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Literature is a term that does not have a universally accepted definition, but which has variably included all written work; writing that possesses literary merit; and language that foregrounds literariness, as opposed to ordinary language. Etymologically the term derives from Latin literatura/litteratura "writing formed with letters", although some definitions include spoken or sung texts. Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and whether it is poetry or prose; it can be further distinguished according to major forms such as the novel, short story or drama; and works are often categorised according to historical periods, or according to their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations (genre).

Literature may consist of texts based on factual information (journalistic or non-fiction), a category that may also include polemical works, biographies, and reflective essays, or it may consist of texts based on imagination (such as fiction, poetry, or drama). Literature written in poetry emphasizes the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as sound, symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, ordinary meanings, while literature written in prose applies ordinary grammatical structure and the natural flow of speech. Literature can also be classified according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. While the concept of genre has broadened over the centuries, in general, a genre consists of artistic works that fall within a certain central theme; examples of genre include romance, mystery, crime, fantasy, erotica, and adventure, among others.

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First American edition of The Open Boat, illustrated by Will H. Bradley
"The Open Boat" is a short story by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). First published in 1897, it was based on Crane's experience of surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Florida earlier that year while traveling to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent. Crane was stranded at sea for thirty hours when his ship, the SS Commodore, sank after hitting a sandbar. He and three other men were forced to navigate their way to shore in a small boat; one of the men, an oiler named Billie Higgins, drowned after the boat overturned. Crane's personal account of the shipwreck and the men's survival, titled "Stephen Crane's Own Story", was first published a few days after his rescue.

Crane subsequently adapted his report into narrative form, and the resulting short story "The Open Boat" was published in Scribner's Magazine. The story is told from the point of view of an anonymous correspondent, with Crane as the implied author, the action closely resembles the author's experiences after the shipwreck. Praised for its innovation by contemporary critics, the story is considered an exemplary work of literary Naturalism, and is one of the most frequently discussed works in Crane's canon.

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Undated photograph of Marrash
Francis bin Fathallah bin Nasrallah Marrash (June 1836 – 1873) was a Syrian writer and poet of the Nahda movement—the Arabic renaissance—and a physician. Most of his works revolve around science, history and religion, analysed under an epistemological light. He travelled through the Middle East and France in his youth, and after some medical training and a year of practice in his native Aleppo, during which he wrote several works, he enrolled in a medical school in Paris; yet, declining health and growing blindness forced him to return to Aleppo, where he produced more literary works until his early death.

Middle Eastern historian Matti Moosa considered Marrash to be the first truly cosmopolitan Arab intellectual and writer of modern times. Marrash adhered to the principles of the French Revolution and defended them in his own works, implicitly criticising Ottoman rule in the Middle East. He was also influential in introducing French romanticism in the Arab world, especially through his use of poetic prose and prose poetry, of which his writings were the first examples in modern Arabic literature, according to Salma Khadra Jayyusi and Shmuel Moreh. His modes of thinking and feeling, and ways of expressing them, have had a lasting influence on contemporary Arab thought and on the Mahjari poets.

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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

22 November

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