The term literature has been overly used since the prehistoric times and its meaning keeps on changing over time. Park broadly defines the concept of literature as any single body of written works (257). Literature contains any text representation as a mode of communication or passing of information from the composer to the audience. This means that historical books, magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, novels and catalogues may be lauded as components of literature. However, the contemporary definition of literature has extended to include spoken texts or oral literature. In fact, scholars have paid special attention to the non-written verbal art forms making the concept of literature quite cumbersome and diverse at the same time (Osborne, Simon and Collins1049).
Apparently, literature is not only embedded on what is written but also on what is voiced, expressed, and platform used to elicit emotion and pass piece of information. This definition is marred with ambiguity but suits the contemporary definition of literature as it can express through cartoons, movies, memoirs, performing arts and music among other components. This places literature as an umbrella that represents an inclusive category of creative and imaginative work. In this context, this paper provides a critical definition of literature and its purpose in support of some texts.
According to Park, literature can either be poetic, prose, or dramatic form. Poetry refers to the form of literary work where the composer arranges texts in aesthetic and rhythmic nature to evoke feelings and meaning. The main distinguishable feature in poetry is that it is set in verses. A good example of a poem is the Joy Luck Club:
Up and down, back and forth, quiet and loud
That is how our relationship went.
My mother was above and beyond…
The arrangement of a poem is quite different from other forms of literature as evident above. Park says that the other form of literature is known as prose. Osborne, Simon and Collins say that this arrangement is meant to economize the number of words and ultimately the language used (1079). This means that words are selected carefully and with a cognitive consciousness to create an enigmatic feel. For example, the use of oxymoron in the phrase /up and down, back and forth, quiet and loud/ is to make instantaneous appeal to the audience thoughts. The listener will be interested to know why it was quiet and at the same time loud. Osborne, Simon and Collins likens situation with the importance of literature which is to evoke feelings. It is supposed to trigger thoughts and leave people interested in the issue.
Literaturecan also followprosaic form of presentationin what is known as narrative (245). Narratives explain a phenomenon in a continuity method; such as novels, short stories and essays. For instance, the Heart of Aztlan is a prosaic form of literature based on its nature of presentation. Unlike poems, narratives employ the use of rich body of language and words. Ideas are plummeted and filtered using many words which are fathomable by the audience. Narratives as form of literature tell a story through characterization. For instance, the Joy Luck Club in the story Feathers from a Thousand Li Awaythe main characters include Jing-Mei Woo and Suyuan Woo among others. Characters take the center stage in telling the story and the audience learns from their experiences. As aforementioned, literature is meant to convey knowledge to the reader or the listener. The Joy Luck Club orates of an ordeal of an individual who seeks a family rejoinder but the efforts come to naught. The audience will get to understand the affliction of being separated from family members and ultimately learn the importance of prioritizing family members. The last of literature is known as drama or popularly known as plays. The core function of drama is that it is performed in theater or even for screen play. The distinctive feature for plays is that they are presented in dialogue. In the play A Raisin in the Sun, Walter is seen conversing with Ruth among other characters. Park says that drama show cases stimulating creativity in problem solving. It creates a conflict and the conflict is solved by the end of the play. In the modern society, dramas have been adopted for film and other electronic media forms.
As mentioned earlier, the main aim of literature is to communicate and evoke feelings. It aims at triggering thoughts and at some point calling people to take action regarding a certain situation. For instance, Heart of Aztlan played a significant role in expounding on the atrocities of the world war. This form of literature made people understand what was happening all over the globe triggering their quest for cease fire. Again, literature is used for entertainment and leisure; as denoted from the poem the Joy Luck Club. The speaker main intention is to elaborate to audience the nature of the relationship. The audience feels entangled in love story that creates pleasure while listening. Literature also develops thinking skills where cognitive techniques are sharpened. Imaginative literature creates visualization of actions and analytical aspects which develops the reasoning capacity of the listener (Osborne, Simon and Collins, 1069). Therefore, literature is an integral instrument in the society.
Literature takes many types depending on the purpose it serves. Literature can be explored through two main concepts that augment its purpose. Park divides literature into two major categories that are meant to delineate a better understanding of the concept of literature (258). The two categories are informative and imaginative literature. The informative literature expresses or poises factual information such as history, explaining a phenomenon, an autobiography, and even texts that are studied in institutions of learning. The main aim of informative literature is to pass knowledge and create an awareness regarding a specific issue. The other category of imaginative literature represents the creative aspectthat aims at expressing ideas, emotions, and thoughts that may not necessary be factual. The main aim of this type of literature is to arouse people’s thoughts, feelings, and attitude towards something.
The informative literature augments on the idea that knowledge is transferrable and that skills are developed. The only way to achieve the two is by ensuring that knowledge is recorded and stored for the purposes of transferring to future generation. Informative literature plays the vital role of storing such knowledge and preserving it for future use (Osborne, Simon and Collins, 1050).For example, students use textbooks that have recorded and stored knowledge to sharpen their skills, this is informative literature. Imaginative literature on the other hand focuses on the craftsmanship and creation of fictional situations to create an impression among the audience. Novelists usually create characters and events that suit the theme or the topic they are tackling. They bring their imagination into written or spoken format to alleviate their ideologies for the audience to interpret and understand. Therefore, the core differentiating factor between informative and imaginative literature is that the latter is based on creativity and imaginative work.
In conclusion, literature has different facets depending with the writers or authors view, as Park presents the informative and imaginative categories, with both traces in the old and present ages of history and affairs. Consequently, literature outlines a number of functions with preservation of information, and knowledge enhancement being key functions, among others such as enhancing information sharing and evoking feelings in addition to playing the entertainment role.
Osborne, Simon and Collins, Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications. International journal of science education, (2003). Vol 25 issue 9, 1049-1079.
Park, C. L. Making sense of the meaning literature: an integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological bulletin,(2010) 136(2), 257.