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Meaning of Literature Essay

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Updated: Oct 12th, 2018


According to Baym 2007 in the book, “The Norton anthology American literature: Beginnings to 1865”, literature is defined as written, spoken, or observable material that holds some meaning that can be interpolated or offer information, explanation about anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific work. Life on its very nature can be defined as part of literature; elements of literature that are observable in human social life include culture, language, symbols, signals, poetry, songs, and dances.

In academic circles, literature author’s messages are decoded by readers to get meaning and an in-depth understanding of what the writer wanted to convey using literary theory, using a mythological, sociological, psychological, or historical methodologies.

Literature has relevance in human life as it communicate to individuals, societies, its universal and has an impact on human life (Baym, 2007). This paper takes a look at the meaning of literature; it will focus on the issues brought about in the book “The Norton anthology American literature: Beginnings to 1865.”

Newspapers and literature

Newspapers and periodical can be classified as literature when considering that they address a certain topic in the social, economic, and political arena that talks about the human life, their community and has an impact on their life. Print news are information gotten from paper printed news that come out periodically; in the context of news, the most used print news articles are the newspapers that are produced daily reporting matter of the last 24 hours and sometimes offering some reviews to older news and information.

Other than newspapers and other dailies, there are a number of weekly and monthly articles that are being produced reflecting on certain matters that transpired in the last week or month; in most cases the articles may be looking at certain aspect in the community say politics, economies, sports or other social happenings (Baym, 2007).

The Back of a cereal box literature

With changes in culture and generations, the world is facing a new wave of generation that seems to have little relevance to written literature or they are not willing to have written literature. Generation Y is fulfilling their surveillance needs in the most efficient manner in terms of access, costs, and availability; with the above characteristics, free news media has seen a niche market where it can sell its products and services.

Free news media offer news in simplified form that is formatted to attract the attention of its target market who happens to be the youth in the current generation as they prepare to grow with the population to their old age. On the other hand, the print news media has maintained a conventional news presentation format that seems give preference to national and international news on different matter; they have the space and the time to offer in-depth analysis and sometime experts’ opinion on certain issues.

The format as adopted by print media is more informative than the one addressed by the free news media, however the current generation of youth seems not to be very concerned on quality but consider their personal interests when choosing the material they are going to use for information (Baym, 2007).

The situation on the ground portrays that print news media no longer command an increasing market; however their demand is decreasing for the good of free news media.

Why are some writings chosen to be in the book and others not

When reading the article, (The norton anthology American literature ) book, we note that human beings have diverse cultures and live in different areas in the globe; this has made them to talk, pronounce, have an accent and stress words differently. Linguistic anthropology concerns itself with the relationship between language and culture of human beings.

There are various aspects of human life that language just like any other factor that influence the life of human being touches/ can be used to explain, these areas are participation, reflexivity, voice and chronoscope, circulation, identities, gender & sexuality, ideology, text, and grammar.

Language is a part and parcel of human life that is developed with ones knowledge or not. It was instilled by our parents after we were born, human beings will copy others in the socialization process; after they have copied them they get identity with the copied tribe or community.

These aspects are deeply instilled in the human beings and he is not aware that they define each step that he makes . The kind of language that a person undertakes have a certain backing from where the person comes from, it can define the back ground of the person; the strong points of interpolation are found in the selection of words, the tone as well and the volume that a person uses to express his needs.

In communities that are racists the use of the language that is meant for the majority or the minority can place the individual on either side. One can be identified to belong to a certain race out of the use of works that he adopts and the accent that he is having on the particular language.

For example the blacks in the United States of America have some words like “nigger” that have meaning to them and identify them from the larger group. When one is dealing with such a person, you don’t have to ask the tribe or the social setting that he comes from all you need is to listen to him talk. The general argument is that by listening to the way a person talks, what works he is stressing and which letters he seems not to pronounce in his reading, one can know the cultural background of the Individual.

Stressing some works and relaxing some give different meaning to the same work; this may be giving it verb status or noun. For example by stressing the word produce- mostly said with a raising voice, it may mean the act of producing; thus a verb, when the same is said politely, it means the outcome thus a noun. As one is brought up, through early socialization, the choice of word is learnt and it is interpolated differently by different groups. Other aspects are biologically instilled in the human beings.

