English Literature Definition, Characteristics, Genres, Types, & Facts

  • S.Y. (B.A. Sem-3)
  • Paper No. : 7
  • Book Name: An Introduction To The Study of English Literature
  • Author Name: -William Henry Hudson
  • In Short Author’s Name: -W.H. Hudson

Introduction Of The Author:

  • Full Name : William Henry Hudson
  • Born: August 4, 1841…in Argentina
  • Died: August 18, 1922…in London, England
  • British Author, Naturalist and Ornithologist.
  • The Meaning Of “Ornithologist”: A Branch of Zoology dealing with the study of birds.
  • Best known for his exotic romances.

– “Green Mansions”

Chapter 1: Some Ways Of Studying Literature….


  1. The Nature and Elements of Literature.
  2. Literature as an Expression of Personality.
  3. The Study of an Author- The Chronological and Comparative Methods
    of Study
  4. Biography, its Abuse and use in the Study of Literature.
  5. The study of Style as an Index of Personality.


1) The Nature and Elements of Literature…

What Is Literature?

– CHARLES LAMB classified Literature in two sections.

  1. Literature Of Power
  2. Literature of Knowledge


Literature of Power:
If we get some enlightenment through reading it, it is called Literature
of Power

*Literature of Knowledge:
If we get information from reading it, it is called Literature of


  • Paradise Lost, Othello, The Canterbury Tales…Example Of Literature
    Of Power.
  • Railway guide, Manuals, Telephone Directory….Example of
    Literature of Knowledge.
  • Literature can be based on various zones like History, Science,
    Philosophy, Astronomy etc…
  • The moment we have the question, “Where is the exact boundry?” We are caught in difficulties.
  • Shall we follow Charles Lamb who narrowed the conception of literature to such an extent that he excluded the works of Hume, Gibbon and Flavius Josephus, together with directories, almanacks and
    “draught boards bound and lettered on the back?”
  • Shall we adopt the view of Hallam, who under the general head of literature, comprised jurisprudence, theology and medicine?

-HUDSON gave two considerations….

Literature is composed of those books and of those book only, which
in the….

  • First Place, by reason of their subject- metter and their mode of
    treating it, are of general human interest.
  • Second place, the element of form and the pleasure which form
    gives are to be regarded as essential.

Literature and Life : Why do we care for literature?

  • It is a kind of mirror of the society.
  • A good book grows directly out of life.
  • We come closer to life.
  • Literature : A record of …
    -What men have seen?
    -What he experienced?
    – What they taught and felt about some ideas.
  • In Short : Literature is a vital record of what men have seen in the life, felt, taught, learnt and experienced.
  • It is thus fundamentally an expression of life through the medium of language.

Expression – decorated in various forms..

Forms means : Like Short Story, epic, ballad, novel, novella etc

The Impulses behind Literature :

  • Our life is the biggest impulse behind the literature.
  • Generally impulses give birth to the various forms of literary expressions.
  • According to HUDSON, total 4 impulses are responsible for the flourish of literature :
  1. Our desire for self-expression.
  2. Our interest in people and their doings.
  3. Our interest in the world….< reality < Imagination.
  4. Our love of form as form.

FORM MEANS : Ballad, Epic, Short Story, Novel, Novella etc

The Themes of Literature :

  • The subject, with which the literature deals should be considered with impulses.
    The subjects are as varied as life itself.
  • The subjects or the themes can be departed into 5 major groups.
  1. Personal Experience.
  2. The experiences of man as man. (Life, Death, Sin, Destiny, God, The relation of man with the god)
  3. Relation of the individual with society – ACTIVITIES AND PROBLEM.
  4. The external world of nature & our relations with it
  5. Efforts to create- VARIOUS FORMS Of LIFE.

The Classification of Literature :

So taking into the above analysis we can have a scheme of classification.

-:: Generally, Literature can be classified into 3 types.

