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The Nature of Literature


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Literature can be defined as an expression of human feelings, thoughts, and ideas whose medium is language, oral and written. Literature is not only about human ideas, thoughts, and feelings but also about experiences of the authors. Literature can be medium for human to communicate what they feel, think, experience to the readers. 

There are many ways to define the term ‘literature’ based on different point of views such as literature is art, literature is language, literature is aesthetic, literature is fictional, literature is expressive, and literature is affective. Literature is everything in print. It means any writing can be categorized as literature. Another way of defining literature is to limit it to ‘great books’ which are ‘notable for literary form or expression’. Ellis (1989:30) defines literature as the verbal expression of human imagination and one of the primary means by which a culture transmits itself. Based on thus definitions, literature contains universal ideas, human imagination, and human interest that written in any writings and use language as medium to express human’s ideas and feelings.

In conjunction with literature as art form,  it is broken down into imaginative literature and non-imaginative literature. Imaginative literature and non-imaginative literature are distinguished based on the particular use made of language in literature. Language of imaginative literature is highly ‘connotative’ and language of non-imaginative literature is purely ‘denotative’. The connotative meaning means words that used in literary works have feeling and shades of meaning that words to tend to evoke while denotative meaning means that the words refer to meaning in dictionary. 

The language that is used by literature differ form ordinary spoken or written language. Literature uses special words, structures, and characteristics. Primarily the language of literature differs from ordinary language in three ways: (1) language is concentrated and meaningful,   (2) its purpose is not simply to explain, argue, or make a point but rather to give a sense of pleasure in the discovery of a new experience, and (3) it demands intense concentration from the readers. It indicates that the language of literature has originality, quality, creativity, and pleasure.

In this case, to differentiate between the literary texts and non-literary texts (imaginative and non-imaginative), Kleden (2004:7-8) states that literature can be differentiate based on the kind of meanings that exist in a text. Literary text consists of textual meaning and referential meaning and non-literary text only consists of referential meaning. The textual meaning is the meaning that is produced by the relationship of text itself. While referential meaning is meaning that is produced by the relationship between internal text and external text (world beyond the text). 

From the use of language and the existence of meaning in literary works, it can be concluded that poetry, prose and drama are put in literary works article, journalism, news, bibliography, memoir, and so on can be categorized as non-literary works. 


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