November 28, 2021
The literature of a certain language is the set of written works which have survived up to the present. This definition is by no means taken for granted and needs to be specified under various aspects. On the one hand, the definitions that have been given of the term, sensitive to different ideologies, world views, political or philosophical sensitivities, are different from each other and often absolutely irreconcilable.
The extent of the "field" of literature is also very varied and the definition of what literature is not is uncertain, so much so that there have been those who have affirmed that literature is what is called literature, who has found the only one in the impossibility of definition. possible definition, or who, underlining "the polyvalence and ambiguity of the literary phenomenon", maintains however that "not everything that is written is literature, to become it, a written text must be moved by a precise intentionality and by a consequent logic structuring ".
However, it is true that the literature of a nation constitutes an "organic synthesis of the soul and thought of a people", or rather a mirror of the respective society in a definite time that varies from work to work.
Origins of the term
The Latin term litteratura (from littera, "letter") meant the same tracing letters, writing. In the first century A.D. began to indicate the teaching of the language (thus corresponding to the word grammar, ie the Greek grammatiké téchne, from gramma, "letter"). An important passage on the subject is the reflection of the Latin rhetorician Quintilian, who extended the term litteratura to include all the techniques of writing and knowledge, affirming the selfless value of language studies. Another Latin term, the adjective litteratus, initially indicated what was "written with letters", but then its use shifted to the writer, to indicate his ability, culture, education.
However, from these ancient uses of the term, the profound link between literature and writing appears evident: if initially "literature" is the study and knowledge of the written language, through a rather oblique process the term ended up indicating the whole of the written language . In any case, written culture was the prerogative of very few and the knowledge of letters was a sign of an experience out of the ordinary, completely distinct from the common one, linked as the latter was to the most immediate and basic needs of life.
The act of a new writing invariably connected with the previous literature (in essence, the documents that had survived the time), but it was the invention of movable type printing that founded the modern concept of literature: the result was in fact the elaboration of specifically literary codes and forms and, above all, a hierarchy that distinguished properly literary forms "from the varied and chaotic universe of other writings". Thus literature is constituted as an "institution", which is handed down as a "tradition".
Literature as art
In the Western context, a meaning of literature has gradually established itself distinct from the practical purposes of writing in specific disciplines (scientific, philosophical texts, etc.): the term "literature" was associated with "artistic" and "creative" writings, which are the object of aesthetics study. A semantic interweaving was thus determined with the oldest word "poetry", a medieval Latin term that derives from poësis (in turn from the Greek poíēsis, from poiêin, "to do") and which indicated events and objects "made" with words. Poetry was therefore the art of creating fictitious realities, imaginary worlds in imitation of the one real, in analogy with painting (Horace used the formula ut pictura poësis, "poetry like painting").
The term "poetry" tended to identify itself with the production in verse, but the original forms of the verse (as evidenced by several popular traditions that have survived until modern times)