Literature

With the development of language, the human imagination has found a way to create and communicate through the written word. A literary work can transport us into a fictional, fantastic new world, describe a fleeting feeling, or simply give us a picture of the past through novels, poems, tragedies, epic works, and other genres. Through literature, communication becomes an art, and it can bridge and bond people and cultures of different languages and backgrounds.
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Featured content, May 16, 2022

Scene from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, 1843. The irascible, curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Present, the third of the four apparitions that visit him on Christmjas Eve. From "A Christmas Carol" by...
Diagnosing 9 of Charles Dickens’s Most Famous Characters
Dickens had a knack for expertly portraying human diseases.
#WTFact / Literature
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, Scottish historical novelist and poet, 1870. Portrait of Scott author of Ivanhoe. Scotland
What jobs did Sir Walter Scott have?
What jobs did Sir Walter Scott have?
Companion / Literature
Spelling bee. Nathan J. Marcisz of Marion, Indiana, tries to spell a word during the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition June 3, 2010 in Washington, DC. Spellers competition to become best spelling bee of the year.
7 Quintessential National-Spelling-Bee-Winning Words
Can you spell these? (T-h-e-s-e!)
List / Literature
Portion of the Aleppo Codex, a manuscript of the Hebrew Bible written in the Hebrew language in the 10th century CE; in the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Why Do Languages Die?
How does someone become the last known speaker of a language?
Demystified / Literature
George Gascoigne, woodcut, 1576.
literary criticism
literary criticism, the reasoned consideration of literary works and issues. It applies, as a term, to any argumentation...
Encyclopedia / Literature
author
author, one who is the source of some form of intellectual or creative work; especially, one who composes a book, article,...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Fresco of the Preaching Buddha at the Wet-kyi-in, Gu-byauk-gyi, Pagan, c. 1113.
Southeast Asian arts
Southeast Asian arts, the literary, performing, and visual arts of Southeast Asia. Although the cultural development of the...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Latin literature
Latin literature, the body of writings in Latin, primarily produced during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, when...
Encyclopedia / Literature

Literature Quizzes

"The Feast of Sada", folio 22v from the Shah-nameh Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp, by Ferdowsi; painting attributed to Sultan Muhammad, c. 1525; made in Tabriz, Iran. (Shahnama, poems, poetry)
Poets and Poetry (Part One) Quiz
Do you know who wrote “The Wild Swans at Coole”? What’s the title of the first known play in blank verse? Take a tour of...
Quiz / Literature
Record of a haiku exchange on kaishi writing paper by Matsuo Basho and one of his pupils in the teacher's own handwriting, 2nd half of the 17th century, from a hanging scroll (ink on paper). (calligraphy)
Irony, Oxymoron, Alliteration, and More: A Quiz
Test what you know about literary terms with this quiz.
Quiz / Literature
Beginning of the old English poem, Beowulf, believed to have been composed between 700 and 750. (Old English literature)
Poets and Poetry (Part Two) Quiz
Do you know which ancient Roman poet wrote Metamorphoses? Who wrote poetry to a woman named Laura? Test the outer...
Quiz / Literature
Japanese poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (Kakinomoto Hitomaro), woodblock print by Yashima Gakutei, c. 1820; in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Japanese Literature: A Pop Quiz
Here’s an extremely short quiz about the long history of Japanese literature. (Hint: It’s mostly about renga.) How...
Quiz / Literature
French author Honore de Balzac; undated portrait. (Honore Balzac)
Literary Terms (Part Three) Quiz
Do you know what figure of speech relies on the words like or as to compare two things? If you do, take...
Quiz / Literature
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) in 1876. Russian novelist and short-story writer. Also spelled Dostoevsky
Another Russian Literature Quiz
Who wrote Dead Souls? Which character is the protagonist in Crime and Punishment? Test what you know about...
Quiz / Literature
Handscroll is one of a set that illustrates the 305 poems in the Shijing (The Book of Odes), a work traditionally believed to have been compiled by Confucius, by Ma Hezhi and assistants, Southern Song dynasty, mid-12th century.
Chinese Literature Quiz
How much do you know about the history of Chinese literature? Find out with this quiz.
Quiz / Literature
Sappho (early 6th century B.C.), engraving 1866
Ancient Greek Literature Quiz
How well do you know Old Comedy? Who wrote Oedipus the King? Figure out what you know about ancient Greek literature...
Quiz / Literature
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) only confirmed photograph of Emily Dickinson. Daguerreotype. ca. 1847; in the Amherst College Archives. American poet
Poets of America Quiz
Poetry derived from European traditions dates to the early 17th century in the Americas. How much of that history do you...
Quiz / Literature
Colorized engraving of English author Samuel Johnson; undated portrait.
Literary Terms and More Quiz
This quiz will test your knowledge of literary terms—and a few other stray facts about writers whose work gave rise to literary...
Quiz / Literature
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Literature Subcategories