What are the editors looking for in writing for it to be included as “literature”?

When writing the book the writer seems to be looking for the following human characters that can be derived through literature understanding.


Human beings do not live alone but they are social beings. They are there for the each other in times of need and build these relationships by expressing their own feeling and opinions this is done by the use of understandable language. They must communicate to the recipient in the language that he is going to understand.

Communication becomes effective when the language that the two parties are using is well understood by them; this is the use of language. Language goes further than the oral talks but involve written information, body language, and electronic transfer of information. It is the language that we use that makes the world to have “sense” everything that is in the world gets a meaning when language is used to express its use.

Problems only get a solution when the solvers can use the correct language. The innovations that is a good resultant aspect of education has its root in language; these spans from the general understanding of things as they are to specific analysis of a particular case. Taking a traditional case, in each society there is culture that holds its people together, one of the major components of culture is language; this is because the language that is adopted by a particular society is unique in its own ways .

Identity can be defined as the stable and fixed aspects of selfhood: things that you check off on census forms such as; Race or ethnicity, Nationality, Social class and Gender. The way someone uses his language is of importance to show his or her identity.

In African countries for example those people who belong to high class talk a different set of English, the way that they pronounce names is different from the other members, all over those people who are living in towns are associated with quality English and other languages, this is a tool that can be used to give the class its own status and class. Those from the village and rural area talk broken English.

When language is the tool that is used to identify ethnicity, there are two sides of looking at it. One is that a person identifies himself as from a certain tribe or learns that the others are not of the same ethnicity. The choice of words that we use in the daily conversation gives the impression of what kind of a background that one has; the fact that some communities use some words to express different issues can be learnt. According to Ali G story, there are two sets of languages; they are vernacular and Standard English.

When one is using either, the weight that the information is going to be carried by is different. If we take the case of America, the black Americans and the Native Americans, if a black can talk vernacular the information that he converging is not seen as serious as the case would have been if he used Standard English. Standard English is seen to have few diversion of the original information and thus the message brought forward by it is seen as more serious.

One who talks Standard English is seen as a Native American and thus the treatments will be as so. Standard English is then a show of sincerity and used to convey serious messages. When a combination of vernacular and Standard English is used, it gives the impression of areas that need more emphasis than others and them that can be taken lightly. The identity of the message identifies the sender’s feeling and identity at large.

When the issue of ethnicity comes into picture, in most cases one does not need to say whether he is black or white since the skin color can tell. Traditionally the skin was good enough to identify the ethnicity of the person concerned. The Asians and the Chinese have unique physical appearance that one only needs to look at them and you can tell the ethnicity. However, there are some countries that the colour cannot form basis of identity.

One of this is the Hutus and Tutsi of Rwanda. During the Rwanda massacre fight, the tool that they used to identify ones tribe was only the language. This is so because they have similar physical appearances, they could talk the others language; but the way they pronounced some names made the difference and eventually lead to the identity that A belongs to this tribe and B the other.

In the situation of computer based interaction; the exchangers of information are not at close vicinity of each other but they can identify their ethnicity by the language that they use in the interaction. There is the issue of national homogenize languages that a particular country may adopt, anyone who is coming in the country either as a visitor or a passer-by may not be aware of the language, when he communicate, then one can identify that he is of a different ethnicity.

In most ethnic settings the old people are more versed with the language of the particular society, their selection of words is different from that of the youth which is influenced by education and modern time’s interactions. For example in Africa, there are diverse tribes that each has a different culture; the old population that mostly live in the rural areas and are less learnt, the youth stay in town centres that they have different tribes, their language is thus diluted by the interactions and the education that they have taken.

When an old person who is from the village or a young people from the village is talking, the kind of language that he is going to use will be highly influenced by the traditional settings; this may be in the broken English or French (the learnt foreign language) or will have a deep understanding of the local language. With this one can easily identify the age and the social setting in terms of location that this person belongs to.

Language and Participation

When people are interacting with each other, their interaction is facilitated by communication among them; for an effective communication then the need for language cannot be over emphasized.

