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Indeed, it becomes more and more difficult to categorize literature, for in modern civilization words are everywhere.Man is subject to a continuous flood of communication.Today most essays are written as expository, informative journalism, although there are still essayists in the great tradition who think of themselves as artists.Now, as in the past, some of the greatest essayists are critics of literature, drama, and the arts.Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is known to every American schoolchild.Today, however, oratory is more usually thought of as a craft than as an art.
Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.
Definitions of the word Walter Pater referred to “the matter of imaginative or artistic literature” as a “transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinitely varied forms.” But such definitions assume that the reader already knows what literature is.
And indeed its central meaning, at least, is clear enough.
Deriving from the Latin , “a letter of the alphabet,” literature is first and foremost humankind’s entire body of writing; after that it is the body of writing belonging to a given language or people; then it is individual pieces of writing.
But already it is necessary to qualify these statements.