- Utility Menu
- History & History and Literature
Government | History & Literature | Social Studies | Economics
- How to declare or switch into History
- Foundations Courses
- History & Government
- History & Social Studies
- History & Economics
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Undergraduate Alumni Profiles
- Concentration Guidelines and Requirements
- Senior Thesis & Undergraduate Research
- Office Hours
- Research & Employment Opportunities
- Tempus: Undergraduate History Journal
- Graduate Program
Give a Gift
History is Literature
Writing history with skill and verve is not a distasteful exercise.
‘It is important for the historian not only to write, but to write well.’ Thus ran a particularly controversial essay title which was recently put to history students sitting their Finals at one of our most ancient universities. This question provoked what might at first glance seem a surprising level of controversy.
The literary merits of non-fiction are obvious and frequently rewarded. The Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work documenting the Soviet Union and its latter-day emotional after-effects, which the committee called ‘a monument to suffering and courage in our time’, is testament to that. And she is not the first historian of sorts to win the prize; Winston Churchill was similarly honoured in 1953 for what was described as ‘his mastery of historical and biographical description’ (in addition to the obvious: his ‘brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’).
But though the literary and the historical can co-exist, should they? Should the writers of history make conscious decisions about their work on the basis of little more than style? I would humbly suggest that the answer to both of those questions is yes – and that the writing of history would be greatly improved – both in quality and reach – if more people thought so too.
Take Niall Ferguson, for example. The Pity of War , his controversial reassessment of the First World War, met with both rapturous praise and protracted criticism when it was first published. Much of the negative reaction to the book could be justified on entirely scholarly grounds. Some did not care for his unorthodox conclusions, while others did not think they were adequately supported by the facts. Yet more scholars took issue with his use of the counterfactual to elucidate tricky historical questions; to them his mode of analysis was little more than a parlour game. There are legitimate historical defences of his work too, but the point I wish to make is this: a great deal of the criticism Ferguson received seemed to be based on little more than a dislike of his tone.
Here was a young, energetic historian writing a bold, revisionist work, but all many could think to say in criticism was that he did so in an entirely unbecoming manner. His writing seemed too showy, too glib – too much like journalism. But there was something that these critics had overlooked: the effect of Ferguson’s book on those who operated outside of academic circles.
Ferguson’s book was one of the first works of ‘serious history’ I ever read, and its effect on me was electrifying. Irrespective of his arguments (which, it must be said, were dynamic and exciting in and of themselves), the book was elegantly and engagingly written; it seemed like a literary achievement – and that was true regardless of all that was said about its historical merits.
And examples of literary history are hardly new: Edward Gibbon’s magisterial History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire would be the lesser without his luxurious prose style and ironic wit; and Lord Macaulay – himself a favourite of Churchill’s – would not have achieved the cultural prominence he did without the wide circulation of his literary and poetic talents.
This category could include Peter Pomerantsev, whose book Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible – a beautifully written examination of modern Russia and its turbulent recent past – is on the longlist for this year’s Samuel Johnson Prize. It is not strictly history, but Pomerantsev’s narrative – which contains thoughtful, thorough examinations of Russian archetypes he met during his time in the country, as well as a brilliant exposition of the ways in which the Putin government controls domestic media and politics – is still essential for understanding Russia’s recent past. Other examples of history as literature include Sebastian Faulks’ The Fatal Englishmen , a compelling triple biography of bright young things who never made it to middle age, and Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk , an emotionally raw memoir of coping with grief combined with an experimental biography of T. H. White. All of these books exhibit noteworthy literary merit; each attracts a wider audience than a more conventional historical work would; and each ought to be embraced and emulated for those very reasons.
Increased attention on writing well will not debase the nature of historical writing; it will not debase the currency. Well-written is not the same, necessarily, as popular – and certainly not equivalent to populist. (Though there do need to be elements of both within the discourse for it to function effectively. I was once posed the question of whether the world would be better if all books of a historical nature were written, at the very lowest level, for undergraduates. The point the questioner was trying to make – and it is an especially valid one – is that without popular history, soon there would be no new generations of undergraduates at all.)
Writing history with skill and verve is not a distasteful exercise. Instead it can inspire young minds, advance new and provocative ways of thinking about the world, and assist in the production of that which may approach true literature. It can reignite old memories, revitalise and revolutionise form and genre – and, as the Nobel Committee has wisely chosen to acknowledge this year, it can do great good for society at large on a truly magnificent scale.
James Snell is a writer at Harry's Place and Left Foot Forward. . @James_P_Snell
Solving the Riddle of Reproduction
The Death of Mahatma Gandhi
History and Literature
History and Literature is the oldest concentration at Harvard. At the heart of History and Literature are individual and small group tutorials which provide individual instruction, opportunities to pursue specific topics in depth, and dedicated mentoring. Along with the core History and Literature tutorials, concentrators take concentration courses across a variety of departments and programs.
47302 What is Literary History?
This course involves first and foremost a sustained look at literary history—an aspect of our field that we often take for granted, deem to be narrow and outmoded as a way of thinking about literature, or displace in favor of theorizing about or historicizing texts. But what is literary history a history of? Master works? The development of national literatures? The coming to voice of subordinated groups? The evolution, emergence, and obsolescence of genres? Or perhaps an account of the effect of broader socioeconomic forces on literary production? Does literary history have a theory? And what is the relation of literary history to practical criticism?
What Is the Connection between Literature and History?
The main connection between literature and history is that literature is used to report and represent history. The two are, therefore, intertwined with one another. The biggest difference between literature and history is that the latter posits itself as fact, while the former is taken to be an artistic form. The twin ideas of fact and entertainment intertwine often within literature and history to produce historical fiction and narrative non-fiction.
Literature takes many forms. They range from personal notes to poems and non-fiction articles. Literature can be presented in a number of mediums including online content, magazine and newspaper articles and in book form. For a work to be considered literary, it usually requires artistic merit and quality. What constitutes as literary is a subjective matter and rarely agreed upon.
