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, October 28, 2020

What were Sir Walter Scott’s influences?
What were Sir Walter Scott’s influences?
Companion / Literature
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, Scottish historical novelist and poet, 1870. Portrait of Scott author of Ivanhoe. From "A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen" by Thomas Thomson and Robert Chambers (London, 1870). Scotland
Why Is There an R in Mrs.?
There’s no r in missus, so what’s it doing in the abbreviation?
Demystified / Literature
Sign for wedding "Mr & Mrs" (mister and missis) with flowers in the grass
The Time a Law Clerk Successfully Forged a New Shakespeare Play to Impress His Dad
A law clerk once convinced London that he had discovered dozens of documents written by Shakespeare.
#WTFact / Literature
Facsimile of one of William Henry Ireland's forgeries, a primitive self-portrait of William Shakespeare(tinted engraving). Published for Samuel Ireland, Norfolk Street, Strand, December 1, 1795. (W.H. Ireland, forgery)
9 Obscure Literary Terms
Know your eye rhymes.
List / Literature
Ancient book lit by candle
African American literature
African American literature, body of literature written by Americans of African descent. Beginning in the pre-Revolutionary...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Title page from the first edition of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or, Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789).
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
Southeast Asian arts
Southeast Asian arts, the literary, performing, and visual arts of Southeast Asia. Although the cultural development of the...
Encyclopedia / Literature
Fresco of the Preaching Buddha at the Wet-kyi-in, Gu-byauk-gyi, Pagan, c. 1113.
Belgian literature
Belgian literature, the body of written works produced by Belgians and written in Flemish, which is equivalent to the Standard...
Encyclopedia / Literature
The ethnic and linguistic composition of Belgium.

Literature Quizzes

13:072 Reading: How Words Work, chart showing the word cat in English, French, and Spanish, in print and cursive
Foreign Language Club
What is the official language of China? What is the prinicipal language of Bangladesh? Test your comprehension of languages...
French and English Stop and no Parking Signs
Official Languages: Fact or Fiction?
Is Spanish the official language of Andorra? Is Portugese the official language of Brazil? Sort fact from fiction, and test...
William Shakespeare, title page from the First Folio edition, 1623, of Shakespeare's comedies, histories, & tragedies.
William Shakespeare: The Prose and the Playwright
Where is Shakespeare buried? Who says "Alas, poor Yorick"? See if your answers are "to be" or "not to be" in this quiz about...
Portrait of Plato (ca. 428- ca. 348 BC), Ancient Greek philosopher.
An Odyssey of Grecian Literature
Who was Odysseus’s wife? What author wrote The Republic? From famous philosophers to epic journeys,...
portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare
A Study of William Shakespeare
How many sonnets did William Shakespeare publish? Where is Romeo and Juliet set? From couplets and...
Hathaway, Anne. Shakespeare, William. Anne Hathaway's Cottage, a farmhouse, where Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare, lived as a child in the village of Shottery, Warwickshire, England, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Life and Work of William Shakespeare
Who was Hamlet’s mother? How many sonnets did Shakespeare write? Broaden your literary horizons in this quiz spanning the...
Hatter engaging in rhetoric illustration 26. by Sir John Tenniel for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Alice in Wonderland by British author Lewis Carroll. Cropped from source file asset 166534/ic code bolse1690 Mad Hatter tea party
The Life and Works of English Authors
You may be familiar with Alice in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol, but how much do you...
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet. The author of Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), the great Italian epic poem which tells the story of Dante's journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, the three realms of the dead.
Name That Author
Who wrote The Wealth of Nations? Who wrote Inferno and the other books of The Divine...
Edgar Allan Poe 1848. Photo of daguerreotype by W.S. Hartshorn 1848; copyright 1904 by C.T. Tatman. Edgar Allan Poe, American poet, short story writer, editor and critic. Edgar Allen Poe
Who Wrote It?
From The Divine Comedy to The Da Vinci Code, test your knowledge of the authors behind the...
Sherlock Holmes, fictional detective. Holmes, the detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) in the 1890s, as portrayed by the early English film star, Clive Brook (1887-1974).
What’s In A Name?
Who wrote Things Fall Apart? From Sherlock Holmes to Winnie-the-Pooh, see if you can pick up the...
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Literature Subcategories

Aladdin 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
  • Brothers Grimm
    German folklorists and linguists
  • Mike Fink
    American frontiersman
  • Praise song
    African literature
  • Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange 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
  • Hamlet
    fictional character
  • James Bond
    fictional character
  • Don Quixote
    fictional character
  • 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
  • Katie Couric
    American broadcaster
  • Edward R. Murrow
    American journalist
  • Seymour Hersh
    American journalist
  • subcategory placeholder 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
  • Newberry Library
    library, Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Library of Congress
    library, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • Ptolemy
    Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer
  • Nicolaus Copernicus: heliocentric system 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
  • Harold Bloom
    American literary critic and author
  • George Bernard Shaw
    Irish dramatist and critic
  • Helen Archibald Clarke and Charlotte Endymion Porter
    American writers
  • subcategory placeholder Literary Terms
    This general category includes a selection of more specific topics.
    Articles
  • Sonnet
    poetic form
  • Epistolary novel
    literature
  • Autobiography
    literature
  • epitaph 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
  • Essay
    literature
  • Autobiography
    literature
  • The Abolition of Man
    work by Lewis
  • Hill, Lawrence: The Book of Negroes 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
  • Graphic novel
    literature
  • Catch-22
    novel by Heller
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    novel by Hugo
  • subcategory placeholder 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
  • Daniel Webster
    American politician
  • Tacitus
    Roman historian
  • St. Basil the Great
    bishop of Caesarea
  • Falstaff and Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part 1. 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
  • The Seagull
    play by Chekhov
  • Macbeth
    work by Shakespeare
  • Hamlet
    work by Shakespeare
  • The Poor Fisherman, oil on canvas by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1881; in the Louvre, Paris. 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.
    Articles
  • Odyssey
    epic by Homer
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
    work by Coleridge
  • Heroic poetry
  • Announcing our NEW encyclopedia for Kids!
    Learn More!