  1.  Literature of self expression. (Lyric, Poetry, Elegy, Essay)
  2. Literature in which the, writer goes out himself ; into the worlds of external human life and activity (History, Biography, Ballad, Epic…)
  3. Literature of description. (Book of Travel, descriptive essay…)

The Elements of Literature :

  • The elements of literature furnished by the life itself.
  • The elements contain the raw material of any piece of literature.
  • There are 4 Kinds of Elements :

01) Intellectual Elements :
“The thought which the writer brings to bear upon his subject and which he expresses in his work.”

2) Emotional Elements :
“The feeling, which his subject arouses in him and which in turn he desires to stimulate in us.”

03) Elements of Imagination :
“The faculty of strong and intense vision. The readers can also feel the included imagination.”

4) Technical Elements :
“The elements of composition and style.”

2) Literature as an Expression of Personality…

Literature as an Expression of Personality.

  • According to MATTHEW ARNOLD, Literature is a criticism of life.
  • As per the FRENCH EPIGRAM, Art is life seen through a temperament.
  • A great book is born of the brain and heart of its author.
  • It has been RIGHTLY said, “Personal experience is the basis of all real literature.”
  • The greatness of the book is based on the greatness of the personality.
  • According to MILTON, A good book is the precious life blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
  • CARLYLE, The relation between “GENUINE VOICE” and “ECHO” (Between the men who speak for themselves and those who speak only on the report of others.)
  • As per CHARLOTTE BRONTE, “I have read a new book ; not a reprint, not a reflection of any other book but, a new book.”

The Principles of Sincerity.

  • Separate emphasis is the great principle, first enunciated by PLATO.
  • Sincerity is the foundation of the lasting literary works.
  • Sincerity is essence of all heroic greatness
  • We can’t expect the depth reading from each and every readers but the sincerity must be required in each of the literary artist.
  • Thus, it can be said that the authors who speak in too direct manner are remembered for the long lasting period where as some authors do not have potential of the same, they are often forgotten soon.
  • Without sincerity, no vital work in literature is possible.

The man in the Book.

  • A book is generally a matter of intercourse between its author and ourselves.
  • We get to know the man as the man reveals himself in what he has written.
  • The book lives for us in all the potency of his individuality.
  • GEORGE ELIOT, The art of literature is the nearest thing of the life ; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellowmen beyond the bounds of our personal lot.

3) The Study of an Author – The Chronological and Comparativd Methods of Study…

Reading And Study.

  • The primary difference between mere a reader and a literary student is one reads in a haphazard and desultory way, while the other’s reading is organized.

The Reading of Books and the Study of Authors.

  • We can relate ourselves with the work of the particular author.
  • As a literary student, we should realise the genius of him by having a relevance and deep reading of all the works of him.
  • This process helps to know something more about the growth of the mind, changes of his temper and thought, the influence upon him his experience etc.


SHAKESPEARE : The works of SHAKESPEARE and his relativity with each other reveals the entire personality of the author.

The Chronological method of Studying an Author.

HUDSON suggests…Chronological study of a writer’s works.

In chronological study ; inner life -development.

” In order to know BALZAC„We must arrange his works in which they were produced.”

Compare the author :

– by its phases.
– by comparing him with other writer.


“All higher knowledge is gained by comparison and rests on comparison” is true for literature as well as in the study of science.

  • The chronological method of reading the works of the particular author gives the entire idea of the journey of the personality of the author.
  • The arrangement of the works of the author in the chronological manner always gives the wholeness in the understanding of the author and his internal development.
  • The progressive revelation of the genius of the author and his power can be understood only through this method.
  • The works should be collected in very sensible manner. All the published and important works of him should be included in this method
  • The mania of the collection of the works of particular author is too dangerous. Such collections can include the unpublished and wastage works of him, which are not at all related with the deep study of him.
  • The above maniac collection is a kind of waste of time and one can’t get anything from it.

4) Biography, its Abuse and Use in the Study of Literature…


  • The judicious use of good biography helps to study the personal life in the literature.It is often seen that the readers try to relate the literary works to the personality of the artist and then try to understand in whole manner.
  • The entire life span of the particular personality stands as the whole idea of him/her.
    We generally enjoy the reading of biography due to the sense of curiosity.It should be some place for biographies in our bookshelves with the large collection of various literary artists.