History at its most basic is the story of humanity. This is divided into anthropology , archaeology and history. History is the story of man’s representation of his own story — that is to say, what people through the ages have chosen to record and write down. Literature and history both occur in numerous forms, from tax records and letters to full histories of whole nations and people.
Early reports of events wove mythology into the story with varying degrees of success. Homer makes no illusions about the literary quality of his epic poems the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Thucydides provided a fully historical account of the Peloponnesian War, but seems to have died before the war was concluded, leaving key elements missing. Herodotus, on the other hand, tried to report full history in the manner of Thucydides, though predating him, but made no effort to separate myth from truth.
Literature and history are connected in the field of comparative literature. This analytical mode of study attempts to compare any two pieces of literature from different languages or cultures. The French school of thought examines literature for its historical and national basis. The German school of Peter Szondi, on the other hand, looks for social inspirations, while the American school looks for universal truths.
Historical fiction is a popular form of literature. It shows the deep connections between history and literature by having the writer study a particular era from the past in order to write a story. These stories may be wholly fictional or they might be fictionalized accounts of real people and real events. Popular authors of historical fiction include Bernard Cornwell who wrote books on Napoleonic Europe, the Dark Ages and the Battle of Agincourt, and Hilary Mantel, who wrote “Wolf Hall,” a book about Thomas Cromwell.
Literary fiction , on the other hand, tends to be contemporary to events or recollections of those events from someone who experienced them. These can be used as historical documents for their contexts and for studying how history inspires literature. Chinese writers such as Gao Xingjian in “Soul Mountain” and Ma Jian in “Red Dust” combine literature and history during Mao’s Cultural Revolution . Haruki Murakami ’s “Norwegian Wood” explores the life of a student in the 1960s in Tokyo. Romanian-German writer Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her books depicting her life under the Ceausescu regime in Romania.
You might also Like
Recommended, as featured on:.
- How Do I Get an Online Archaeology Degree?
- What Is Literary Tourism?
- How Do I Get a Mythology Degree?
- What Is Comparative Mythology?
- What Is Involved in the Study of Literature?
- What Is Literature Analysis?
- What Is British Literature?
I think the best way to learn history is through literature. Get a good list of recommended texts that deal with whatever period you are learning about and read them first, before reading about it in non-fiction books.
That way, whenever you come across a fact in the non-fiction book, it will have someplace to latch onto in your mind. You won't just be thinking, oh, that's yet another boring skirmish between two factions, you'll be thinking, that's the little battle where Jack died in the novel!
It makes it much easier to remember everything as well as painting the events as more real and personal than you might otherwise see them.
@Fa5t3r - You have a point, but it's important to look at the history of literature as it crosses different cultures. It is a powerful force when it comes to recording events for history, or showing them in a different light, but there are still places in the world where oral history is more important and other places where different forms of media have started to take precedence over literature.
I don't think that people should ignore that, particularly with regard to history, because context is everything.
I think that literature can shine a light on history, as well as recording it. I mean, history can't really be considered as an abstract concept, it's always going to be subjective depending on how you hear about it.
The experience of reading literature written during World War 2 is going to be different from the experience of reading literature set during WW2 but written during the modern era, because the writer will probably go for a different angle.
Literature can create empathy where there might not have been any before. There have definitely been times when a well written book has opened eyes to atrocities that have happened in the past, or heroes who might otherwise have gone unsung.
Then of course you've also got to look at literature as history, since it has so much impact on human culture that it is a force for change in and of itself.
Post your comments
Home » Education » Difference Between History and Literature
Difference Between History and Literature
Main difference – history vs literature.
History and literature are two important sub-disciplines of Humanities and Social Sciences. In simple terms, the difference between history and literature is that history is the study of the past while literature is the study of the written work . Knowing the difference between history and literature can help a student to choose a subject that is better suited to him.
What is History
History is the study of past, especially how the past relates to humans. Basically, history deals with the overall achievements, events, occurrences and happenings of the entire human population. It is a subject that deals with written records of the past. However, these records (printed material, rare manuscripts written on paper and leaves, dried animal skins) were often written about achievements of emperors and royalties and often contain biased information. Nevertheless, many facts about the past way of life can be obtained through these records. The period prior to the written records is called the Prehistory. A person who studies, researches and writes about history is called a historian.
History often focuses on events that take place in particular blocks of time and historians have given names to them for the ease of classification. According to Marxian theory, there are five stages of history; primitive communism, slaves society, feudalism, capitalism, and socialism. Further, history can be studied according to geographical locations, social history, history of religions, cultural history, etc. The study of Prehistory often falls under archaeology.
What is Literature
In simple terms, literature can be defined as the study of written work. Earliest written work, can be traced back to World’s oldest civilizations such as Egypt and Sumeria (about 4 th millennium B.C). Various definitions have been applied to define literature throughout the history. According to Cambridge Dictionary, literature is “written artistic works, especially those with a high and lasting artistic value.” Literature can be classified according to various forms, i.e. fiction vs. nonfiction or poetry vs. prose. It can be further classified into major forms such as drama, novel, and short story. It can be studied under various categories like geographical locations, time period, nature, etc. (Classical literature, medieval literature, French literature, Romantic period, Colonial literature, Modern literature, etc.)
Literature requires imagination and creativity and many authors use a variety of literary devices to enhance the quality of their literary work. However, it is important to notice that non-fiction that contains a lot of facts and information is also considered as a part of literature.
History is the study of the past.
Literature is the study of the written work.
History deals with information and facts.
Literature mostly deals with fiction, the imagination of the writer, literary devices, etc.
In history , methodologies like source criticism, statistical inference, the arguments from analogy, etc. are used.
In literature , methodologies like reading, decoding, and critical appreciation are used.
Study of Written Records
History gathers information about the old way of life, people from written records.
Literature studies written work for appreciation.
In history , the written records are considered as accurate sources.
In literature , written work often contains fiction, and therefore, cannot be considered as accurate sources.
About the Author: admin
you may also like these.
