Literature -Definition, sources, 7 functions, types and branches of literature


Literature -Definition, sources, functions, types and branches of literature


Literature originates from the adjective “literate”, which means the ability to read and write. Literature can be regarded as a discipline studied in an official setting.

According to Ibitola, Literature is any printed and unprinted materials that instruct, informs, educates and entertain people. Literature is a subject that mirrors people, their customs and traditions for others to see and learn from. Literature is the caricature of human society and all the activities embedded in it.

According to Encarta, Literature uses well-chosen words to tell a story through narrative, involving characters in conflict, or to express an emotion or idea through artfully arranged images.
According to Scylar, Literature is any writing on a subject: the body of published work concerned with a particular subject.

Wikipedia gives a comprehensive definition of literature that covers all aspects of literature. It defines literature as: any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include oral literature, much of which has been transcribed.

Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment. Literature, as an art form, can also include works in various non – fiction genres, such as autobiography, diaries, memoir, letters, and the essay. Within its broad definition, literature includes non-fictional books, articles or other printed information on a particular subject.

Also Read: Literature Review -Meaning, examples and 5 steps in writing literature review

Sources of literature

Literature originated from folklore/folk tales, festivals, rituals, myth, legends, customs and traditions, fables, fairy tales, etc.

  1. Festivals are yearly occasions that community members mark out to celebrate their religion or achievement. China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart being a literature text shows New Yam Festival.
  2. Legends are people who have done great things for their community. They are people who are admired for their bravery and determination.
  3. Customs and Traditions: Traditions are people’s way of life in a community that had existed in previous generations. Customs is the behaviour of people in a society. China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart portrays the customs and traditions of the Igbo community.
  4. Folklore/Folktales are stories that take its root from the culture of a group of people and it is passed from one generation to another. Although they are fictitious, they give an explanation to certain happenings.

Also Read: Literature Review -10 Primary sources of literature review

Functions of Literature

  1. Literature serves as a medium in which writer’s share their opinion, feelings and thought about a particular issue. By listening to the voice of a writer, we can begin to figure out how that individual thinks and what bothers him most.
  2. Literature fosters the learning and development of a language. It is known that one of the ways which one can acquire accurate language use is by reading books written in that language. It helps students to inculcate reading habits.
  3. Literature informs. Through literature, readers gain insight into the world and its happenings. It broadens their understanding of society.
  4. Literature helps us to understand the pleasures, leisures and problems of human being so that we can cope with the daily responsibilities. It helps us to differentiate and choose between good and bad, what is real and what is not real.
  5. Literature teaches a moral lesson, correct wrongdoings and acknowledge achievement and great achievers.
  6. Literature serves as a means of entertainment. Here, comedy takes charge.
  7. Literature assist in protecting and preserving the customs and traditions of the people.

Types of Literature

Literature can be divided into fiction and non – fiction. Fiction is an invented story: a story that is not true. Non- fiction is a story that is real.

Branches of Literature

There are basically three branches of Literature: Prose, Poetry, Drama.
Prose is a fictional and non-fictional narrative with a lot of characters, events and experiences. They are arranged in chapters and paragraph. A writer of prose is called a novelist.

Poetry according to Williams, Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of power feelings recollect in tranquillity. Poetry is the branch of literature that feelings, emotion and experiences are expressed in stanzas and lines. A person that writes poetry is called Poet.

Drama: Drama is the recreation, adaptation, reflection and performance of life on stage. It is the imitation if life. In drama, there is creation or recreation of a situation, an articulation of reality through impersonation or re-enactment. An action becomes drama if it is an imitation of an earlier action real or imagined. Drama is usually arranged I’d acts and scenes.

Igbaji Ugabi Chinwendu, from Cross River State, Nigeria. As a Business Educator, he is profoundly interested in teaching and managing business. Started blogging 2010 and officially 2013. He holds the esteemed positions of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director at Freemanbiz Communication and Writers King LTD, demonstrating his leadership and expertise in the field.


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