There is need to express ones ideas in an appropriate way; in participation, may it be in games or activities, the players must understand each other, the language that they will use is of essence. Different situations call for different languages, the language that is used in a game situation is different from the one that is used in a job place.

The language that the youth use is different from the one that the old use; this happens when they are talking to themselves or talking to others of different age groups. If one cannot express his or her ideas in the right way, he may not be resourceful as the situation demands. How well a group understands each other determines how productive they will be, when they use appropriate language they do it to benefit their members and most probably to keep off the opponents.

An example of this is in football, the coach always have different language that can only be understood by the team that he is coaching and thus the opponents won’t know what instructions has been given. In military settings, there is unique language that is used to convey different aspects, the commands are given in a language that will only make sense to them but the enemy won’t understand.

As a war tactic, the use of a word to mean completely different from the ordinary meaning; this is meant to confuse the enemy. In the entertainment sector, the language that is used to portray certain issues is the one that made the situation fun, the way that the conversation is developed and presented to the audience is in a humorous way; this is another way that the selection of language and the use of the right language are seen in practice.

In children games there are repetitions of statements to make them attractive to them, the choice of the kind of word that will be used is different from the one that is going to be chosen for adolescents, the children language is that that promotes job and glorifies children playing; the one for adolescent is one that is educative. In the job place, the language that employees are supposed to use when addressing customers is different from the one that they use when addressing their fellow work mates.

The language for customers has a soothing element aimed at building a strong brand name. The respect that the employees use on their seniors can be detected in the language that they use. When an individual is confronted by two conditions that require him to make a decision, the kind of language that he is going to use will determine the weight that the answer to the solution will be.

When a parent is bringing up a child, he uses different language in terms of tones, structure and the volume that he uses to ensure that the child is shaped in the way that the parent want. In this stage the child is taught on what to say if he is a man and what to say in the case of a woman, this reinforces the differences that are perceived to be prevailing between the male and female in the society.

This means that as one undertakes the daily cores, there is a force i.e. language that can be used to define him. The parents always have a good time in reinforcing the language that they give their children to a point that even if the child decides to get another secondary language, it is affected by the original parent’s language.


Gender simply means being female or male; it is thus not used to refer to women only. In the subject of linguistic anthropology, the effect that language has played in the area of gender has been put in place. The language that the male use is different from the one that women use; the way that men stress, the tone that they use, the facial expression continues to affirm their dominance in the society.

They are likely to use harsh voice. On the other hand, it is the use of the same language that women demand for their recognition and respect from the men dominated world. For example, a man is more likely to say a “NO”, to ensure that the woman fears and respects the man; with so doing then the domination of the man in the family continues.

In such a situation if the woman is in real need of something done, then the language that she will use can make the man change the previous “NO”, she may use words like “Woooiyee my lovely husband please”. With this selection of words and the voicing that the woman is going to use, the husband can find himself compelling with the demands of the woman. When one has given his views and the way that he responds to different questions is the main subject that one’s belief is identified as feminism or anti feminism.

When a woman is issuing evidence in court; the selection of the words will make the difference; a woman combines emotional feeling to the situation and this may influence the decision of the court. A man’s evidence on the other hand is not taken with much weight since his voice is more standard and monotonous, the fact that he is a male gives him the disadvantage. The saying goes “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”; this means that they understand life differently. The meaning of a word makes different to the woman and man.

When a man stresses a word, he does it to produce a certain meaning; some communities also have some words that are meant for men; in some communities it is regarded as taboo to even utter some words. This continues to enforce the gender differences. In rape cases, one of the reasons that have been put forward is that women do not report them; on the defence women have argued that they feel shy of expressing themselves.

They have no words to explain what happened. On the other hand, in the small sub sexuality culture that human beings have; there is the language that is adopted and used into them, the gays, the lesbians and the heterosexuals have a different way in which they talk. There is the choice of words they use that make them stand out of the rest. If one does not understand the language, it is more likely that in the context of these people he might not understand what they are saying.

This language is seen as internationally recognized and thus the continuity of certain sexuality is thus affected. For example a heterosexual man will use a soothing language when he is talking to a woman of whom he has sexual interests in; the woman on the other hand may use body language or by some sounds to give/ communicate that she has become aroused or interested in the man. This may be different in a gay sexuality.

