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Lesson Note

Subject: Literature In English

Topic: Introduction to Literature

Learning Objectives: At the end of the Lesson, the students should be able to:

1. Define the term literature;

2. State and explain in details the Genres of literature;

3 state the importance of literature.

Lesson Summary


The term Literature can be defined as the window through which the people’s culture or way of life is seen. Thus, literature is a mirror through which man sees the good, bad, and ugly parts of life.

The essence of literature is to improve and enrich the lives of those it comes in contact with. It exposes what the society is, what it ought to be , what we are as persons, and what we should truly be. Literature is indeed a true representation of the way of life in a society.


There are three basic forms or genres of literature which serve as vehicles through which literature is conveyed or expressed. They include drama, prose, and poetry. These forms of literature are used to entertain, educate, inform, and mobilized the people for a just fight or struggle.

Drama: literature is life; drama being a form of literature is thus life. It is meant to be performed in any kind of theatre. It usually comes live when it is interpreted through the performance of actors who have adopted the roles of the created characters.

Apart from stage performance, drama can be presented in the form of television Soap-opera, play movie (home video). A play that is written to amuse the audience with a happy ending is a comedy while a tragedy is a play that ends on a sad note. A tragic comedy comprises of sad and happy events. On the other hand, a farce is a play that makes people laugh through overstated impossible, humorous events of life.

Dramatic works written by Africans are referred to as African Drama. Examples are Wole Soyinka : The lion and the Jewel (comedy), Ola Rotimi : The gods are not to blame (tragedy). Non- African Drama deals with plays written by non-African playwrights. Some examples are William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (tragicomedy), Bernald Shaw: Arms and the man (comedy).


Prose is a form of literature written in straight forward ordinary everyday language. It is usually written in complete sentences that are further used to form paragraphs. The storyline can be real or imagined. There are different forms of prose: the non-literary prose and literary prose.

Non-literary prose: This involves factual prosaic works. Such literary works include: scientific prose, which is usually written in specialized vocabulary and passive sentences. Also, journalistic prose that is written in clinches and carefully chosen phrases that are suitable to the context. Adjectives and descriptive phrases are also used before and after nouns.

Another form of non-literary prose is persuasive prosaic works. An example is a propaganda text specifically written to persuade through appeal to emotion or reason using rhetorical devices.

Literary prose on the other hand is made up of fiction and dramatic prose. Fictitious prose is further classified into narration, description, exposition, and dialogue where as Dramatic prose is meant to be enacted.

African prose refers to prosaic works written by Africans. Examples are : Ant Hills of the Savannah by China Achebe, The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born by Ayei Kwei Armah. On the other hand, Non-African prose as the name implies, involves works authored by non- Africans. Such works are Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Animal Farm by George Orwell.


Poetry records the feelings and experiences of poets. The poet has the freedom to use words as they appeal to him to effectively express his experiences and emotional excitement. Poetry is unique in many ways. A prosaic writer will use many words to express himself. Whereas, a poet will use few words to say what the prosaic writer will use many words to say.

Poetry can either be written or presented in oral form. Oral poetry can be presented in the form of songs, chants, incantations, and recitations.

The beauty of poetry is better expressed than being taught. There are many types of poems. They include the following:

Narrative poems: These are poems that involve stories narrated in verse form. An example is Browning’s “Pieel Piper of Hamelin”.

Ballad: It refers to a song or poem that narrates a story, which is usually tragic. In order to achieve suspense, a lot of essential information may be omitted. It also has an element of repetition. A good example of ballad is ” Richard Cory” written by Edward Arlington Robinson.

Lyric: The poem is usually short and written in stanzas. It expresses the poet’s personal thoughts. Lyric can be applied to !music and songs. Forms of Lyric include: Ode e.g. John Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. Others are Sonnets, for example, any Shakespearean sonnet. Also, songs e.g Ben Johnson’s ” T.O. Celia.”

Elegy: This type of poem expresses sorrow for a dead person. It is written in the form of poem or song. It is also referred to as dirge.

Epic: This is a poem that narrates or tells the story of great people and their great deeds. The poem is usually a long narrative story written in verse form.

Sonnet: This poem is usually written in fourteen lines. It has two basic parts, the octave (the first eighteen lines) and the sextet ( the six lines that follow).

Ode: It is also known as a praise poem. An Ode is written in irregular metre expressing noble feelings, usually in praise or in celebration of great persons or things that have been given human quality i.e. personified. As in: “Grecian Urn” by John Keats.

Epigram: The poem is short and expressed an idea in a clever but amusing way.

Quatrain: This type of poem is usually written in verse of four lines. The rhyming scheme is often abab. However, it may also be written without any regular rhyme scheme.

Importance Of Literature

1. Reading Develops Reasoning Skills

Reading literature helps children and adolescents develop reasoning skills. Readers build cognitive abilities. They have a front row seat to watch as characters face problems. Readers get an intimate view of characters’ reasoning. They watch as they succeed or suffer the consequences of poor decision making. By reading about the characters’ reasoning, the reader builds their abilities too.

2. Literature Builds Skills Needed in School and Beyond

People who read build essential skills for success. Readers have higher vocabularies, improved communication skills, and better comprehension. These skills carry over from school to work to relationships. You need them to build connections with the people around you. Other skills you gain include:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Research skills

3. Reading Literature Cultivates the spirit of Empathy

Empathy gives you the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. It’s the capability to understand what someone else is going through. It helps you build social connections. It also helps regulate your own emotions. This encourages you to be helpful to others.

When you read literature, you engage in deep reading. This cognitive activity helps develop empathy. Your brain responds like it would if you were experiencing it in real life.

4. Literature Helps You Discover Yourself

The search for self is a lifelong activity. When you read, you can let go of the pressures of everyday life. Without peer pressure or the fear of judgment, readers can find their true emotions. They also often discover more about their wants and needs. Literature provides a fresh perspective. That can help readers learn more about their own priorities in life.

5. Reading Gives You Tools to Overcome Challenges

Reading about how characters persevere lets readers share in the experience. Next time a reader faces something one of the characters does, they’ll have a different perspective. They also gain the ability to overcome challenges and push past obstacles in their own lives.

6. It Strengthens Links in the Brain

Reading literature connects various regions of the brain. It’s a complex form of communication. As you read, different parts of your brain activate. They also link up in new ways, potentially reshaping the brain. Those links remain active for several days after reading.

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