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Meaning, Elements, Genres, Figures Of Speech Of/In Literature-In-English [JAMB Revision For Literature Students]



As the JAMB UTME exam approaches we have dedicated our time to make sure that all our students whatever courses or field they belong passes this exam in flying colours
This is for literature students
What is Literature?
Literature could be defined as an imitation of life. In its broadest sense, literature is any written or spoken material. It is derived from Latin ‘Literatura’ (writing formed with letters). It is mostly associated with works of the creative imagination. It introduces us to the worlds of experience.

Also, literature can be regarded as a discipline that can be studied as a subject in a formal setting. However, it is the mode of expressing feelings and emotions.
Literature could be labeled an Escape Literature which is literature written purely for entertainment. This type of literature provides little or no insights into human behaviours and its true nature. When it is Imperative Literature, it provides insight into human life and behaviour.

Literature as the mirror of life
That metaphor gives a vivid description of what literature does. A mirror is a piece of glass that reflects images. It is something that shows what another thing is like in a very clear and accurate way. So is literature. It is a depiction of reality. Literature gives us a reflection of what happens in the society. It mirrors people, their customs and traditions for others to see and learn from.
Literature is the foundation of life. It is the portrait of human society and the happenings inherent in it. Literature provides the opportunity to teach the reader about life experiences and to take a closer look at the different faces of life. In other words, there is a connection between literature and life. As a matter of fact, literature changes one’s perception toward life.

Importance of literature
Literature offers a lot of benefits to those who admire it. Therefore, what makes literature so important in our lives?
· Literature provides pleasure to readers. It fills up our leisure time and makes our moment properly utilized. A piece of inspiring literary text relaxes you when you are tense and lightens your heavy heart.
· Literature conserves the culture of a people. Through the reading of books from other climes, we’ve been able to identify with their culture and beliefs. Literature, as a result, preserves the culture from extinction for the benefit of posterity.
· Literature improves our language skills and increases our knowledge. Good literature improves our grammar and spelling.
· Literature helps one develop the right attitude. It is an eye-opening experience that allows us to develop the right attitude, new ideas and help individuals to present themselves as educated members of the society.
· Literature helps to understand and value people from different religion, culture, races and develop a secular approach towards them. It helps to see through the lenses of others.
· Literature enlightens
Literature is important to us because it speaks to us. It is universal and it influences us.
Sources of literature
· Customs and traditions
· Folklore (or orature)
· Folk dance
· Festivals
· Rituals
· Myths
· Legends
A literature writer is called a Litterateurwhile a small group of people in a society who knows a lot about literature is known as Literati. A genius in the field of literature is called Literatus.