One communicate to others regarding his sexuality through the language that he is going to portray when among the group, the language is the voices, the choice of words, the area that he is going to stress, body language and the contribution that he is going to make in general discussion. To send a signal of what I am in the social setting will be understood by those whom we practice similar sexuality.

Whether it is in the area of gender or sexuality what language is aiming to give is the identity of a person. Those who want to be identified as women, men, homosexuals or gays are done by the language that we adopt.

In Heterosexuality the woman in most cases is regarded as the weaker sex and is not expected to express / declare her sexual interest to a man, however, there are body language and other forms of communication that she can express her interests.

Men on the other hand are seen as the one who has the sexuality advantage; the move he made and the selection of words that he uses communicate his interests. By this belief that the woman should not have the authority of expressing what she feels, then it continues to reinforce men dominance in the society.

Gender differences are seen again with this. There is a funny situation that is portrayed by heterosexual people, the power of a woman to say a direct no to sexual advances is mostly misunderstood; when a man approach a woman, and the woman is not willing to have sex, by her saying “no” is interpolated as a way of asking the man to beg and put more effort. The word “no” said by a woman is interpolated to mean somehow there is consent; on the other hand, a “yes” to sexual advances is interpreted to show a weak woman sexually.

With this belief rape cases pose a great challenge to prove that the woman really was not willing, if the woman said no, then it can be miss- interpolated that she actually was saying yes in another way; if she was saying yes, then there was no rape. At the same time, it is expected that the woman should provoke a man before sexual advances has been made; prove is on the woman to show that actually he did not provoke the man. This has been an area of controversy in court cases; the feminisms advocate for word to word interpreted.

In cases of homosexual, when a sexual advance has been made, the “she-man” is expected to use an understandable language to show his consent; a mere saying of “no” may hold the same weight as that said by a heterosexual woman, however if the no is with a commanding voice it is regarded as a holding no. In this society, the she-man has the responsibility of attracting the partner, despite the heterosexual counterfeits; they are empowered to approach their partner.

The kind of grammar that one uses is influenced by the language that he uses. American grammar is different from English grammar. Grammar is a product of how a person has been taught as far as the use of language is concerned. In American English for instance they have some words that don’t have a “u” the pronunciation of these words is without the “u”.

The same word is written differently in Queens English, they are for example “honor”- this is the American version and “honour” the Queen’s English version, another way is in the use of “S” and “Z”. In the American English, there is the use of “Z” in areas that the Queens English uses an “s”.

An example of this is socialization this is in American English and Socialisation in Queens English. If one is reading a text that is written by two people one an American and the other by a Briton, then by looking into such areas, then one can know who is who, this show the role that the use of language can help in identifying the identity of an individual, the need for a physical intersection is not required since language can communicate this.

There are also some words that mean the same but the way that they are spelled in different settings are different, this is not only in the omission of a certain letter or the use of a letter in place of another, but it means a total new name.

An example of this is the word interpolation in American English and interplatation in Queens English. Both the above words mean to have a deeper analysis. Interpolation is not found in Queens English Dictionary and the same case with interplatation. When one is identified to belong to a certain setting the possibility of favours or racism treatment will be experienced.

The use of Shrub language of some names can also be another area that language can be used to show identity. Some areas pronounce the same word with a shrub accent while others do not. An example of this is the pronunciation of the word “issue” to an American it is pronounced as “isiu” and to a Briton it is an ‘ishuu”. When one is conversing, it becomes very easy to realize the nationality of the person by the way he is going to pronounce this name (Baym, 2007).


Literature is any written material describing certain social, economic, and political environment of the issue that can be conveyed orally, through facial expressions, writings, acting, body language, symbols and signs. Every human, physical, historical, and social activity forms part of literature, thus literature continues to grow and take shape every moment in time.

Language is part literature that used to define human personalities, nationality, tribe, beliefs, and opinions among other. It can be used to reinforce some believes in the society, these beliefs include gender existence, the dominance of men, sexuality, and racialism.


Baym, N.(2007). The Norton Anthology American Literature: Beginnings to 1865. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc.

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