The Literature Portal

Introduction

Literature is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose, fiction, drama, poetry, and including both print and digital writing. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include oral literature, also known as orature much of which has been transcribed. Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment, and can also have a social, psychological, spiritual, or political role.

Literature, as an art form, can also include works in various non-fiction genres, such as biography, diaries, memoir, letters, and essays. Within its broad definition, literature includes non-fictional books, articles or other written information on a particular subject. (Full article...)

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The title page of an 1897 printing of La Cousine Bette
La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family. Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to seduce and torment a series of men. One of these is Baron Hector Hulot, husband to Bette's cousin Adeline. He sacrifices his family's fortune and good name to please Valérie, who leaves him for a tradesman named Crevel. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine ("The Human Comedy").

The novel's characters represent polarities of contrasting morality. The vengeful Bette and disingenuous Valérie stand on one side, with the merciful Adeline and her patient daughter Hortense on the other. The patriarch of the Hulot family, meanwhile, is consumed by his own sexual desire. Hortense's husband, the Polish exile Wenceslas Steinbock, represents artistic genius, though he succumbs to uncertainty and lack of motivation. Balzac based the character of Bette in part on his mother and the poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore. At least one scene involving Baron Hulot was likely based on an event in the life of Balzac's friend, the novelist Victor Hugo.

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An 1890 recording of Walt Whitman reading the opening four lines of his poem "America", from his collection Leaves of Grass

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  • ... that a 1955 satirical comedy play by Kasymaly Jantöshev was one of the first signs of the relaxation of Soviet literary restrictions after the death of Joseph Stalin?
  • ... that medieval literature scholar Theodore Silverstein's unit in World War II took over the Eiffel Tower to intercept communications of German aircraft?
  • ... that the exclusive secret society Hamilton House from the television show Gossip Girl was based on St. Anthony Hall, a social and literary fraternity?
  • ... that Soviet German literary critic Richard Knorre was injured in an explosion during the siege of Leningrad?
  • ... that despite a career writing queer literature, Chen Xue's 2019 novel Fatherless City had a "putatively straight premise"?
  • ... that the 1985 manga series Tomoi contains the first depiction of HIV/AIDS in any literary medium in Japan?

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16 April

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