What Literature Can Teach Us
Communication and research skills—and how to be a better human being
- Authors & Texts
- Top Picks Lists
- Study Guides
- Best Sellers
- Plays & Drama
- Short Stories
- Children's Books
- M.A., English Literature, California State University - Sacramento
- B.A., English, California State University - Sacramento
Literature is a term used to describe written and sometimes spoken material. Derived from the Latin word literature meaning "writing formed with letters," literature most commonly refers to works of the creative imagination, including poetry, drama , fiction , nonfiction , and in some instances, journalism , and song.
What Is Literature?
Simply put, literature represents the culture and tradition of a language or a people. The concept is difficult to precisely define, though many have tried; it's clear that the accepted definition of literature is constantly changing and evolving.
For many, the word literature suggests a higher art form; merely putting words on a page doesn't necessarily equate to creating literature. A canon is the accepted body of works for a given author. Some works of literature are considered canonical, that is, culturally representative of a particular genre (poetry, prose, or drama).
Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction
Some definitions also separate literary fiction from so-called "genre fiction," which includes types such as mystery, science fiction, western, romance, thriller, and horror. Think mass-market paperback.
Genre fiction typically does not have as much character development as literary fiction and is read for entertainment, escapism, and plot, whereas literary fiction explores themes common to the human condition and uses symbolism and other literary devices to convey the author's viewpoint on his or her chosen themes. Literary fiction involves getting into the minds of the characters (or at least the protagonist) and experiencing their relationships with others. The protagonist typically comes to a realization or changes in some way during the course of a literary novel.
(The difference in type does not mean that literary writers are better than genre fiction writers, just that they operate differently.)
Why Is Literature Important?
Works of literature, at their best, provide a kind of blueprint of human society. From the writings of ancient civilizations such as Egypt and China to Greek philosophy and poetry, from the epics of Homer to the plays of William Shakespeare, from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to Maya Angelou , works of literature give insight and context to all the world's societies. In this way, literature is more than just a historical or cultural artifact; it can serve as an introduction to a new world of experience.
But what we consider to be literature can vary from one generation to the next. For instance, Herman Melville's 1851 novel " Moby Dick " was considered a failure by contemporary reviewers. However, it has since been recognized as a masterpiece and is frequently cited as one of the best works of Western literature for its thematic complexity and use of symbolism. By reading "Moby Dick" in the present day, we can gain a fuller understanding of literary traditions in Melville's time.
Ultimately, we may discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author writes or says and how he or she says it. We may interpret and debate an author's message by examining the words he or she chooses in a given novel or work or observing which character or voice serves as the connection to the reader.
In academia, this decoding of the text is often carried out through the use of literary theory using a mythological, sociological, psychological, historical, or other approaches to better understand the context and depth of a work.
Whatever critical paradigm we use to discuss and analyze it, literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us on a deeply personal level.
Students who study literature and read for pleasure have a higher vocabulary, better reading comprehension, and better communication skills, such as writing ability. Communication skills affect people in every area of their lives, from navigating interpersonal relationships to participating in meetings in the workplace to drafting intraoffice memos or reports.
When students analyze literature, they learn to identify cause and effect and are applying critical thinking skills. Without realizing it, they examine the characters psychologically or sociologically. They identify the characters' motivations for their actions and see through those actions to any ulterior motives.
When planning an essay on a work of literature, students use problem-solving skills to come up with a thesis and follow through on compiling their paper. It takes research skills to dig up evidence for their thesis from the text and scholarly criticism, and it takes organizational skills to present their argument in a coherent, cohesive manner.
Empathy and Other Emotions
Some studies say that people who read literature have more empathy for others, as literature puts the reader into another person's shoes. Having empathy for others leads people to socialize more effectively, solve conflicts peacefully, collaborate better in the workplace, behave morally, and possibly even become involved in making their community a better place.
Other studies note a correlation between readers and empathy but do not find causation . Either way, studies back the need for strong English programs in schools, especially as people spend more and more time looking at screens rather than books.
Along with empathy for others, readers can feel a greater connection to humanity and less isolated. Students who read literature can find solace as they realize that others have gone through the same things that they are experiencing or have experienced. This can be a catharsis and relief to them if they feel burdened or alone in their troubles.
Quotes About Literature
Here are some quotes about literature from literature giants themselves.
- Robert Louis Stevenson : "The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish."
- Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey" : "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
- William Shakespeare, "Henry VI" : “I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind.”
- What Is the Canon in Literature?
- What's the Difference Between Classical and Classic Literature?
- The Basic Characteristics of Effective Writing
- Why We Don't Read
- 5 Novel Setting Maps for Classic American Literature
- Notable Authors of the 19th Century
- Genres in Literature
- What Is a Modern Classic in Literature?
- American Author Maps: Informational Texts in the English Classroom
- An Introduction to Metafiction
- AP English Literature and Composition Course and Exam Information
- Interior Monologues
- Feminist Literary Criticism
- High Interest-Low Reading Level Books for Reluctant Readers
- Banned Books: History and Quotes
- SAT Literature Subject Test Information
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
School of Writing, Literature, and Film
- Course Descriptions
- BA in English
- BA in Creative Writing
- About Film Studies
- Film Faculty
- Minor in Film Studies
- Film Studies at Work
- Minor in English
- Minor in Writing
- Minor in Applied Journalism
- Scientific, Technical, and Professional Communication Certificate
- Academic Advising
- Student Resources
- MA in English
- MFA in Creative Writing
- Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)
- Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing
- Fall 2023 Undergraduate Course Descriptions
- Fall 2023 Graduate Course Descriptions
- Faculty & Staff Directory
- Faculty by Fields of Focus
- Faculty Notes Submission Form
- Promoting Your Research
- 2023 Spring Newsletter
- Commitment to DEI
- Twitter News Feed
- SWLF Media Channel
- Student Work
- View All Events
- The Stone Award
- Conference for Antiracist Teaching, Language and Assessment
- Continuing Education
- Alumni Notes
- Featured Alumni
- Donor Information
- Support SWLF
What is Literature? || Definition & Examples
"what is literature": a literary guide for english students and teachers.