Elements of literature
These are the parts of a story. These elements are used to form the structure of a literary piece.They represent the elements of storytelling which are common to all literary and narrative forms.For example, every story has a theme; every story has a setting; every story has a conflict; every story is written from a particular point-of-view, etc.
Action: Everything that happens in a story.
Plot: The plot of a story is the sequential arrangement of events or the series of events in a story. There are five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Exposition: The introductory material which gives the setting, creates the tone, presents the characters, and presents other facts necessary to understanding the story.
Rising Action: The central part of the story during which various problems arise after a conflict is introduced.
Climax: It is the high point in the action of a story. Frequently, it is the moment of the highest interest and greatest emotion. It is the point at which the outcome of the conflict can be predicted.
Falling Action: The action and dialogue following the climax that leads the reader into the story’s end.
Resolution (Denouement): It is the part of a story in which the problems are solved and the action comes to a satisfying end.
Conflict: A problem or struggle between two opposing forces in a story. There are four basic conflicts:
Person Against Person: A problem between characters.
Person Against Self: A problem within a character’s own mind.
Person Against Society: A problem between a character and the society, school, the law, or some tradition.
Person Against Nature: A problem between a character and some element of nature-a blizzard, a hurricane, a mountain climb, etc.
Setting: It refers to the geographical location of the story, time period, daily lifestyle of the characters and the general atmosphere of the story. In other words, it is the place and the time frame in which a story takes place. TIME and PLACE: Time: of day, year, era/age? Place: city, country? Outside, inside? Rich and opulent or poor and simple? Stark and barren landscape? Rainy or sunny? Beautiful or adversarial? Dark or light? Dangerous or safe? The weather? How does all this affect meaning? What feelings (atmosphere) are evoked just by the setting?
Theme: The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work. A theme may be stated or implied. Theme differs from the subject matter of a literary work, in that it involves a statement or opinion about the topic. It is important to recognize the difference between the theme of a literary work and the subject matter of a literary work. The subject matter is the topic on which an author has chosen to write. The theme, however, makes some statement about or expresses some opinion on that topic. For example, the subject matter of a story might be war while the theme might be the idea that war is useless.
Foreshadowing: It is an author’s use of hints or clues to suggest events that will occur later in the story. Foreshadowing frequently serves two purposes. It builds suspense by raising questions that encourage the reader to go on and find out more about the event that is being foreshadowed. Foreshadowing is also a means of making a narrative more believable by partially preparing the reader for events which are to follow.
Style: The distinctive way that a writer uses language including such factors as word choice (Diction), sentence length, arrangement, and complexity, and the use of figurative language and imagery. Other questions that define style are: what is the overall effect of the way he writes? Simple, poetic, colloquial, humorous, pedantic, child-like? How does it contribute to the author’s message and the overall effect the author wishes to create?
Mood: It is the feeling a piece of literature is intended to create in a reader. It is the climate of feeling in a literary work. The choice of setting, objects, details, images, and words all contribute towards creating a specific mood. For example, an author may create a mood of mystery around a character or setting but may treat that character or setting in an ironic, serious, or humorous tone.
Tone: It is the author’s attitude towards what he or she is writing that translates into your attitude. Tone asks the question:what is the feeling of the whole work and the writing/artist's craft? Joyful? Melancholy?Fatalistic? Angry? Peaceful? Scary? Mysterious? An author’s tone can be revealed through choice of words and details.
Character: One of the people (or animals) in a story.
Characterisation: It is the way in which the writer portrays the characters in a story.What kinds of person/people are the character(s)? Their beliefs/hopes/dreams/ideals/values/morals/fears/strengths/weaknesses/vices/virtues/talents? How do they conduct themselves? What do they say and do to reveal themselves? What do others say and do about them? What are your opinions or feelings about them? Characters can be fictional or real historical entities.
Classifications of types of characters include: protagonist, antagonist, foil, stereotype, flat, round, static, dynamic.
Protagonist: The main character in a story, often a good or heroic type.
Antagonist: The person or force that works against the hero of the story.
Foil: A character that provides a contrast to the protagonist.
Flat: Flat characters are sometimes referred to as STATIC characters because they do not change in the course of the story.
Round: A round character changes as a result of what happens to him or her. A character that changes inside as a result of what happens to him is referred to in literature as a DYNAMIC character. A dynamic character grows or progresses to a higher level of understanding in the course of the story.
Point of View: It is the perspective from which a story is told.
First-person:The narrator is a character in the story; uses “I,” “we,” etc.
Third-person: The narrator outside the story uses “he,” “she,” “they”
Third-person limited: The narrator tells only what one character perceives.
Third-person omniscient: The narrator can see into the minds of all characters.
Imagery: It is the language that appeals to the reader’s senses. It is based on descriptions of people or objects stated in terms of our senses. The author’s use of visual imagery is impressive; the reader is able to see the island in its entire lush, colorful splendor by reading Golding’s detailed descriptions in Lord of the flies.
Symbolism: It is based on the person, place, or thing that represents something beyond itself, most often something concrete or tangible that represents an abstract idea. It is anything that suggests a meaning beyond the obvious. Some symbols are conventional, generally meaning the same thing to all readers. For example, bright sunshine symbolizes goodness and water is a symbolic cleanser.
Irony: This is when the writer's meaning is DIFFERENT (often the opposite) from what is actually stated or actually happening.
Verbal Irony: What is SPOKEN or said (the words) is different/opposite from what is meant. Hyperbole, litotes and pun are examples of verbal irony.
Dramatic irony: This occurs when the audience or reader knows more than the characters know. Dramatic Irony answers the following questions: Does the audience/some characters know more than another character? Is one or more character(s) speaking/acting without knowledge others have, thus creating a double meaning?
Situational Irony: This refers to a happening that is the opposite of what is expected or intended. The EVENTS: do the events have a double meaning...the meaning of the situation as it actually happened versus the situation that we expected to happen or would normally happen? Does a set of circumstances turn out differently from what is anticipated or considered appropriate? Is the action/situation surprising or unexpected? Is there unexplained coincidence in the story? A surprise ending?
Prose
This genre of literature is expressed in ordinary and straight forward language other than in verse. It is a long narrative with a wide range of characters, events and experiences. The term ‘prose’ is derived from the Latin word, ‘Prorsus’ which means ‘straight on’, ‘continues’ or ‘forward’. This genre of literature is distinguished by its use of a greater amount of words and sentence structures, greater variety of rhythm as well as its closeness to the patterns of ordinary speech.


