. Tragedy , as a dramatic genre , developed as a performance associated with religious and civic festivals , typically enacting or developing upon well-known historical or mythological themes.

Tragedies generally presented very serious themes. With the advent of newer technologies, scripts written for non-stage media have been added to this form. War of the Worlds radio in saw the advent of literature written for radio broadcast, and many works of Drama have been adapted for film or television. Conversely, television, film, and radio literature have been adapted to printed or electronic media. Literary techniques encompass a wide range of approaches: examples for fiction are, whether a work is narrated in first-person , or from another perspective; whether a traditional linear narrative or a nonlinear narrative is used; the literary genre that is chosen.

Literary devices involves specific elements within the work that make it effective. Examples include metaphor , simile , ellipsis , narrative motifs , and allegory. Even simple word play functions as a literary device. In fiction stream-of-consciousness narrative is a literary device.