The Classic of Poetry (or Shijing) is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works by anonymous authors dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC.
The Chu Ci anthology (or Songs of Chu) is a volume of poems attributed to or considered to be inspired by Qu Yuan's verse writing. Qu Yuan is the first author of verse in China to have his name associated to his work and is also regarded as one of the most prominent figures of Romanticism in Chinese classical literature.
The first great author on military tactics and strategy was Sun Tzu, whose The Art of War remains on the shelves of many modern military officers (and its advice has been applied to the corporate world as well). Philosophy developed far differently in China than in Greecerather than presenting extended dialogues, the Analects of Confucius and Lao Zi's Tao Te Ching presented sayings and proverbs more directly and didactically. The Zhuangzi is composed of a large collection of creative anecdotes, allegories, parables, and fables; a masterpiece of both philosophical and literary skill, it has significantly influenced writers and poets for more than 2000 years from the Han dynasty to the present.
Among the earliest Chinese works of narrative history, Zuo Zhuan is a gem of classical Chinese prose. This work and the Shiji or Records of the Grand Historian, were regarded as the ultimate models by many generations of prose stylists in ancient China.
The books that constitute the Hebrew Bible developed over roughly a millennium. The oldest texts seem to come from the eleventh or tenth centuries BCE, whilst most of the other texts are somewhat later. They are edited works, being collections of various sources intricately and carefully woven together.
The Old Testament was compiled and edited by various men over a period of centuries, with many scholars concluding that the Hebrew canon was solidified by about the 3rd century BC. The works have been subject to various literary evaluations (both secular and religious). Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: In the Jewish Old Testament, there are men, things and speeches in so grand a style that Greek and Indian literature have nothing to compare to it. One stands with awe and reverence before these tremendous remnants of what man once was... The taste for the Old Testament is a touchstone of 'greatness' and 'smallness'.
Ancient Greek society placed considerable emphasis upon literature. Many authors consider the western literary tradition to have begun with the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, which remain giants in the literary canon for their skillful and vivid depictions of war and peace, honor and disgrace, love and hatred. Notable among later Greek poets was Sappho, who defined, in many ways, lyric poetry as a genre.
A playwright named Aeschylus changed Western literature forever when he introduced the ideas of dialogue and interacting characters to playwriting. In doing so, he essentially invented "drama": his Oresteia trilogy of plays is seen as his crowning achievement. Other refiners of playwriting were Sophocles and Euripides. Sophocles is credited with skillfully developing irony as a literary technique, most famously in his play Oedipus Rex. Euripedes, conversely, used plays to challenge societal norms and moresa hallmark of much of Western literature for the next 2,300 years and beyondand his works such as Medea, The Bacchae and The Trojan Women are still notable for their ability to challenge our perceptions of propriety, gender, and war. Aristophanes, a comic playwright, defines and shapes the idea of comedy almost as Aeschylus had shaped tragedy as an art formAristophanes' most famous plays include the Lysistrata and The Frogs.
Philosophy entered literature in the dialogues of Plato, who converted the give and take of Socratic questioning into written form. Aristotle, Plato's student, wrote dozens of works on many scientific disciplines, but his greatest contribution to literature was likely his Poetics, which lays out his understanding of drama, and thereby establishes the first criteria for literary criticism.
The New Testament is an unusual collection of texts--John's Book of Revelation, though not the first of its kind, essentially defines apocalypse as a literary genre.
In many respects, the writers of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire chose to avoid innovation in favor of imitating the great Greek authors. Virgil's Aeneid, in many ways, emulated Homer's Iliad; Plautus, a comic playwright, followed in the footsteps of Aristophanes; Tacitus' Annals and Germania follow essentially the same historical approaches that Thucydides devised (the Christian historian Eusebius does also, although far more influenced by his religion than either Tacitus or Thucydides had been by Greek and Roman polytheism); Ovid and his Metamorphoses explore the same Greek myths again in new ways. It can be argued, and has been, that the Roman authors, far from being mindless copycats, improved on the genres already established by their Greek predecessors. For example, Ovid's Metamorphoses creates a form which is a clear predecessor of the stream of consciousness genre. What is undeniable is that the Romans, in comparison with the Greeks, innovate relatively few literary styles of their own.
Satire is one of the few Roman additions to literatureHorace was the first to use satire extensively as a tool for argument, and Juvenal made it into a weapon.
Augustine of Hippo and his The City of God do for religious literature essentially what Plato had done for philosophy, but Augustine's approach was far less conversational and more didactive. His Confessions is perhaps the first true autobiography, and it gave rise to the genre of confessional literature which is now more popular than ever.
Knowledge traditions in India handed down philosophical gleanings and theological concepts through the two traditions of Shruti and Smriti, meaning that which is learnt and that which is experienced, which included the Vedas. It is generally believed that the Puranas are the earliest philosophical writings in Indian history, although linguistic works on Sanskrit existed earlier than 1000 BC. Puranic works such as the Indian epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata, have influenced countless other works, including Balinese Kecak and other performances such as shadow puppetry (wayang), and many European works. Pali literature has an important position in the rise of Buddhism. Classical Sanskrit literature flowers in the Maurya and Gupta periods, roughly spanning the 2nd century BC to the 8th century AD. Classical Tamil literature also emerged in the early historic period dating from 300 BC to 300 AD, and is the earliest secular literature of India, mainly dealing with themes such as love and war.
- The Literary Encyclopedia
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