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      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.
      Browse Subcategories

      Featured content, January 25, 2021

      Diagnosing 9 of Charles Dickens’s Most Famous Characters
      Dickens had a knack for expertly portraying human diseases.
      #WTFact / Literature
      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...
      Why Do Languages Die?
      How does someone become the last known speaker of a language?
      Demystified / 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.
      9 Countercultural Books
      A new canon: The revolutionary literature of 20th-century counterculture
      List / Literature
      Girl Reading On Turquoise Couch
      What did Sir Walter Scott write?
      What did Sir Walter Scott write?
      Companion / Literature
      Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, Scottish historical novelist and poet, 1870. Portrait of Scott author of Ivanhoe. Scotland
      Author, one who is the source of some form of intellectual or creative work; especially, one who composes a book, article,...
      Encyclopedia / Literature
      Southeast Asian arts
      Southeast Asian arts, the literary, performing, and visual arts of Southeast Asia. Although the cultural development of the...
      Encyclopedia / Literature
      Fresco of the Preaching Buddha at the Wet-kyi-in, Gu-byauk-gyi, Pagan, c. 1113.
      Latin literature
      Latin literature, the body of writings in Latin, primarily produced during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, when...
      Encyclopedia / Literature
      Dramatic literature
      Dramatic literature, the texts of plays that can be read, as distinct from being seen and heard in performance. The term...
      Encyclopedia / Literature
      Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children)

      Literature Quizzes

      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...
      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...
      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...
      American playwright Tennessee Williams, 1955.
      Quick Quiz: American Playwrights
      You need to know three American playwrights and their work to ace this very short quiz. How quickly can you bring the curtain...
      Shakespeare Reading, oil on canvas by William Page, 1873-74; in the collection of the Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington, D.C. (William Shakespeare)
      Shakespeare and His Plays Quiz
      “If quizzes be the food of knowledge, play on...” is something Shakespeare didn’t write. But maybe he should have. If you...
      Margaret Fuller, oil on canvas by Thomas Hicks, 1848; in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
      American Women Writers Quiz
      Who wrote The Good Earth? How about Song of Solomon? Test what you know about American women writers with...
      Page from the Mayan document Popol Vuh. The Newberry's manuscript of the Popol Vuh is one of the most widely known and possibly the earliest surviving copy. It was transcribed between 1700 and 1715 in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, by the Dominican...
      Quick Quiz: Latin American Literature
      This quiz has only three questions about Latin American literature, but it encompasses many different countries and hundreds...
      Chinese author Gao Xingjian, 2008, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2000.
      A Nobel Prize for Literature (Mostly) Quiz
      Every question in this quiz—except one—is about winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. (The exception is about a novelist...
      Illustration of Peter Rabbit with his family by Beatrix Potter. (children's books)
      A Quiz About Children’s Authors
      Take a trip from the land of Oz to Narnia alongside Max and Peter Rabbit to figure out how much you know about writers of...
      French author Emile Zola in his office on rue de Bruxelles, Paris, France; undated.
      Exploring French Literature Quiz
      The roots of French literature can be traced, arguably, to the Roman occupation of western Europe. This quiz doesn’t go back...
      Never Miss a Day in History
      Sign up for daily fun facts about this day in history, updates, and special offers delivered right to your inbox.

      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.
      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.
      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.
      Edward 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.
      wine bottle Literatures of the World
      Literature knows no geographical bounds; authors can be found in nearly all corners of the globe (except, perhaps, on the open sea). Find out more about regional literary styles and forms.
      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.
      To the Lighthouse Literary Terms
      This general category includes a selection of more specific topics.
      subcategory placeholder Nonfiction
      The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Nonfiction works are all about 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.
      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.
      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.
      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.
      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," and which includes sonnets, haikus, nursery rhymes, epics, and more.
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