View the full series: The Oregon State Guide to English Literary Terms
- Guide to Literary Terms
- BA in English Degree
- BA in Creative Writing Degree
- Oregon State Admissions Info
What is Literature? Transcript (English and Spanish Subtitles Available in Video; Click HERE for Spanish Transcript)
By Evan Gottlieb & Paige Thomas
The question of what makes something literary is an enduring one, and I don’t expect that we’ll answer it fully in this short video. Instead, I want to show you a few different ways that literary critics approach this question and then offer a short summary of the 3 big factors that we must consider when we ask the question ourselves.
Let’s begin by making a distinction between “Literature with a capital L” and “literature with a small l.”
“Literature with a small l” designates any written text: we can talk about “the literature” on any given subject without much difficulty.
“Literature with a capital L”, by contrast, designates a much smaller set of texts – a subset of all the texts that have been written.
So what makes a text literary or what makes a text “Literature with a capital L”?
Let’s start with the word itself. “Literature” comes from Latin, and it originally meant “the use of letters” or “writing.” But when the word entered the Romance languages that derived from Latin, it took on the additional meaning of “knowledge acquired from reading or studying books.” So we might use this definition to understand “Literature with a Capital L” as writing that gives us knowledge--writing that should be studied.
But this begs the further question: what books or texts are worth studying or close reading ?
For some critics, answering this question is a matter of establishing canonicity. A work of literature becomes “canonical” when cultural institutions like schools or universities or prize committees classify it as a work of lasting artistic or cultural merit.
The canon, however, has proved problematic as a measure of what “Literature with a capital L” is because the gatekeepers of the Western canon have traditionally been White and male. It was only in the closing decades of the twentieth century that the canon of Literature was opened to a greater inclusion of diverse authors.
And here’s another problem with that definition: if inclusion in the canon were our only definition of Literature, then there could be no such thing as contemporary Literature, which, of course, has not yet stood the test of time.
And here’s an even bigger problem: not every book that receives good reviews or a wins a prize turns out to be of lasting value in the eyes of later readers.
On the other hand, a novel like Herman Melville’s Moby-Di ck, which was NOT received well by critics or readers when it was first published in 1851, has since gone on to become a mainstay of the American literary canon.
As you can see, canonicity is obviously a problematic index of literariness.
So… what’s the alternative? Well, we could just go with a descriptive definition: “if you love it, then it’s Literature!”
But that’s a little too subjective. For example, no matter how much you may love a certain book from your childhood (I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar ) that doesn’t automatically make it literary, no matter how many times you’ve re-read it.
Furthermore, the very idea that we should have an emotional attachment to the books we read has its own history that cannot be detached from the rise of the middle class and its politics of telling people how to behave.
Ok, so “literature with a capital L” cannot always by defined by its inclusion in the canon or the fact that it has been well-received so…what is it then? Well, for other critics, what makes something Literature would seem to be qualities within the text itself.
According to the critic Derek Attridge, there are three qualities that define modern Western Literature:
1. a quality of invention or inventiveness in the text itself;
2. the reader’s sense that what they are reading is singular. In other words, the unique vision of the writer herself.
3. a sense of ‘otherness’ that pushes the reader to see the world around them in a new way
Notice that nowhere in this three-part definition is there any limitation on the content of Literature. Instead, we call something Literature when it affects the reader at the level of style and construction rather than substance.
In other words, Literature can be about anything!
The idea that a truly literary text can change a reader is of course older than this modern definition. In the English tradition, poetry was preferred over novels because it was thought to create mature and sympathetic reader-citizens.
Likewise, in the Victorian era, it was argued that reading so-called “great” works of literature was the best way for readers to realize their full spiritual potentials in an increasingly secular world.
But these never tell us precisely what “the best” is. To make matters worse, as I mentioned already, “the best” in these older definitions was often determined by White men in positions of cultural and economic power.
So we are still faced with the question of whether there is something inherent in a text that makes it literary.
Some critics have suggested that a sense of irony – or, more broadly, a sense that there is more than one meaning to a given set of words – is essential to “Literature with a capital L.”
Reading for irony means reading slowly or at least attentively. It demands a certain attention to the complexity of the language on the page, whether that language is objectively difficult or not.
In a similar vein, other critics have claimed that the overall effect of a literary text should be one of “defamiliarization,” meaning that the text asks or even forces readers to see the world differently than they did before reading it.
Along these lines, literary theorist Roland Barthes maintained that there were two kinds of texts: the text of pleasure, which we can align with everyday Literature with a small l” and the text of jouissance , (yes, I said jouissance) which we can align with Literature. Jouissance makes more demands on the reader and raises feelings of strangeness and wonder that surpass the everyday and even border on the painful or disorienting.
Barthes’ definition straddles the line between objectivity and subjectivity. Literature differs from the mass of writing by offering more and different kinds of experiences than the ordinary, non-literary text.
Literature for Barthes is thus neither entirely in the eye of the beholder, nor something that can be reduced to set of repeatable, purely intrinsic characteristics.
This negative definition has its own problems, though. If the literary text is always supposed to be innovative and unconventional, then genre fiction, which IS conventional, can never be literary.
So it seems that whatever hard and fast definition we attempt to apply to Literature, we find that we run up against inevitable exceptions to the rules.
As we examine the many problematic ways that people have defined literature, one thing does become clear. In each of the above examples, what counts as Literature depends upon three interrelated factors: the world, the text, and the critic or reader.
You see, when we encounter a literary text, we usually do so through a field of expectations that includes what we’ve heard about the text or author in question [the world], the way the text is presented to us [the text], and how receptive we as readers are to the text’s demands [the reader].
With this in mind, let’s return to where we started. There is probably still something to be said in favor of the “test of time” theory of Literature.
After all, only a small percentage of what is published today will continue to be read 10, 20, or even 100 years from now; and while the mechanisms that determine the longevity of a text are hardly neutral, one can still hope that individual readers have at least some power to decide what will stay in print and develop broader cultural relevance.
