10 definitions of literature/characteristics/functions/authors


We explain what literature is, its origin, characteristics, types, functions and representative authors.  Literature is a set of texts or stories that use the word to evoke thoughts, feelings and / or emotions in readers. Such texts can be narrative, descriptive or reflective works on a real or fictional event. 10 definitions of literature

The literature as the “art of verbal expression”, which is why it is linked to both the written and oral words. Although it normally has a poetic character, this term is also used to designate all the works available on a certain area of ​​knowledge or on a specific author: pedagogical literature, Mexican literature or Cervantes literature, for example.

At first the texts created were to be sung to the deities or recited. This type of literary creations entailed a more elaborate aesthetic work, thus reinforcing its literalness and moving away from the common of vulgar language.

When referring to literature, we can also refer to literary works created in a particular nation, town, ethnic group, language or time. In addition, the term is used to cover what corresponds to literary genres, to exclusive texts of a type of science or of a particular art. Example: medical literature or Gothic literature.

10 definitions of literature 10 definitions of literature

  1. Literature is an art form, which uses language – preferably in its written form as an instrument of expression and communication.
  2. A definition or concept of literature has also been given, as the “science of linguistic communication“. 
  3. Although literature is linguistic communication, there are other forms of that communication that are not included in the concept of literature; including the whole range of extensive written works, which acquire book format, such as philosophical and political essays, technical exhibitions, historical chronicles and analyzes, etc .; and oratory.
  4. The entry literature is considered one of the fine arts, and as we have appreciated throughout the ages, Art, in several of its manifestations, has been the activity that allows us to spread a cloak of creativity and fantasy over reality. .
  5. In the seventeenth century , what we now call “literature” was referred to as poetry or eloquence . During the Spanish Golden Age, poetry was understood to be any literary invention, belonging to any genre and not necessarily in verse . At the beginning of the 18th century the word “literature” began to be used.           
  6. Literature is classically described as the “Art of Expressing Beauty through words” and unless reality is provocative, Magical, or pain and hardship is enjoyed.
  7. Literature is not a corpus of works, nor is it an intellectual category, but a writing practice.
  8. The word literature comes from the Latin term “litterae”, which refers to the whole of knowing how to write and read well.
  9. The term “theory” becomes an umbrella for a wide variety of theoretical studies,  most  of which originate from various trends in   continental philosophy . 
  10. Literature was the knowledge and science of letters.

Origin of literature 10 definitions of literature

Texts with “eloquence” or “poetry”

After the invention of writing in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC, it took 4,800 years for the term literature to emerge.

In the 18th century the Epic of Gilgamesh was called a text with “eloquence” or “poetry” , which is considered the first written work. The same was true of the Greek Iliad or the Roman Aeneid , to name just a few texts.

The formal appearance of the term literature

As mentioned in advance, the term literature began to be used when the eighteenth century began and was used to group any action that made use of writing to express an idea or thought.

For its part, it is in the work Briefe die neueste Literatur betreffend written by Gotthold Ephaim Lessing where the word “literature” was used for the first time to house literary works. It is noteworthy that, at that historical moment, the term was only applied to texts that had a certain literary quality or “literalism.” 10 definitions of literature

The perception of the literality of the texts was later reinforced in the work Eléments de littérature by the French author Jean-François Marmontel.

English formalisms in the 18th and 19th centuries

At that time, in England the term literature became broader, giving place to letters, essays and philosophical treatises. This as long as the aesthetics were taken care of.

It is important to note that the novel was frowned upon as it was considered a poor form of written expression, which was also the case with street literature, ballads and popular poems among the settlers.

This attitude against the proper of the people responded more to a class opinion than to the aesthetics of the works. And it is normal that it happened if the political and social context of England at that time is studied.

Well into the nineteenth century, restrictions on what could or could not be considered literature in England continued. The creator of texts who stood out for his ingenuity and who fulfilled what the most studied and upper classes requested was called “literary man.” This was a term of height that was given only to few authors. 10 definitions of literature

The stability of the term literature 

Over the years, in the different populations of Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and later America, the word literature achieved the necessary stability. Now the term receives the manifestations that previously were considered little elaborate, giving room even to indigenous literature.

