Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Its Latin root literatura/litteratura (derived itself from littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all written accounts. The concept has changed meaning over time to include texts that are spoken or sung (oral literature), and non-written verbal art forms. Developments in print technology have allowed an ever-growing distribution and proliferation of written works, culminating in electronic literature.

Selected work

An illustration of the mouse dancing on the cupboard at the end of the story
The Story of Miss Moppet is a tale about teasing, featuring a kitten and a mouse, that was written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co for the 1906 Christmas season. Potter was born in London in 1866, and between 1902 and 1905 published a series of small format children's books with Warne. In 1906, she experimented with an atypical panorama design for Miss Moppet, which booksellers disliked; the story was reprinted in 1916 in small book format

Miss Moppet, the story's eponymous main character, is a kitten teased by a mouse. While pursuing him she bumps her head on a cupboard. She then wraps a duster about her head, and sits before the fire "looking very ill". The curious mouse creeps closer, is captured, "and because the Mouse has teased Miss Moppet—Miss Moppet thinks she will tease the Mouse; which is not at all nice of Miss Moppet". She ties him up in the duster and tosses him about. However, the mouse makes his escape, and once safely out of reach, dances a jig atop the cupboard.

Although, critically, The Story of Miss Moppet is considered one of Potter's lesser efforts, for young children it is valued as an introduction to books in general, and to the world of Peter Rabbit.

Selected figure

1898 painting of Chekhov
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian physician, dramaturge and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

Selected excerpt


Click [+] or ► to view subcategories

Selected illustration

Credit: Brothers Dalziel

Rob Roy is a historical novel by Walter Scott. It is narrated son of an English merchant who travels to the North of England and the Scottish Highlands to collect a debt, encountering the title character, Rob Roy MacGregor, along the way. This illustration depicts Rob Roy (left) delivering a message to the narrator, which results in the narrator becoming involved in the Jacobite risings.

Did you know

Today in literature

2 April


Literature: History of literature ·History of the book ·Literary criticism ·Literary theory ·Publishing
By genre: Biography ·Comedy ·Drama ·Epic ·Erotic ·Fable ·Fantasy ·Historical fiction ·Horror ·Mystery ·Narrative nonfiction ·Nonsense ·Lyric ·Mythopoeia ·Poetry ·Romance ·Satire ·Science fiction ·Tragedy ·Tragicomedy ·more...
By region: African literature ·Asian ·European ·Latin American ·North American ·Oceanic
By era: Ancient literature ·Early medieval ·Medieval ·Renaissance ·Early Modern ·Modern
By century: 10th century in literature ·11th ·12th ·13th ·14th ·15th ·16th ·17th ·18th ·19th ·20th ·21st
Recent: 2018 in literature·2017 ·2016 ·2015 ·2014 ·2013 ·2012 ·2011 ·2010 ·2009 ·2008 ·2007 ·more...

Things you can do

Related portals

Portals related to literature:

Concepts: Books · Library and information science · Novels · Poetry · Theatre · Writing
Genres: Children and Young Adult ·Speculative fiction
Religions: Bible

Related WikiProjects

WikiProjects related to literature:

Concepts: Biographies ·Books ·Comics ·Magazines ·Manga ·Novels ·Poetry ·Short stories ·Translation studies
Genres: Alternate history ·Children's literature ·Crime ·Fantasy ·Horror ·Mythology ·Romance ·Science fiction
Authors: Honoré de Balzac ·Roald Dahl ·William Shakespeare
Series: Artemis Fowl ·Chronicles of Narnia ·Discworld ·Harry Potter ·His Dark Materials ·Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ·Inheritance Cycle ·James Bond ·King Arthur ·Middle-earth ·Percy Jackson ·Redwall ·A Series of Unfortunate Events ·Shannara ·Sherlock Holmes ·A Song of Ice and Fire ·Star Wars ·Sword of Truth ·Twilight ·Warriors ·Water Margin ·Wizard of Oz
Regions: Australian literature ·Indian literature ·Persian literature

Associated Wikimedia

The following Wikimedia Foundation sister projects provide more on this subject:












Learning resources





What is this?