Reading is interpreting and comprehending sets of letters, words, and symbols, to understand a complete thought.


When people think or dream the brain recreates imagery, physical sensations or even sounds from past sensory inputs as part of recalled memories. The brain may, as in dreams, recombine the various recalled inputs and generate new images that form the substance of humankind's creativity.

At some point in history, humanity began to externalise with marks some of these recalled images in an effort to pass on knowledge to others.

At the same time humanity developed an ability to communicate using verbal and non-verbal language. Language was by its nature a temporary record of knowledge and unless captured in story, verse or song was lost in death and disease.

Initially images, such as stick figures or hand shadows, were used to record stories on walls, then parchment and as the quality of the image representation improved so did the ingenuity of the marks and their complexity.

The combination of language (in verse, song and speech) and the ability to represent that language in marks forms the basis of literature.

Literature uses text, and on occasions in combination with symbols and images, to represent concepts of the real and imagined world for other humans to read and to a greater or lesser extent have those concepts absorbed by the reader.

There are many living and dead languages. Throughout history a vast and exciting collection of literature has evolved with varying styles, formats and genres. The nature of literature also differs as a consequence of language, country, culture, society, and / or religion.

There many ways to group and identify literature and the Open Encyclopedia offers a range of such classifications.

In this section of the OEP the focus is on literature written in or translated into English.

The development of much early literature was largely influenced by early religious beliefs, in part due to the role of the Church in early developments in education. The Bible is an important example of early religious literature.

Texts are usually classified as fiction or non-fiction. They may also be classified by themes, genres, length (novels, short stories, novellas), the inclusion of photographs or pictures (illustrated, photographs, comic, graphic novels, picture books) and may include verse or symbols. Increasingly, electronic forms of texts are being distributed and have been called e-texts or e-books. In addition, many texts previously in book or parchment format are being scanned or converted to electronic forms. There are also audio (spoken versions) of texts in both abridged (shortened) or unabridged (original) forms.

Texts, or the stories they tell, are represented in many forms. The movie is the most common alternative representation of a work of literature. The literature on which movies or theatrical presentations are based has usually been re-written into a screenplay or script which can be performed on stage, radio or screen. Plays or scripts are literature in their own right and may be known as adaptations.

The forms of literature are constantly evolving as humanity discovers new ways to represent concepts in language and text. Bulletin boards and newslists, then websites and now blogs are becoming a source of new writings and literature.


Literature is a noun and represents the art of composition in prose or verse. It also can be used as a term to represent the whole body of literary compositions or may be by language or a particular subject.
It is matter that is regarded as printed or may be referred to as literary matter.

One definition includes:
"The collective body of literary productions, embracing the entire results of knowledge and fancy preserved in writing; also, the whole body of literary productions or writings upon a given subject, or in reference to a particular science or branch of knowledge, or of a given country or period; as, the literature of Biblical criticism; the literature of chemistry."

There is also a point of view that regards literature as a different class of writings distinguished for its beauty of style or expression and includes poetry, essays, or history. Non-fictional treatise may not be regarded as literature though over time such works have come to be regarded as literature (eg the works of Newton).

The word stems from Latin literatura - litera (littera) meaning 'a letter'.

Related Public Forum Threads

Literature - A thread asking for public domain submissions related to literature.