The question what is English literature ? or in general what is literature has perplexed many thinkers because of the transformed nature of literature. In recent times, despite such conditions, many scholars have given different definitions of literature; but these definitions cannot be taken as final. Everyone has his or her own definition of literature based on his or her own understanding of it. Collin’s English dictionary defines literature as written material such as poetry novels essays etc especially works of imagination characterized by the excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest. The word literature has been derived from the Latin word literatura which means writing. Broadly speaking the term literature is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but in a true sense, the term is mostly used for the creative imagination including works of poetry drama fiction, and non-fiction. But the term is not confined only to published works; it also encompasses what is called oral literature it is a universally accepted fact that literature is a reflection of our lives literature in its most comprehensive meaning includes all the activities of the human soul in general within particular sphere period country or language. Literature is that form of writing which arouses our feelings of the beautiful by the perfection of form or excellence of ideas or by both. literature is divided into four major classes namely poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction.
Periods of English Literarture:
Also, English literary history is divided according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. The important historical periods in English literature are old English, the Medieval ages the Renaissance period, the Shakespearean and Elizabethan period, the restoration period, the victorian period, and the modern period. There are also many important movements of philosophies and ideologies in English literature such as romanticism feminism, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, psychoanalysis, marxism among others, etc.
All these periods’ movements and different ideologies tried and are still trying to define literature in their own terms. The scope of literature is very wide it covers everything that is on the earth. Literature has the capacity to incorporate within itself the entire universe, in fact, the scope of literature is everything that can come into the human mind. it includes everything from mathematics to philosophy and to the other intricate sciences. Since literature reflects life, so the scope of literature covers the whole life of man. Literature can be best understood in the context of what Leo Tolstoy Russian writer said about literature “he said that literature fails if it cannot answer the two fundamental questions who we are and how shall we live“
If literature does not teach us how to live and does not tell our identity as human beings then it is something else, not literature in a true sense. The tolus choice this statement defines literature tells us about the function and aim of literature as well as its scope. Dollar store believes that these two questions drive all literature and should be guiding principles upon which all literature is based.
why should we study literature?
It is a frequently asked question why should we study literature in this modern age when a man has conquered the moon. Is it appropriate to use in the world of imagination or the benefits of studying literature, while there are a lot of other things to know and study which are based on reality and which can benefit the whole society? isn’t it a wastage of time and energy to read a poem a novel short stories or drama in this age of science and technology, in fact, literature is a reflection of the social and political life. of the age in which it is produced.
It represents the life of its age, so literature is a kind of document that contains the social as well as the political history of its time. By studying literature of any age, we come to know about the cultural tradition habits, and customs of the people of that particular age. If we read Chaucer’s poetry we come to know about the people of the 14th century, and when we study Shakespeare we are acquainted with the cultural customs habits, and fashion of the people of the Elizabethan period. When we read congress place we get knowledge of the aristocratic society of 17th century London. If you read the novels written in theThe 18th century we find the description of the people of the 18th century. The same is with modern literature it drives us to say that literature is a kind of historical document which contains true information about age and the society in which it is written. Thus literature provides us not only pleasure and enjoyment but also factual information of a particular age and its society the second utility of studying literature is that it introduces ourselves to us. When we study literature we come to know ourselves which is a kind of self-revelation we come to know our mistakes in life and so we can make amendments accordingly. The study of literature makes a man sober and gentle and teaches us the art of living. Literature helps us understand ourselves and the purpose of our life in this world thus it is evident that the study of literature is vital to understand ourselves. The third point is that literature is a means of communication. It communicates through characters stories, essays, poetry, and fiction it is an art, not all people can reach up to it it is as special as science is by itself as has been pointed above literature is a reflection of contemporary life. The literature contains everything in it the thoughts joy happiness pain of the people. The ideals of history science or society are also glorified through literature. literature is a world in itself as it encompasses everything in its range. The language also attains its ultimate place through literature. Therefore, before studying mankind, we should go through the literature. However, this discussion can be concluded with the following quotation of William j long “literature is the expression of life in words of truth and beauty, it is the written record of man’s spirit of his thoughts, emotions, aspirations. It is the history and the only history of the human soul. It is characterized by its artistic it’s suggestive its permanent qualities. Its two tests are its universal interest and its personal style. Its object aside from the delight it gives is to know the man, that is the soul of a man, rather than his actions; and since it preserves to the race the ideals upon which all our civilization is founded, it is one of the most important and delightful subjects that can occupy the human mind.