Define literature, literary theory and literary criticism. Discuss the interdependence of the three with reference to the works of a major author.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literature (from the Latin litera--letters) is an art form in which the artist uses language to create a pleasing or informative or beautiful experience for a reader. Of course, it is more complicated than that, but basically it contains those elements and motives.  Literary theory is the abstract division of literature into genres, subgenres, motives, reasons for creation, both before and after the fact--a sort of taxonomy of reasons for an artist to create literature, and also an abstract organization of methods for examiningthe literary product; this examination, called literary criticism, seeks to, by looking at the structures, images, and all the literary techniques available to the artist, expose the literature to judgment and to a greater appreciation and understanding for the reader. For example, a piece of literature may be a novel by Charles Dickens, written as a type of long, narrated psychological, fictive (but based on real-life experiences).  It may be one of a series of such creative literary products attempted over a lifetime. Dickens may follow a literary theory first advanced by Homer.  Literary criticism may examine Dickens' narrative methods, his depiction of character, his contribution to English literary history, etc.    

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team