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Introduction

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form, or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Its Latin root literatura/litteratura (derived itself from littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all written accounts. The concept has changed meaning over time to include texts that are spoken or sung (oral literature), and non-written verbal art forms. Developments in print technology have allowed an ever-growing distribution and proliferation of written works, culminating in electronic literature.

Selected work

Malcolm X in 1964
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X's 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the death of his subject Haley authored the book's epilogue, which describes their collaboration and summarizes the end of Malcolm X's life.

While Malcolm X and scholars contemporary to the book's publication regarded Haley as the book's ghostwriter, modern scholars tend to regard him as an essential collaborator who intentionally muted his authorial voice to allow readers to feel as though Malcolm X were speaking directly to them. Haley also influenced some of Malcolm X's literary choices; for example, when Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam during the composition of the book, Haley persuaded him to favor a style of "suspense and drama" rather than rewriting earlier chapters into a polemic against the Nation. Furthermore, Haley's proactive censorship of the manuscript's antisemitic material significantly influenced the ideological tone of the Autobiography, increasing its commercial success and popularity although distorting Malcolm X's public persona.

Selected figure

1880s photograph of W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911) was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for the fourteen comic operas (known as the Savoy operas) produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. The most famous of these include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre, The Mikado. These, as well as several of the other Savoy operas, continue to be frequently performed in the English-speaking world and beyond by opera companies, repertory companies, schools and community theatre groups. Lines from these works have become part of the English language, such as "short, sharp shock", "What, never? Well, hardly ever!", and "Let the punishment fit the crime".

Gilbert also wrote the Bab Ballads, an extensive collection of light verse accompanied by his own comical drawings. His creative output included over 75 plays and libretti, numerous stories, poems, lyrics and various other comic and serious pieces. His plays and realistic style of stage direction inspired other dramatists, including Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Gilbert's "lyrical facility and his mastery of metre raised the poetical quality of comic opera to a position that it had never reached before and has not reached since".

Selected excerpt

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Alice 05a-1116x1492.jpg
Credit: Sir John Tenniel

The Caterpillar is a character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a novel that is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. This illustration is noted for its ambiguity; the Caterpillar's head can be viewed as being a human male's face with a pointed nose and pointy chin, or being the head end, with two legs, of an actual caterpillar.

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Today in literature

15 November

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