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Yet through words literature elevates and transforms experience beyond “mere” pleasure.Literature also functions more broadly in society as a means of both criticizing and affirming cultural values.The oratory of the American Indian, for instance, is famous, while in Classical Greece, Polymnia was the muse sacred to poetry and oratory.Rome’s great orator Cicero was to have a decisive influence on the development of English prose style.For historical treatment of various literatures within geographical regions, such articles as African literature; African theatre; Oceanic literature; Western literature; Central Asian arts; South Asian arts; and Southeast Asian arts.Some literatures are treated separately by language, by nation, or by special subject (e.g., Arabic literature, Celtic literature, Latin literature, French literature, Japanese literature, and biblical literature).
The essay was once written deliberately as a piece of literature: its subject matter was of comparatively minor importance.The nature of artistic merit is less easy to define than to recognize. On the contrary, a scientific exposition might be of great literary value and a pedestrian poem of none at all.The purest (or, at least, the most intense) literary form is the Greeks thought of history as one of the seven arts, inspired by a goddess, the muse Clio. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution.
Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.
Definitions of the word Walter Pater referred to “the matter of imaginative or artistic literature” as a “transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinitely varied forms.” But such definitions assume that the reader already knows what literature is.