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Language is the expression of thought by means of words. It may be either spoken or written.

A word is the sign of an idea.

Discourse is a succession of thoughts on one subject expressed in language.

Written discourse may be intended for private reading, as letters and diaries, or for publication.

Literature is published discourse, intended for general reading.

Literature that interests readers for but a short time after its publication is called ephemeral. Such are newspapers, and many novels. Literature so valuable that it is reprinted and read long after its author's death is called classic. The classic authors are studied to find what is valuable and appropriate in discourse; the best modern authors are studied to find what is now correct.


According to the manner in which it treats of different subjects, literature is classified as narration, description, exposition, and argument.


Narration is discourse relating in order the particulars of actions or events.

Ex. — "As through the land at eve we went

And plucked the ripened ears,

We fell out, my wife and I,

Oh, we fell out — I know not why —

And kissed again with tears.


For when we came where lies the child

We lost in former years,

There above the little grave —

Aye, there above the little^gsave —

We kissed again with te*s."—\ennyson.

Description is discourse that tellsnre qualities of things. It is a picturing in words.

Ex. — " The sea was blue as blue could be. Only in the morning and the evening it glowed blood-red, or spread upon its still bosom all the gold of all the Indies, or became an endless mead of palest green, shot with amethyst. When night fell, it mirrored the stars, great and small, or was caught in a net of gold flung across it from horizon to horizon. The ship rent the net with a wake of white fire. The air was balm; the islands were enchanted places, abandoned by Spaniard and Indian, overgrown, serpent-haunted. . . . Sometimes, in the crystal waters near the land, we sailed over the gardens of the sea gods, and, looking down, saw red and purple blooms and shadowy, waving forests, with rainbow fish for humming birds. ... If a storm arose, a fury that raged and threatened, it presently swept away, and the blue laughed again. When the sun sank, there arose in the east such a moon as might have been sole light to all the realms of faery. A beauty, languorous and seductive, was most absolute empress of the wonderful land and the wonderful sea."

— MARY JOHNSTON (from " To Have and to Hold ").

Exposition is discourse that explains the nature of things, or the principles upon which things depend.


Ex. — " The atmosphere is just as much a part of the earth as is the water or the solid rock; it is the outer part of the earth, and moves with it in space." — Redway.

Argument is discourse giving reasons for or against a certain belief.

Ex. — "Hyp. Thou art jealous.

Vict. No, I am not jealous.
Hyp. Thou should'st be.
Vict. Why?

Hyp. Because thou art in love.
And they who are in love are always jealous —
Therefore thou should'st be."—Longfellow.


i. Bring to school an example of narration; of description; of exposition; of argument.

2. Write a narrative telling your experiences during one day at school.

3. Write a short description of some person whom you know, or of some place that you have visited.

4. Write an exposition explaining the fact that at $20 apiece $iBowill buy 9 bicycles.

5. Write an argument to prove that honesty is the best policy in school.


Discourse may be divided, according to its form and purpose, into prose and poetry.

Prose is discourse written in language as ordinarily used, having reference, mainly, to a clear and distinct statement of the author's meaning.

Poetry is discourse written in metrical language. Its aim is to please, by addressing the imagination and the sensibilities.

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