Characteristics of the literature 


This is directly associated with the origins of literature itself. There are many theories about which were the first literary creations. However, the Epic of Gilgam esh remains the first of all. It is written on clay tablets, is of Sumerian origin and dates from approximately 2500 BC. C.

Originality 10 definitions of literature

This quality is directly linked to the imagination and literary abilities of the author. It is normal to see hundreds of works written on the same subject, but each one will show the qualities or characteristics of its creator. Therefore, each literary work is unique and has a style that identifies and relates directly to the writer.


The diversity of existing texts gave way to later being organized into genres. There is a wide variety of these, however, among all the lyrics, narrative and dramaturgy stand out, already explained in the previous paragraphs.

Literary figures

Each literary expression contains literary figures. These allow to increase the expressiveness of the texts. In turn, the use of these resources is determined by the communicative possibilities of the writer, as well as by his knowledge and use of language.

Literary figures play an important role in genres such as poetry, novels, and essays, as they strengthen discourse. These figures include alliteration, onomatopoeia or oxymoron, to name a few.

Literary trends

The concept of literary currents arises to encompass the works created in a given time and which have particularities that relate them to each other. Among these particularities, the style that was used when elaborating them, the ideology of their writers, the theme or the historical context in which they were developed, among others, stands out.

The avant-garde, modernism, magical realism and surrealism stand out among the most recent literary currents that there have been.

Poetic function 10 definitions of literature

The poetic function is a particularity of literature that seeks to increase the intensity of the message that you want to convey. This characteristic is closely linked to literary figures, since through these the qualities of the text are highlighted. The poetic function goes hand in hand with the originality of each author.


A literary work, in general, represents the interpretation of a person about a particular fact and that interpretation is usually presented with a connotative language, so it will have as many meanings as readers.

In addition, its major semantic load can be condensed in small fractions of the text, scenes, passages, which can transcend in time. For example, the fight against the windmills, in Don Quixote; or the “To be or not to be”, from Hamlet.


Although they do not always address real events, literary texts often refer to fictional events in a way that makes them seem possible. This is and must be so, especially in the narrative.

For example, in The Journey to the Center of the Earth , by Jules Verne, a fact is raised that has not been proven, but that many come to believe as true, thanks to the amount of scientific data that is exposed.

The latter precisely contributes to the verisimilitude (similarity to reality) of the stories: that valid arguments are used in reality.


Although it has been said in previous lines, it should be noted as a characteristic of literature: the objective is to generate emotions.

The form and the resources that are shown in a text, point to the reader being involved in such a way in the reading that he “lives” within the world created by the author and “feels” what the characters involved experience throughout the history.

Language also contributes to this because there are many words related to human sensations and / or emotions: heat, cold, vertigo, fear, curiosity, etc.

Types of literature 

There are different types of literature:

Oral literature

It is the oldest and is directly linked to the popular beliefs of the peoples. Through this, the inhabitants transmitted their knowledge and customs to their fellow citizens, through stories, legends and myths.

Written literature

This arrived approximately in the 3000 a. C, in Mesopotamia. At first it was developed on clay tablets, on walls and rocks, then on papyrus and later on paper and electronic media. It includes a large number of literary genres

Science fiction literature 10 definitions of literature

This literature is part of the narrative genre and in it the writer includes facts from everyday reality or invented. It often happens that the creators of this literary genre go ahead in time and come to describe events that later occur. A clear case is represented by Jules Verne and his works.

Non-fiction literature

This type of literature also belongs to the genre of narrative, only that it is subject to real or testimonial events. Normally they are used in the development of the traditional novel and also the stories. The events that are included in these texts can be verifiable, which gives greater credibility to the work.

Fantastic literature

It usually presents facts and supernatural beings that can develop in the known world or invented worlds. In this type of texts, belonging to the narrative genre (although they can also be appreciated in poetry), the writer acts as a creator god of events, beings and things.

Literary genres

There are several ways to encompass literary genres, being confused in some cases with subgenres. The first classification – and one of the most accepted by the literati in general – is the one proposed by Aristotle (384 BC -322 BC) in his work Poetics .

It determines that literary genres are distinguished in narrative, lyrical and dramatic.


