Literature

With the development of language, the human imagination has found a way to create and communicate through the written word. A literary work can transport us into a fictional, fantastic new world, describe a fleeting feeling, or simply give us a picture of the past through novels, poems, tragedies, epic works, and other genres. Through literature, communication becomes an art, and it can bridge and bond people and cultures of different languages and backgrounds.
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Featured content, July 04, 2021

Why Do We Say “A Pair of Pants”?
Well, there are more than a pair of answers.
Demystified / Literature
jeans, denim, pants, clothing
The Bizarre Origins of the Words Nerd and Geek
On the nature of nerdiness…or geekiness.
#WTFact / Literature
Student girl writing formulas on transparent wall
Editor Picks: 6 Great Christmas Stories
Need a little down time this Christmas season? Read these stories with your family or friends!
List / Literature
Child sitting near Christmas tree at night at home reading
What jobs did Sir Walter Scott have?
What jobs did Sir Walter Scott have?
Companion / Literature
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, Scottish historical novelist and poet, 1870. Portrait of Scott author of Ivanhoe. Scotland
American literature
American literature, the body of written works produced in the English language in the United States. Like other national...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Smith, John: Virginia
Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature, the body of written works produced in the Yiddish language of Ashkenazic Jewry (central and eastern European...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Yiddish theatre poster
Icelandic literature
Icelandic literature, body of writings in Icelandic, including those from Old Icelandic (also called Old Norse) through Modern...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Hallgrímsson, Jónas
Rhetoric
Rhetoric, the principles of training communicators—those seeking to persuade or inform. In the 20th century it underwent...
Encyclopedia / Literature

Literature Quizzes

The Adventure of Silver Blaze. 'Holmes gave me a sketch of the events'. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on train to Devon to investigate murder and disappearance of a famous racehorse. Arthur Conan Doyle story published in The Strand Magazine, London, 1892
Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction?
Was the first Sherlock Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles?" From London addresses to famous quotes, grab your magnifying...
The Tempest. William Shakespeare. fairy. Fairies. Goblins. Pixies. Scene from by William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Alonso, King of Naples, shipwrecked with his court on Prospero's enchanted island, amazed by fairies, goblins and creatures... (see notes)
Shakespearean Plays: Fact or Fiction?
Is the title character of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet a prince of England? From Twelfth Night to The...
William Shakespeare etching. English poet, dramatist, and actor.
William Shakespeare: Fact or Fiction?
Is William Shakespeare nicknamed "the Bard of Avon?" Did Shakespeare always spell his name one way? Spell check your smarts...
Helen Keller with hand on braille book in her lap as she smells a rose in a vase. Oct. 28, 1904. Helen Adams Keller American author and educator who was blind and deaf.
Write vs. Wrong: Fact or Fiction?
Who did Helen Keller dedicate her autobiography to? What was Lewis Carroll’s profession? Sort right from wrong in this quiz...
"Shakuntala looking back to glimpse Dushyanta" Painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906).  (Indian painter, India, art, oil painting, Mahabharata character, Indian folklore)
Indian Literature: Fact or Fiction?
You may be familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but how much do you know of Indian literature? Sort...
English novelist Charles Dickens; undated engraving.
Famous Writers: Fact or Fiction?
From the Italian Renaissance and Victorian era to India and Canterbury, delve into the lives of Dante, Isaac Asimov, and...
Frontispiece and title page of Phillis Wheatley's book of poetry, "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral"  1773. Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784). African American slave. Black woman poet.
Poetry Puzzle: Fact or Fiction?
Was the first published African American poet a woman? Were Emily Dickinson’s poems widely published during her lifetime?...
Camelot, engraving by Gustave Dore to illustrate the Arthurian poems in Idylls of the King, by Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1868.
A Study of Poems: Fact or Fiction?
In the poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas, how many reindeer does Santa have? Is Xanadu a real place? What king does...
Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing slightly right, with cigar in hand.
Lives of Famous Writers: Fact or Fiction?
You may be familiar with J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss, but how much do you know of A.A. Milne and Dr. Dolittle? Test your knowledge...
Kabuki Theater. Unknown Artist, 'Scene at Kabuki Theater', 19th century. From a private collection. The strongest ties of Kabuki are to the Noh and to joruri, the puppet theatre that developed during the 17th century.
Playing Around: Fact or Fiction?
Is a soliloquy a section of a play in which two characters engage in an extended conversation? From King Lear to...
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Literature Subcategories

subcategory placeholder Folk Literature & Fable
Step into the world of folklore, fables, legends, tall tales, and epics, in which heroes are known to undertake arduous journeys and dragons, fairies, and giants abound. Stories such as these circulated long before systems of writing were developed; ballads, folktales, poems, and the like were transmitted exclusively by word of mouth before written languages took over, and they continue to captivate listeners and readers to this day.
Articles
Fantastic Four Fictional Characters
Here you'll find some of your favorite fictional characters from literature, film, television, and the like, whether it's the analytical mastermind Sherlock Holmes and his endearing associate Dr. Watson or the menacing and helmeted Darth Vader, the ill-tempered Donald Duck or the teenage sleuth Nancy Drew.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Journalism
Extra, extra! Although the content and style of journalism and the medium through which it is delivered have varied significantly over the years, journalism has always given us a way to keep up with current events, so that we always have our fingers on the pulse.
Articles
Edward O. Wilson Libraries & Reference Works
Looking to impress your friends with your expansive knowledge of historical events, philosophical concepts, obscure words, and more? We may be biased, but it seems fair enough to say that reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and textbooks have provided such a service for years (in some cases, hundreds or even thousands of years). You can look for them at your local public library, which likely stores books, manuscripts, journals, CDs, movies, and other sources of information and entertainment.
Articles
wine bottle Literatures of the World
Literature knows no geographical bounds; authors can be found in nearly all corners of the globe (except, perhaps, on the open sea). Find out more about regional literary styles and forms.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Literary Criticism
Everyone's a critic. But not all literary criticism involves judging the quality of a text; it can also focus on interpreting the meaning of a work or evaluating an author's place in literary history.
Articles
To the Lighthouse Literary Terms
This general category includes a selection of more specific topics.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Nonfiction
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Nonfiction works are all about facts and real events. Although there is some debate about which kinds of literature qualify as nonfiction, the genre typically includes books in the categories of biography, memoir, science, history, self-help, cooking, health and fitness, business, and more.
Articles
The War of the Worlds Novels & Short Stories
Whether it's "Don Quixote," "Pride and Prejudice," "The Great Gatsby," or "The Fall of the House of Usher," novels and short stories have been enchanting and transporting readers for a great many years. There's a little something for everyone: within these two genres of literature, a wealth of types and styles can be found, including historical, epistolary, romantic, Gothic, and realist works, along with many more.
Articles
Justus of Ghent: Saint Augustine Oratory
"I have a dream..." "Four score and seven years ago..." It's not a fluke that these phrases came to be so widely known and remembered. Truly great and persuasive speeches elicit strong emotional reactions in their audiences and may have broad historical repercussions. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, quoted above, are two iconic examples of successful oratory, as are Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury and Winston Churchill's first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons.
Articles
Hamlet Plays
All the world's a stage, as Shakespeare put it in "As You Like It"; and the stage is where you'll find performances of works by such famed playwrights as Anton Chekhov, Eugene O'Neill, and the Bard himself, among many others.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Poetry
Poetry is a vast subject that encompasses much more than just your average "Roses are red, violets are blue" poem. Delve into the category of literature that Percy Bysshe Shelley called "a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted," and which includes sonnets, haikus, nursery rhymes, epics, and more.
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