The only way to experience what Literature is, then, is to keep reading: as long as there are avid readers, there will be literary texts – past, present, and future – that challenge, excite, and inspire us.
Interested in more video lessons? View the full series:
The oregon state guide to english literary terms, contact info.
Email: [email protected]
College of Liberal Arts Student Services 214 Bexell Hall 541-737-0561
Deans Office 200 Bexell Hall 541-737-4582
Corvallis, OR 97331-8600
liberalartsosu liberalartsosu liberalartsosu liberalartsosu CLA LinkedIn
- Dean's Office
- Faculty & Staff Resources
- Research Support
- Featured Stories
- Undergraduate Students
- Transfer Students
- Graduate Students
- Career Services
- Financial Aid
- Degrees and Programs
- Centers and Initiatives
- School of Communication
- School of History, Philosophy and Religion
- School of Language, Culture and Society
- School of Psychological Science
- School of Public Policy
- School of Visual, Performing and Design Arts
- School of Writing, Literature and Film
- Give to CLA
- History Classics
- Your Profile
- Find History on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on YouTube (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on Instagram (Opens in a new window)
- Find History on TikTok (Opens in a new window)
- This Day In History
- History Podcasts
- History Vault
- History Travel
What is the Oldest Known Piece of Literature?
By: Evan Andrews
Updated: August 10, 2023 | Original: December 18, 2015
As with the wheel, cities and legal codes, the earliest examples of written literature appear to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia . The Sumerian civilization first developed writing around 3400 B.C., when they began making markings on clay tablets in a script known as cuneiform.
Their texts usually consisted of economic and administrative documents, but by the third millennium B.C., Sumerian scribes were also copying down essays, hymns, poetry and myths. Two of their oldest known literary works are the “Kesh Temple Hymn” and the “Instructions of Shuruppak,” both of which exist in written versions dating to around 2500 B.C.
The former is an ancient ode to the Kesh temple and the deities that inhabited it, while the latter is a piece of “wisdom literature” that takes the form of sagely advice supposedly handed down from the Sumerian king Shuruppak to his son, Ziusudra. One of Shuruppak’s proverbs warns the boy not to “pass judgment when you drink beer.” Another counsels that “a loving heart maintains a family; a hateful heart destroys a family.”
While Shuruppak’s fatherly wisdom is one of the most ancient examples of written literature, history’s oldest known fictional story is probably the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a mythic poem that first appeared as early as the third millennium B.C. The adventure-filled tale centers on a Sumerian king named Gilgamesh who is described as being one-third man and two-thirds god. Over the course of twelve clay tablets’ worth of text, he goes on a classic hero’s journey that sees him slay monsters, rub elbows with the gods and search for the key to immortality—all with predictably tragic results.
The Epic of Gilgamesh started out as a series of Sumerian poems and tales dating back to 2100 B.C., but the most complete version was written around the 12th century B.C. by the Babylonians. The story was later lost to history after 600 B.C., and it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that archaeologists finally unearthed a copy near the Iraqi city of Mosul. Since then, scholars have hailed the 4,000-year-old epic as a foundational text in world literature.
Sign up for Inside History
Get HISTORY’s most fascinating stories delivered to your inbox three times a week.
By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks. You can opt out at any time. You must be 16 years or older and a resident of the United States.
- Craft and Criticism
- Fiction and Poetry
- News and Culture
- Lit Hub Radio
- Reading Lists
- Literary Criticism
- Craft and Advice
- In Conversation
- On Translation
- Short Story
- From the Novel
- The Virtual Book Channel
- Film and TV
- Art and Photography
- Bookstores and Libraries
- Behind the Mic
- Beyond the Page
- The Cosmic Library
- Emergence Magazine
- First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing
- Just the Right Book
- Literary Disco
- The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
- The Maris Review
- New Books Network
- Otherppl with Brad Listi
- So Many Damn Books
- Tor Presents: Voyage Into Genre
- Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast
- The Best of the Decade
- Best Reviewed Books
- BookMarks Daily Giveaway
- The Daily Thrill
- CrimeReads Daily Giveaway
Six Former Winners of the Cundill History Prize Reflect on What the Future Holds
Interviews with tiya miles, marjoleine kars, camilla townsend, julia lovell, maya jasanoff and daniel beer.
In honor of the 2023 Cundill History Prize next week, we asked six former winners of the prize a few questions.
Tiya Miles, 2022 Winner
What occupies you at the moment? What are you working on?
Concerns about world crises occupy me now, along with the conviction that we must resist despair. I view history (meaning events of the past as well as our endeavor to faithfully reconstruct and interpret those events) as a resource for understanding and developing solutions for today’s problems. All That She Carried wove thoughts about climate change and the treatment of refugees into an analysis of Black women’s experiences of enslavement in the nineteenth century U.S. Currently, I am working on projects that focus on environmental history and the capacity for people, past and present, to act with nature and the future in mind.
We are living through momentous times. How can you keep a historical perspective when change is happening at such speed?
I find it comforting to remember that the historical figures I study also felt they were living in times of tremendous, destabilizing, and frightening change. Nevertheless, they carried on with the things that they felt mattered, making consequential and imperfect choices that we now find instructive.
Have you observed any trends in history writing recently? What excites you about these?
Last spring, I participated in a fabulous conference at the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library in Harlem. Two Black women scholars—Michelle Commander and Natasha Lightfoot—organized the event. The theme was archives and affect. All the attendees were invested not only in meeting the archive with fierceness and creativity, but also in acknowledging their personal thoughts and emotions emergent from those archival encounters. I expect that we will see more of this trend toward holistic archival practice that consciously registers and reports on the multidimensionality of that work. Relatedly, in my courses on slavery, Black history, and Indigenous history, I am finding that students welcome the chance to make things in relation to and reflective of their archival research. They have been sewing quilts, carving mortars and pestles from wood, cooking heritage foods, and embroidering maps. These activities help to bring history to life for them, to increase their personal investment, and to deepen their understanding. It is a joy to watch students create.
