Understanding exactly what literature is has always been a challenge; pinning down a definition has proven to be quite difficult simply because the term literature is very elusive. Literally translated, the word means “acquaintance with letters” (from Latin littera, letter), and therefore the academic study of literature is known as Letters. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary provides one of the simplest and best definitions: “Pieces of writing that are valued as works of art, especially novels, plays, and poems”.
For a work of literature to be considered one, it must follow these criteria:
1) it is a written text
2) it has excellence of form or expression
3) it is in a literary genre (poetry, fiction, or drama)
4) it is read aesthetically
5) it contains a permanent or universal interest