DEFINITION OF LITERATURE
What is literature?
According to the oxford advanced learner’s dictionary Literature refers to:
Writings that are valued as works of art, especially fiction, drama and poetry, in contrast with technical books and newspapers, magazines, etc.
This is definition suggests that literature is any writing that is substantial or valuable; that is, any writing that is important: that must be taken seriously.
Evidence abounds about this kind of writing. Examples are Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charles Dicken’s Hard Times (1854), and so many other works. All the novels mentioned above are highly valuable in their original society and the world at large.
Fiction is an imaginary literary work. The works of most literary artists fall into this category. However, artists are able to produce master- pieces that inflame the human mind. They are able to induce the readers to be thoughtful and acquire knowledge about the topics treated in those fictional works. Examples are Emily Bronte’s Wuthering heights, Wole Soyinka’s Ake. The years of childhood (1981), Flora Nwapa’s Efuru (1960).
Drama is a play about something, someone or somewhere, in which the characters are portrayed to represent those we are familiar with. This is another aspect of literature that is highly valuable due to its pure, direct imitation of life and life experiences. Examples are Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero (1964), Oliver Goldsmith’s She stoops to conquer (1978), Ola Rotimis Hope of the Living Dead (1989). These are highly valued in their society. Details on some of these drama texts would be given later in this work.
Poetry is a collection of poems. Poems are highly imaginative thoughts of poets, which are termed noble and highly valued and appreciated. Most of the songs, in fact, all songs are poetry. Not all poems are, however, sung; succumb to the rhythm of music. Apart from the fact that it soothes, heals and seduces, it is highly valued and appreciated by all. Society, especially royalty, cannot do without poets and poems. Some examples are ‘Ode to the Nightingale’ by John Keats, ‘The Sun on this Rubble’ by Dennis Brutus, and ‘The Casualties’ by John Pepper Clark.
Another definition of literature that is of immense interest and value is that which is taken from the origin of the word literature.
Literature is derived from the Latin word ‘LITTERA’ which, when interpreted, means ‘a letter of the alphabet’. Due to this terminology, there have been several definitions by different literary artists, and they cover the general and the aesthetic.
DRAMA AS A GENRE OF LITERATURE
Drama is from the Greek word ’DROMION’ meaning ‘to do’. Drama can defined as an imitation of life that is being represented on stage. Most times, a lot of people refer to drama as act and play. An act is the imitation of life; while a play is the representation of a story by ‘actor’ on ‘stage’ before an ‘audience’. To act, one needs a script; and for a play to take place, there must be a story, which is written down in a script. Actors, both males and female, would memories this story, and after adequate preparation in form of rehearsal, would mount the stage where everything that would make the play a success would be in place. For example, costume, make up, lighting, must be put in place. When the act is going on or is being presented on stage, there must be people who came to be entertained by the act. These people are referred to as the audience. It is through the audience, most of the time that the act is being measured, evaluated and urgent conclusion is drawn; they act as critics who evaluate the act. If the play reflects the day to day experience of the masses, the audience is charged positively. Then, the actors are applauded, equally. But, if the play reflects negatively, there is condemnation inform of boos and jeers from the audience. In extreme cases, stones and rolls of papers are thrown at the actors. At such times, if the reaction of the audience is not properly checked, it might lead to a pandemonium, chariot. So, the importance of an audience to any play cannot be over emphasised.
THE COMPLETE DRAMA
Before a piece of drama can be termed complete, it must have script, actors, stage and audience; these are the four elements of drama.
A script is the paper or book where all the actions of the drama piece are written down for the actors to assimilate and put life into, later when acting. Without a script there can be no drama piece. The whole dramatic experience starts from the writing of the script by the playwright or dramatist, who would put down his/her imagination, experience or historical fact on papers.