You are very encouraging of the next generation of historians. If more and more of them do what you are doing, putting a spotlight and those neglected and discounted in mainstream history—how might the discipline itself change?
The discipline is always changing, which is fitting since the object of our study is change over time. Historians have been shining their lights onto the lives of marginalized social groups and “ordinary” people since before I was born. I have benefitted intellectually from the mid-and-late 20 th century booms in social history, Black studies, ethnic studies, women’s history, public history, and the list goes on. I have also gained a sense of tradition and permission from the narrative turn in academic historical writing, which I would date to the 1980s and 1990s. Scholars always stand on the shoulders of others, and we need to be ready to hoist the next generation up onto ours.
Marjoleine Kars, 2021 Winner
I am working on a microhistory of an African man named Accara whom I can trace from his forced migration as a teenager from West Africa to Berbice in 1742 to his death at age 90 as a free man in Suriname in 1817. Along the way he is enslaved for 20 years, a leader in the 1763 Berbice slave rebellion, a slave hunter for the Dutch, an army drummer in the Dutch Republic, a Maroon fighter in Suriname, and a personal servant in the Hague, before ending up as a slave-owning pensioner in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. I am fascinated with Accara because he employs so many radically different strategies to become his own master, yet he can never really escape slavery and racism.
One recent trend I am very interested in is historians writing their own family history. Their work combines investigative memoir, historical reconstruction, and narrative nonfiction. While I am not doing such research myself, I am teaching a course called “History Near and Dear,” in which students dig into an aspect of their family history or local history that intrigues them. I hope that by writing themselves into history, students become more interested in thinking about historical and emotional truths, about how we know what we know, and about how larger forces that may seem irrelevant to their lives, affect them.
You have been swinging between countries, from the US to the Netherlands, where you grew up, back to the US. How does your location influence your work?
In both countries, slavery is part of a public debate, but in very different ways. In the US, black history and diversity work are under attack while in The Netherlands the government recently apologized for slavery and the slave trade, and the king asked for forgiveness for his ancestors’ role in both. There is an upswing in research about slavery in The Netherlands, based on rich, and underutilized, Dutch sources and a national slavery museum is in the works. Historians are increasingly studying Dutch national history and Dutch colonial history together, rather than seeing them as two unrelated fields. My work is stimulated both by the urgency of reaffirming slavery and racism as constituent components of the American past and by the promise of greater public understanding of their central role in Dutch history.
Camilla Townsend, 2020 Winner
Many people responded to Fifth Sun by saying that the work had convinced them that the Aztecs were people much like any other people. But they also pushed me to spend more time considering the role of human sacrifice in their culture. I decided to return to the Nahuatl-language sources and pull from them absolutely everything that I could that touched on religious matters, whether relating to human sacrifice or any other element of spiritual life.
What can we expect next from Camilla Townsend?
The sources did not disappoint: I have found that we can learn much about Aztec religion if we at least temporarily exclude Spanish voices, and just read the statements in Nahuatl that I have collected. In about a year, I will be publishing a new book called Aztec Myths with Thames & Hudson.
Julia Lovell, 2019 Winner
I’ve just finished work on an exhibition at the British Museum, on China’s long 19 th century (1796-1912) as told through its material culture. It’s a period of huge turbulence, substantially caused by the impact of Western and Japanese imperialism. It was a privilege to try to narrate this history through objects as well as words, and to work with scholars from all over the world—including of course many of East Asian heritage—to draw out its dramatic stories and characters, from grandiloquent, reforming empresses to revolutionary feminists.
What can we expect next from Julia Lovell?
I’m working on a history of Chinese archaeology, a study of how the modern, scientific study of antiquity has moulded political, social and cultural identity in China over the past 120 years. Across many Chinese social strata, a sense of China as an ancient, continuous civilisation is fundamental to cultural and political pride. Harvard’s Rowan Flad recently argued that this is a golden age for Chinese archaeological discovery, and yet stunning excavations receive little public attention in Western countries. I’m hoping very much, post-Covid, to visit in person emblematic excavations, through which I can build a history of how interpretations of the deep past have shaped China’s sense of itself today.
Maya Jasanoff, 2018 Winner
I’m writing a book about the human preoccupation with ancestry, from the earliest recorded genealogies in ancient times to the DNA tests of today. It’s a sprawling project that takes me into all sorts of areas hitherto unfamiliar to me, and I’m loving the chance to read widely and deeply in phenomenal scholarship produced by so many generations before and alongside me.
For millennia people have believed themselves to be living through tumultuous or transformative times. A historical perspective can be particularly helpful in a time of perceived change by highlighting what is and isn’t new, how, and for whom. There’s less geopolitical change in the 21 st century so far than there was in the middle of the 20 th , say, when European empires fractured into independent nation-states; for all that our lives have been transformed by the digital revolution, arguably there’s been less palpable change in living conditions for those in US, Canada, or Britain since 1980, for instance, than there was 100-150 years ago with the advent of widespread indoor plumbing and electricity; telegraphs, radios and telephones; and fossil-fuel-powered transportation. What is new now is the speed and scale of human-induced climate change (and widespread awareness of it)—which environmental history vitally explores.
As a teacher, you are seeing the next generation of historians take shape. What are their concerns? What is your advice to those just setting out?
The history wars raging on both sides of the Atlantic about legacies of empire, colonization, and slavery (among other things) attest to the urgency of the past in public life, and plenty of students remain eager to learn about it, especially from traditionally marginalized perspectives. Unfortunately, decades of funding cuts and shifting priorities in universities (in the US especially public ones, which have traditionally trained large numbers of secondary school teachers) have led to a sharp contraction in the number of tenure-track positions, especially for pre-modern history. So historians of the next generation rightly worry about whether or not they can find secure, decently paid jobs doing what they love. It is heartbreaking—and holds worrying downstream consequences for scholarship and society.
Daniel Beer, 2017 Winner
What are you working on at the moment, and why are you taking this particular angle?
