[lit-er-uh-cher, -choor, li-truh-]
literature. For the literature of England, see English literature; for that of Germany, see German literature, and so forth. For the forms of literary art, see biography, essay, novel, theater, letters, and so forth; for its methods and purposes, see criticism, style, satire, versification, figure of speech. See also journalism.

Body of literature that comprises those works (excluding the New Testament) written by Christians before the 8th century. It refers to the works of the Church Fathers. Most patristic literature is in Greek or Latin, but much survives in Syriac and other Middle Eastern languages. The works of the Apostolic Fathers contain the earliest patristic literature. By the mid-2nd century, Christians wrote to justify their faith to the Roman government and to refute Gnosticism. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Augustine of Hippo and others laid the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought. Significant patristic authors include Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Ephraem Syrus (306?–373), St. Jerome, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. Cyril of Alexandria (circa 375–444), St. Maximus the Confessor (circa 580–662), and Pope Gregory I.

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Literary work dealing in a usually artificial manner with shepherds or rural life, typically contrasting the innocence and serenity of the simple life with the misery and corruption of city or court life. The characters are often the vehicles for the author's moral, social, or literary views. The poet and his friends are often presented as shepherds and shepherdesses; two or more shepherds sometimes contend in “singing matches.” The conventions of pastoral poetry were largely established by Theocritus, whose bucolics are its earliest examples. Virgil's Eclogues were influential as well, as was Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender in the Renaissance. The idea of pastoral as meaning a simpler world that somehow mirrors a more complex one also appears in novelists as different as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lewis Carroll, and William Faulkner. Seealso eclogue.

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Body of written works produced to entertain or instruct young people. The genre encompasses a wide range of works, including acknowledged classics of world literature, picture books and easy-to-read stories, and fairy tales, lullabies, fables, folk songs, and other, primarily orally transmitted, materials. It emerged as a distinct and independent form only in the second half of the 18th century and blossomed in the 19th century. In the 20th century, with the attainment of near-universal literacy in most developed nations, the diversity in children's books came almost to rival that of adult popular literature.

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Latin American poetic genre that imitates the payadas (“ballads”) traditionally sung to guitar accompaniment by wandering gaucho minstrels of Argentina and Uruguay. By extension, the term includes the body of Latin American prose literature about the gaucho way of life and philosophy. Long a part of folk literature, gaucho lore became a subject of 19th-century Romantic verse, as well as prose that often explores themes of conflict between the old and the new.

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Romance language spoken by about 170 million people in Portugal, Brazil, and other former Portuguese colonies. The first literary works in Portuguese date from the 13th–14th century. Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon. Dialectal variation in Portugal is limited, but the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese are more extensive, including changes in phonology, verb conjugation, and syntax. The four major dialect groups are Northern (Galician, spoken in northwestern Spain), Central, Southern (including the Lisbon dialect), and Insular (including Brazilian and Madeiran) Portuguese.

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