Ms. Suraiya Sulaiman
Western Languages Department
What is literature?
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
Literature noun [U] 1. pieces of writing that
are valued as works of art, esp. novels, plays
and poems (in contrast to technical books
and newspapers, magazines, etc.)
2. pieces of writing or printed information
on a particular subject: I’ve read all the
available literature on keeping rabbits.
Literature generally mean those pieces of
writing which, despite the passing of the
years and even of the centuries, still inspire
admiration, reflection and emotion in
This does not mean, however, that only
older works can be called literature. Today,
millions of books are produced, but only
some of them are regarded by the critics or
the readers as literature.
(Delany et al. 2006: p.2-3)
Literature is one of the great creative and universal
means of communicating the emotional, spiritual,
and intellectual concerns of mankind. Like fine
music and art, fine literature is characterized by
imagination, meaningfulness of expression, and
good forms and techniques.
Literature may instruct and inform, entertain,
express personal joy or pain, reflect religious
devotion, glorify a nation or hero, or advocate a
particular point of view whether it be political,
social, or aesthetic.
(อรนุช ร้อยแก้ว, 2542)
What is poetry?
Poetry emerges from the interplay between the
meaning of words and their arrangement on
paper as the English poet Samuel Coleridge says-
‘poetry is the best words in their best order.’
Poetry comes in all shapes and sizes. However, they
share certain characteristics. Imagery, metaphors
and symbols, for example, make poetry dense with
meaning. Sound features, such as rhyme, rhythm,
and repetition, give the language a special musical
quality. The standard rules of grammar and syntax are
often ignored, so that the language may be used in a
striking or original way. (Delany et al. 2006: p.2-3)
Some other definitions of poetry:
“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with
truth, by calling imagination to the help
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
“Poetry is the lava of imagination, whose
eruption prevents the earthquake.”
Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Why read literature?
Perhaps the most important reason for
reading literature is because it breaks down
our personal barriers. Literature invites us
to share in a range of human experiences. It
allows us to leave behind our age, sex,
family background and economic condition
so that we can see the world from the
perspective of people who are completely
different from us.
(Delaney et al., 2006: p.3)
Reading literature is enjoyable and entertaining. Many
good stories bring us to different times and places. They
stir up our emotions and imagination by amusing,
frightening, intriguing, consoling, frustrating and
Literature can be viewed as a source of knowledge and
information. We can learn about history, science, politics
in a fun way.
Literature can be didactic; it can teach us lessons in life.
By interpreting the messages conveyed in literature, we
can also learn new ways of understanding people’s life.
It is also a good source of language learning. Literature
provides us with aesthetic values and can be good models
of how to master a language.