I’m working on a new book entitled “The Emperor Hunt: Revolution and the Birth of Terrorism in Imperial Russia,” which examines the rise of the revolutionary movement in the reign of Alexander II and specifically the emergence of a terrorist faction committed to the assassination of the tsar. I argue that the regicide in 1881 transformed the politics of the Russian Empire and prevented the autocracy from evolving into a constitutional monarchy better able to weather the pressures of modernization and war that eventually destroyed it in 1917. I’ve become fascinated by the assassination as a moment in which spectacular acts of political violence were grasped as a way of reframing politics and ushering in a new world.
Your field of expertise, modern Russia, couldn’t be of more urgent concern. How are you keeping up with developments, as a historian, when history is happening in real time? Have you observed any trends in history writing, more generally, recently? What excites you about these?
The field has, perhaps unsurprisingly been in a state of ferment since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Given that Russia is no longer a safe country for Western scholars to visit (especially if they have been openly critical of the Russian government) and many also refuse to visit a country waging an illegal war of conquest historians are needing to learn—once again—how to research Russia without the access to archives and libraries which we had come to take for granted. There has also been an often uncomfortable process of re-examining the assumptions about Russia that informed much of our research. The tendency to see the Russians as synonymous with the empire or with the Soviet Union is now rightly being challenged by a more careful consideration of the place of the non-Russian peoples in both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and the extent to which their experience has been one of colonial domination from Moscow.
What can we learn about the country, as it now exists, by taking an informed historical perspective?
The very dark turn that Russia has taken over the last decade or so but especially since the invasion inevitably raise important questions about how much this new revanchist imperialism is embedded in deep cultural and historical trends that stretch back decades, even centuries. The Kremlin has set great store by confecting historical narratives that legitimise its claims to Ukraine and project an image of national imperial greatness, a country and a people besieged by enemies without and within. A good example would be the relentless glorification of the Second World War and its appropriation by the Kremlin as tool popular mobilization and control within Russia. It’s only by a careful and considered examination of the historical record that these politicized narratives can be challenged, even if the crackdown within Russia make that very difficult at the moment.
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)
Previous article, next article, to the lithub daily, popular posts.
Follow us on Twitter
Ghosts, Specters, and Hauntings: 7 New Poetry Books to Read in November
- RSS - Posts
Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature
Sign Up For Our Newsletters
How to Pitch Lit Hub
Advertisers: Contact Us
We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!
Internet Archive Audio
- This Just In
- Grateful Dead
- Old Time Radio
- 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings
- Audio Books & Poetry
- Computers, Technology and Science
- Music, Arts & Culture
- News & Public Affairs
- Spirituality & Religion
- Radio News Archive
- Flickr Commons
- Occupy Wall Street Flickr
- NASA Images
- Solar System Collection
- Ames Research Center
- All Software
- Old School Emulation
- MS-DOS Games
- Historical Software
- Classic PC Games
- Software Library
- Kodi Archive and Support File
- Vintage Software
- CD-ROM Software
- CD-ROM Software Library
- Software Sites
- Tucows Software Library
- Shareware CD-ROMs
- Software Capsules Compilation
- CD-ROM Images
- ZX Spectrum
- DOOM Level CD
- Smithsonian Libraries
- FEDLINK (US)
- Lincoln Collection
- American Libraries
- Canadian Libraries
- Universal Library
- Project Gutenberg
- Children's Library
- Biodiversity Heritage Library
- Books by Language
- Additional Collections
- Prelinger Archives
- Democracy Now!
- Occupy Wall Street
- TV NSA Clip Library
- Animation & Cartoons
- Arts & Music
- Computers & Technology
- Cultural & Academic Films
- Ephemeral Films
- Sports Videos
- Videogame Videos
- Youth Media
Search the history of over 858 billion web pages on the Internet.
- Wayback Machine (iOS)
- Wayback Machine (Android)
- Explore the Collections
- Build Collections
Save Page Now
Capture a web page as it appears now for use as a trusted citation in the future.
Please enter a valid web address
- Donate Donate icon An illustration of a heart shape
The History and Literature of the Early Church
Audio item preview, share or embed this item, flag this item for.
- Graphic Violence
- Explicit Sexual Content
- Hate Speech
- Misleading/Inaccurate/Missing Metadata
plus-circle Add Review comment Reviews
Download options, in collections.
Uploaded by librivoxbooks on October 30, 2023
SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata)
- Divisions and Offices
- Grants Search
- Manage Your Award
- NEH's Application Review Process
- Professional Development
- Grantee Communications Toolkit
- NEH Virtual Grant Workshops
- Awards & Honors
- American Tapestry
- Humanities Magazine
- NEH Resources for Native Communities
- Search Our Work
- Office of Communications
- Office of Congressional Affairs
- Office of Data and Evaluation
- Budget / Performance
- Contact NEH
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Human Resources
- Information Quality
- National Council on the Humanities
- Office of the Inspector General
- Privacy Program
- State and Jurisdictional Humanities Councils
- Office of the Chair
- NEH-DOI Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Partnership
Celebrating Día de los Muertos : Humanities Research on Mexican History, Literature, and Culture
“Dia de los Muertos Altar Scene.”
Gift of Janice and Glenn Hatfield. Available at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
The Day of the Dead (or, in Spanish, Día de los Muertos ) is a commemorative holiday observed annually on November 1 and 2, both in its native Mexico and among Mexican people around the world. On the Day of the Dead, celebrants honor their deceased loved ones by leaving offerings at home altars ( ofrendas ), writing playful poems ( calaveras literarias ), and wearing colorful costumes, often including the holiday’s signature skull masks ( calacas ). Ahead of this year’s festivities, learn about thirteen projects funded by the NEH Division of Research Programs that explore Mexican history, literature, and culture.
Bueno, Christina. The Pursuit of Ruins: Archaeology, History, and the Making of Modern Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 2016).