A writer of prose is known as a Proseman or Prosaist. The chief character in prose or any literary piece is known as a Protagonist. A long narrative prose in which the characters are usually imaginary is known as a Novel. When the prose narrative is a short novel, it is known as a Novellette. And when it is a short story often about an event, it is called a Novella or Novelle. Generally, a writer of novels is a Novelist.
When a novel is built on real people and events under disguised names, it is known as Roman A Clef. A story which gives clue to the detection of a criminal is a Detective Story. But should the story be based on romantic life, it becomes a Romantic Novel or a Love Story. A prose narrative telling the story of a family or other social group over successive generations is known as Saga Novel or Roman Fleuve. And a novel full of supernatural horrors is called Terror Novel. But when the story deals with a social event, it is referred to as a Sociological Novel, while a Picaresque Novel, is one tracing the adventures of a rogue and vagabond. An Epistolary Novel is written in form of a letter.

Generally, prose is made up of fictive (fiction) and non-fictive (non-fiction) works.

Kinds of Prose

The Non-fiction Type
Biography:It is a writer’s account of some other person’s life.
Autobiography:It is a writer’s story of his or her own life.
Memoir:This is a historical account, a biographical sketch of someone’s life, written from personal knowledge.
Journal:This refers to a periodical, especially one published by a specialist or professional body for its members, containing information and contributions relevant to their area of activity. It’s a publication usually run by university departments and faculties on their recent researches.
Essay:This is a short piece of nonfiction that expresses the writer’s opinion or shares information about a subject. Someone who writes an essay is an Essayist.

Criticism:This type of prose is similar to the essay except that a piece of criticism may evaluate and pass judgement on literary works in an objective manner.

The fiction type

Novel: It is a book-length, fictional prose story. Because of its length, a novel’s characters and plot are usually more developed than those of a short story. Novels contain, at least, thirty-five thousand words.

Short story:A short story is shorter than a novel. This piece of literature can usually be read in one sitting. Because of its length, it has only a few characters and focuses on one problem or conflict. It is a small world of the novel.

Novella:This is a fictional prose work that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

Fable:It is a short story that often uses talking animals as the main characters and teaches an explicit moral or lesson.

Fantasy:It is a story set in an imaginary world in which the characters usually have supernatural powers or abilities.

Science Fiction:This is writing based on real or imaginary scientific developments and often set in the future.

Realistic Fiction:This is writing that attempts to show life as it really is.

Parable:Quite close to a fable except that it is shorter, a parable is meant to be used to depict a moral truth or lesson. The Christian bible has many examples of parables.

Folklore:These are traditional stories that take their roots from the culture of a particular group of people. It is usually a fictitious but elaborate story accepted by people and transmitted from one generation to another through the medium of speech.

Myth: This is an idea or story that many people believe, which may or may not be true. It is also an ancient story, especially those ones invented in order to explain natural or historical events. Myth is also an imaginary story of gods, heroes, heroines, and supernatural beings which the society hold in high esteem.

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