The literature of a certain language is the set of written works and received up to the present. This definition is by no means a foregone conclusion and must be clarified in several respects. On the one hand, the definitions that have been given of the term, sensitive to different ideologies, world views, political or philosophical sensibilities, are different from each other and often absolutely irreconcilable.

The Latin word litteratura (from littera, “letter”) meant the same tracing letters, writing. In the 1st century AD began to indicate the teaching of the language (thus corresponding to the word grammar, or the Greek grammatiké téchne, from gramma, “letter”). An important step is the reflection of the Latin rhetorician Quintilian, who extended the term litteratura to encompass all the techniques of writing and knowledge, affirming the value of disinterested studies on language. Another Latin word, the adjective litteratus, initially indicated what was “written with letters”, but then its use shifted to the writer, to indicate his ability, culture, and education.

Literary forms and genres

The form of writing is the structure, how it is constructed and organized. A genre is a specific style or category of writing. Genres make use of the various literary forms as foundations from which to stretch out in many directions of expression. Forms and genres join with content to create the meaning of a piece of writing. Meaning is the writer’s message to the reader. The basic literary forms are:

  • poetry
  • prose
  • drama