Introduction

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

Susanna Clarke in 2006
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the 2004 first novel by British writer Susanna Clarke. An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centring on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundaries between reason and unreason, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane, and Northern and Southern English cultural tropes/stereotypes. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. It inverts the Industrial Revolution conception of the North/South divide in England: in this book the North is romantic and magical, rather than rational and concrete.

The narrative draws on various Romantic literary traditions, such as the comedy of manners, the Gothic tale, and the Byronic hero. The novel's language is a pastiche of 19th-century writing styles, such as those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke describes the supernatural with mundane details. She supplements the text with almost 200 footnotes, outlining the backstory and an entire fictional corpus of magical scholarship. The novel was well received by critics and reached number three on the New York Times best-seller list. It was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Selected figure

1934 photograph of Walpole
Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole, CBE (13 March 1884 – 1 June 1941) was a New Zealand–born English novelist. He was the son of an Anglican clergyman, intended for a career in the church but drawn instead to writing. Among those who encouraged him were the authors Henry James and Arnold Bennett. His skill at scene-setting, vivid plots, and high profile as a lecturer brought him a large readership in the United Kingdom and North America. He was a best-selling author in the 1920s and 1930s, but has been largely neglected since his death.

After his first novel, The Wooden Horse, in 1909, Walpole wrote prolifically, producing at least one book every year. He was a spontaneous story-teller, writing quickly to get all his ideas on paper, seldom revising. His first novel to achieve real success was his third, Mr Perrin and Mr Traill, a tragicomic story of a fatal clash between two schoolmasters. Walpole's output was large and varied. Between 1909 and 1941 he wrote thirty-six novels, five volumes of short stories, two original plays and three volumes of memoirs. His range included disturbing studies of the macabre, children's stories and historical fiction, most notably his "Herries Chronicle" series, set in the Lake District.

Selected excerpt

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Selected illustration

Layla and Majnun2.jpg
Credit: Unknown

Majnun Layla ("Possessed by madness for Layla") is a love story that originated as a short poem in ancient Arabia, and was later expanded and popularized by 12th century Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi. This illustration depicts the lovers Layla and Majnun fainting from extreme passion and pain after seeing each other after years of forced separation.

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Today in literature

16 July

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