subcategory placeholder Folk Literature & Fable
Step into the world of folklore, fables, legends, tall tales, and epics, in which heroes are known to undertake arduous journeys and dragons, fairies, and giants abound. Stories such as these circulated long before systems of writing were developed; ballads, folktales, poems, and the like were transmitted exclusively by word of mouth before written languages took over, and they continue to captivate listeners and readers to this day.
Articles
Fantastic Four Fictional Characters
Here you'll find some of your favorite fictional characters from literature, film, television, and the like, whether it's the analytical mastermind Sherlock Holmes and his endearing associate Dr. Watson or the menacing and helmeted Darth Vader, the ill-tempered Donald Duck, or the teenage sleuth Nancy Drew.
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subcategory placeholder Journalism
Extra, extra! Although the content and style of journalism and the medium through which it is delivered have varied significantly over the years, journalism has always given us a way to keep up with current events, so that we always have our fingers on the pulse.
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E.O. Wilson Libraries & Reference Works
Looking to impress your friends with your expansive knowledge of historical events, philosophical concepts, obscure words, and more? We may be biased, but it seems fair enough to say that reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and textbooks have provided such a service for years (in some cases, hundreds or even thousands of years). You can look for them at your local public library, which likely stores books, manuscripts, journals, CDs, movies, and other sources of information and entertainment.
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wine bottle Literatures of the World
Literature knows no geographical bounds; authors can be found in nearly all corners of the globe. Find out more about regional literary styles and forms.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Literary Criticism
Everyone's a critic. But not all literary criticism involves judging the quality of a text; it can also focus on interpreting the meaning of a work or evaluating an author's place in literary history.
Articles
To the Lighthouse Literary Terms
Want to be able to distinguish your limericks from your haikus and your paeans from your panegyrics? Dive deep into literary terms and forms.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Nonfiction
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Or that's the idea, at least. Nonfiction works center on facts and real events. Although there is some debate about which kinds of literature qualify as nonfiction, the genre typically includes books in the categories of biography, memoir, science, history, self-help, cooking, health and fitness, business, and more.
Articles
The War of the Worlds Novels & Short Stories
Whether it's Don Quixote, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, or The Fall of the House of Usher, novels and short stories have been enchanting and transporting readers for a great many years. There's a little something for everyone: within these two genres of literature, a wealth of types and styles can be found, including historical, epistolary, romantic, Gothic, and realist works, along with many more.
Articles
Justus of Ghent: Saint Augustine Oratory
I have a dream... Four score and seven years ago... It's not a fluke that these phrases came to be so widely known and remembered. Truly great and persuasive speeches elicit strong emotional reactions in their audiences and may have broad historical repercussions. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, quoted above, are two iconic examples of successful oratory, as are Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury and Winston Churchill's first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons.
Articles
Hamlet Plays
All the world's a stage, as Shakespeare put it in As You Like It; and the stage is where you'll find performances of works by such famed playwrights as Anton Chekhov, Eugene O'Neill, and the Bard himself, among many others.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Poetry
Poetry is a vast subject that encompasses much more than just your average Roses are red, violets are blue poem. Delve into the category of literature that Percy Bysshe Shelley called a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted; sonnets, haikus, nursery rhymes, epics, and more are included.
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