It’s Abuse.

  • The biographies should be used in proper manner, as a student of literature.
  • The main focus of reading the biography is to know something more about the personality of the author.
  • But, sometimes the readers can not get the idea about the particular literary journey of the author.
  • It is very clearly understood that we as a literary lover or a literary student never concerned with the personal life of the author.
  • The birthplace, the name of the parents, the educational institute, where he had studied, the description of his home all these matters are really unessential for the readers to know the actual literary journey of the author.
  • These kind of matters and their readings are good for nothing.
  • It can also be responsible to spoil our time.

And Use.

  • The biographical details always give the entire idea of the personality of the author and a reader can understand his work throughly with the help of his biography.
  • There is no particular parameter that which detalis of the biography are useful and which are not.
  • But, it can be clearly said that the biography is really very useful! to understand the works of the author.
  • The judgemental use of biography is required.

The need of sympathy.

  • The sympathy is really the essential element which must be kept by the readers.
  • At least provisional sympathy should be there with the author.
  • Literature contains the revelation of many personality but we are not forced to agree in every description, by the author.
  • No one can forcefully make any impression on our temperament.
  • Its very obvious that many narrations are so impressive but it doesn’t mean that a reader should stop to think. Some of them are only meant to mere applauded but again, what readers think is important.
  • Some authors should prove interesting even when and occasionally because they are intellectual and moral aliens to us.
  • It is also obvious that the narrations brings many personalities, which often challenge our own thinking.
  • Thus, we should increase our flexibility of mind, breadth of outlook, catholicity of taste and judgment, that the value of literature as a means of culture becomes so great.
  • A certain amount of patience and persistency in the dealing with writers who at first rather repel than attract is therefore to be recommended.
  • A reader should come out of the prejudices, which can create hurdles in the freedom of out mind.
  • It should also be kept in mind that without the sympathy at the initial level, a reader is unable to understand the real character of the author.
  • With the help of sympathy only, one can get into the living touch with another soul.

5) The Study of Style as ass Index of Personality…

Study as an index of personality.

  • Generally style and expression are important to us.
  • Style is itself full of broad interest for every reader who seeks to enter into the human life in literature.
  • Its very common experience that a reader can identify the paragraphs or passages without knowing the name of the author sometimes.
  • It can be possible only because of his specialty of the style, which indicates the uniqueness in the writings.

The personal Interest of Style.

  • Style can be considered as a personal quality of the author.

POPE called it… “The dress of thoughts.”

CARLYLE says…. “Style is not a coat of a writer but his skin.”

  • To be influenced is the natural thing and most of the great literary artists have been influenced by others.
  • They would adopt some of the traces of the source of influence but it doesn’t mean that they did copy of the style of the particulars.
  • Like as literary pieces, sincerity is the prime element behind the style.
  • Style always contains the element of imitation. One cannot claim that he is cent percent pure in the matter of style because to come under the influence is the basic nature of human being.
  • It is also said that literature is the personal use or exercise of language and that’s why it is fact that one author uses it in different manner from others.
  • An author always looks at the subject matter according to his own personality and his own way of thinking. Even he chooses the subject matter as per his own way of thinking.
  • He also uses the diction, narration techniques and writing skills and manners as his own accordance and according to the requirement of the subject matter.
  • So, it can be said that his thoughts and feelings are personal so his language is personal.
  • Although the majority of the authors of the same age uses the similar like language, but they uses it in their own unique way.
  • So, the style and the personality are in a strong bounded relation with each other.
  • It is also observed that the narration of the author, his characterization, the dialogues of them are creatively interwoven by the genius of the author.
  • If we read the works of an author in chronological manner, we can see the development and increase of the sharpness in the style with the modification in his thoughts and choosing of subject matter.
  • Even though if there will be any limitation in the style and the technique of the author, it is his uniqueness.
  • Thus, it can be said that the style is the real index of the charms in the particular subject matter.
  • Thus, it can also be said that the style is essential to present the subject matter in very effective manner in front of the readers.

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