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Literature is literally "an acquaintance with letters", as in the first sense given in the Oxford English Dictionary (from the Latin littera meaning "an individual written character"). The term has generally come to identify a collection of texts or works of art, which in Western culture are mainly prose, both fiction and non-fiction, drama and poetry. In much, if not all of the world, texts can be oral as well, and include such genres as epic, legend, myth, ballad, other forms of oral poetry, and the folktale. The word "literature" as a common noun can refer to any form of writing, such as essays; "Literature" as a proper noun refers to a whole body of literary work.

The history of literature begins with the history of writing, in the Bronze Age of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, although the oldest literary texts date to a full millennium after the invention of writing, to the late 3rd millennium BC. The earliest literary authors known by name are Ptahhotep and Enheduanna, dating to ca. the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, respectively. More about Literature...

Selected article

Make Way for Ducklings is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. First published in 1941, the book tells the story of a pair of mallard ducks who decide to raise their family on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden, a park in the center of Boston, Massachusetts.

Make Way for Ducklings won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for McCloskey's illustrations, executed in charcoal then lithographed on zinc plates. As of 2003, the book had sold over two million copies. The book's popularity led to the construction of a statue by Nancy Schön in the Public Garden of the mother duck and her eight ducklings, which is a popular destination for children and adults alike. In 1991, Barbara Bush gave a duplicate of this sculpture to Raisa Gorbachev as part of the START Treaty, and the work is displayed in Moscow's Novodevichy Park.

The book is the official children's book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Praise for the book is still high over 60 years since its first publication, mainly for the enhancing illustrations and effective pacing. It was criticised for having a loose plot, however, as well as poor characterization.

Selected picture

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Original illustration (1865) by John Tenniel (28 February 1820 - 25 February 1914), of the novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice trying to play croquet with a flamingo.

Image: John Tenniel

Did you know ...

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... that "My Last Duchess" is a much anthologized dramatic monologue by Victorian poet Robert Browning (pictured), and that the deceased duchess of the title is most likely based on Lucrezia di Cosimo de' Medici (1544-1562)?

...that the tragic ending of Shakespeare's King Lear was found to be so distasteful that it was replaced on stage for over 150 years by Nahum Tate's adaptation, with a happy ending and a love story?

... that Matt Beaumont's e (2000) is a novel consisting entirely of inter-office e-mails?

... that the Loeb Classical Library, named after American banker and philanthropist James Loeb, is a series of books, today published by the Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience, by presenting the original Greek or Latin text on each left-hand leaf, and a fairly literal translation on the facing page?

... that Equus is a 1973 stage play by Peter Shaffer about a 17-year-old boy who is brought to a mental health facility for treatment by a psychiatrist because he has blinded six horses with a spike?

... that Carmen Laforet, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Álvaro Cunqueiro, Lucía Etxebarría, and Eduardo Lago are recipients of the Premio Nadal?

... that fl. is used by (literary) historians as an abbreviation for "floruit" (Latin for "flourished"), to indicate periods when persons were influential, and that it is normally used only when dates of birth or death are unknown?

... that Tituba, the first woman accused of being a witch during the Salem witch trials of 1692, is the protagonist of the novel, Moi, Tituba, sorcière noire de Salem (1986) by Maryse Condé, and that she also features prominently in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Quotes

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

Emily Dickinson

A day in literature

16 March

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WikiProjects connected with literature:

  • Literature
    • Australian literature
    • Books
      • Harry Potter
      • Horror
      • Middle-earth
      • Novels
      • Science Fiction
      • Terry Pratchett's Discworld
      • The Wizard of Oz
      • Star Wars
    • Children's literature
    • Comics (Also under Visual arts)
      • Anime and manga
      • Comic strips
      • Webcomics
    • Fan Fiction
    • Indian literature
    • Irish literature
    • Mythology (Also under Religion)
    • Persian literature
    • Philosophy
      • Critical Theory
      • Philosophical literature
    • Poetry
  • Media franchises

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Literature on Wikinews     Literary quotes on Wikiquote     Literature category on Wikimedia Commons     Literature on Wikibooks    
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