In Aristotle’s time it was known as an epic genre. At that time he related legendary events (invented or real) that combined with narration, dialogue and description. 10 definitions of literature

Currently, the narrative is characterized as a written category in which a narrator presents facts in prose form. In turn, it has several subgenres such as the novel or the short story.


This genre is that of the poem, a form of expression in which the emotional takes relevance in a symbolic way. The author’s way of expressing himself usually has more weight than the facts themselves, relying on different literary resources to embellish the writing.

The usual form of writing is verse, although prose can also be used in some cases. Some of the lyrical subgenres are the song, the ode, the hymn, the elegy or the satire.

Dramatic 10 definitions of literature

Its origins lie in Ancient Greece, being theatrical works created as a worship of the gods. Dialogue is the engine of this genre, generally showing a lack of a narrator, just as it happens in the theater.

According to Aristotle, this literary genre was encompassed by tragedy, comedy, drama and melodrama. At present other subgenres have been added such as the farce, the tragicomedy or the didactic work. 

The case of the didactic genre 

There is no consensus on whether the didactic genre could be the fourth literary genre. Its purpose is dissemination and teaching, with essays, dialogue, public speaking or general teaching as the main sub-genres. 10 definitions of literature

Functions of literature

Aesthetic function

This aspect refers to the beauty that an author can develop in the text. This quality is usually the most important attraction of the work. 10 definitions of literature

Social function

It refers to the fact that literature texts usually serve as testimony of historical events, ideals and outstanding characters in the different times where they are created.

Cultural function

This function refers to the fact that literature serves as a bridge to communicate the knowledge, customs and culture of peoples.

Musical function

Although it sounds incongruous, literature has a series of elements that, when properly organized, generate musicality. When this is achieved, it creates a pleasant feeling for those who appreciate the text. 

This function is not only typical of poetry, but can be seen in any genre, what is needed is a good command of the language and its resources on the part of the writer.

Affective function 

This refers to the emotionality that a writer can achieve when writing a text. Everything will depend on the qualities that the author possesses, on how well he handles the subject matter and the language.

Symbolic function

This section refers to the particular message that an author wants to convey based on the use of symbols to reinforce it. This function is directly linked to poetics, so literary figures play an important role in it.

Evasive function 

This refers to the fact that both the author when writing and the reader who interprets or the one who listens to the literary work when it is narrated can escape from the reality they live. Yes, literary works serve to evade for moments those situations that are being lived.

Commit function

This function refers to the role that the author takes when writing a work and his responsibility before his readers and the story. It must be understood that each literary work has a message that will have an impact on those who read it, both for better and for worse. Herein lies the importance of the commitment that the writer assumes when creating it.

Classic authors of literature

Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The sign of the four.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Charles dickens

  • Various stories.
  • David copperfield
  • The Christmas song.
  • Big hopes.
  • Oliver Twist.

Daniel Defoe

  • Robinson Crusoe.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar rice burrough

  • Tarzan of the apes. 

Emilio salgari 10 definitions of literature

  • The black corsair.
  • The Queen of the Caribs.
  • The Mysteries of the Black Jungle.
  • The Mompracem (or Sandokan) tigers.
  • Sandokan, the king of the sea.

George Orwell

  • Rebelion on the farm.

Gustave Flaubert

  • Madame Bovary.

Herman melville

  • Bartleby, the clerk.

Jane Austen

  • Pride and prejudice.
  • Sense and Sensibility.

Jonathan Swift

  • Gulliver’s Travels.

Juan Ramon Jimenez 10 definitions of literature

  • Platero and me.

Julio Verne

  • Around the Moon.
  • Five weeks in a balloon.
  • Owner of the world.
  • Around the World in 80 Days.
  • Twenty thousand leagues of underwater travel.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Leon Tolstoy 

  • Ana Karenina.
  • The death of Ivan Ilyich.

Mark Twain

  • The Prince and the Pauper.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Tom Sawyer’s adventures.

Oscar Wilde 

Robert Louis Stevenson

  • The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • The black arrow.
  • The island of the treasure.


Washington Irving 

  • The legend of Sleepy Hollow.
  • Rip Van Winkle. 10 definitions of literature

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