During Porfirio Díaz’s thirty-one years as president in the late nineteenth century, Mexico’s state-sponsored history came to feature indigeneity more prominently, as Díaz sought to symbolically bind modern Mexico to the “great civilizations” of pre-colonial times. Yet, as Christina Bueno catalogs in The Pursuit of Ruins , even as Díaz’s government went to great lengths to preserve archaeological evidence of Mexico’s Indigenous past, the process of reframing the nation’s history excluded and denigrated its modern Indigenous population. Learn more about Bueno’s work here .
Burkhart, Louise M. Staging Christ's Passion in Eighteenth-Century Nahua Mexico (University Press of Colorado, 2023).
While living under eighteenth-century Spanish colonial rule, the Nahuas, a Mexican Indigenous group, performed their own versions of Christian “Passion plays” in the Nahuatl language. In Staging Christ’s Passion , Louise Burkhart characterizes the Nahuas’ dramaturgical modifications, which included depicting Jesus as a Nahua man, as an expression of Indigenous resistance to Spanish occupation. Learn more about Burkhart’s work here . Burkhart was also part of a team at SUNY Albany that was awarded an NEH grant to prepare digital translations of ten Nahuatl-language Passion plays.
Chowning, Margaret. Catholic Women and Mexican Politics, 1750-1940 (Princeton University Press, 2023).
Throughout Mexico’s history of sustained anti-clericalism, women have been the key to the Catholic Church’s resilience, as Margaret Chowning argues in Catholic Women and Mexican Politics . For nearly 200 years, women ensured that Catholicism remained a central element of Mexican civil society by forming lay associations, which bolstered the church’s political influence. Consequently, Chowning demonstrates that women have long been in the vanguard of Mexican conservative politics. Learn more about Chowning’s work here .
Graziano, Frank. Miraculous Images and Votive Offerings in Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2015).
Exploring the role of artwork in contemporary Mexico, Frank Graziano’s Miraculous Images and Votive Offerings analyzes numerous Mexican statues and paintings that are believed to have “miraculous” capabilities. Along with analyses of the artworks themselves, the book discusses votive offerings, which are left at shrines dedicated to individual artworks as thanks for performing miracles. Thus, Graziano’s project not only offers insight into Mexican artwork and art history; it also provides insight into a distinctive dimension of the nation’s spiritual culture. Learn more about Graziano’s work here .
Rashkin, Elissa J. The Stridentist Movement in Mexico: The Avant-Garde and Cultural Change in the 1920s (Lexington Books, 2009).
In the turbulent decade after the Mexican Revolution, the Stridentist Movement gained traction in multiple Central Mexican cities before, eventually, finding the most success in Xalapa, Veracruz. The Stridentists championed modernity and technological innovation by publishing books and manifestos, staging theatrical performances, and producing artwork and literature. In The Stridentist Movement in Mexico , Elissa Rashkin illustrates that while the Stridentist Movement disbanded by 1928, its message reverberated throughout the Americas and influenced other cultural movements well after the 1920s. Learn more about Rashkin’s work here .
Rodríguez-Alegría, Enrique. How to Make a New Spain: The Material Worlds of Colonial Mexico City (Oxford University Press, 2023).
Stevens, Donald Fithian. Mexico in the Time of Cholera (University of New Mexico Press, 2019).
Although its title alludes to public health, Mexico in the Time of Cholera offers an expansive history of daily life in Mexico's early years of independence. Using the second cholera pandemic as his book’s axis, Donald Stevens explores the everyday experiences of Mexican citizens as their nation confronted contagion, emerged from colonial rule, transitioned into the modern era, and disestablished the Catholic Church. Stevens is particularly interested in Catholicism in mid nineteenth-century Mexico, and the book cites parish archives to probe the role of religion in Mexico at a time of national crisis. Learn more about Stevens’s work here .
Townsend, Camilla. Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (Oxford University Press, 2019).
In Fifth Sun , Camilla Townsend recounts the Spanish conquest of Mexico solely from the perspective of the Aztec people. To accomplish this feat, Townsend uses infrequently referenced Nahuatl-language sources, in which the Aztecs not only cataloged their experience of Spanish colonization, but also their history prior to European incursion. By relying exclusively on these self-narratives, Townsend provides a revised account of Mexico’s early history. Learn more about Townsend’s work here . Additionally, Fifth Sun received the Cundill History Prize, awarded annually by McGill University to the best book of history, in 2020. As part of this award, Townsend gave the 2021 Cundill Lecture, which can be viewed here .
Wright, Amy E. Serial Mexico: Storytelling Across Media, from Nationhood to Now (Vanderbilt University Press, 2023).
Originating in oral tradition, serial narratives are fixtures in Mexican popular culture. Amy Wright, in Serial Mexico , explains how these time-honored stories document both change and continuity in Mexican culture. While serial narratives’ characters and story arcs may remain relatively fixed, their transmutation in the digital age—into forms ranging from comics to telenovelas—reflects evolving social and political beliefs in Mexico. Learn more about Wright’s work here .
“Revolutionary Forms: U.S. Literary Modernism and the Mexican Vogue, 1910-1940” by Geneva M. Gano
Analyzing artwork and writing produced by Mexican and U.S. artists in the early twentieth century, Geneva Gano’s upcoming book will highlight the Mexican Revolution’s influence on literary modernism in the United States. Unlike canonical scholarship on modernist literature, which typically exalts European impact in the U.S., Gano’s study will situate the works of prominent modernists in the context of the Americas, demonstrating the under-documented confluence of U.S. and Mexican literature. Learn more about Gano’s work here .
“Mexican Soundscapes of the Colonial Era” by Alexander Hidalgo
Although Alexander Hidalgo’s upcoming book will draw on print archival sources, his subject cannot be fully captured in written media. Focusing on Mexico’s colonial era, Hidalgo will explore the varied “soundscapes” of early Mexican history, from the cannon blasts that colonizers used to enforce obedience to the riotous shouts of anti-colonial protestors. With sound as its focal point, Hidalgo’s book promises to provide an account of Spanish colonialism in Mexico unlike any written previously. Learn more about Hidalgo’s work here .
“Protestant Women and Political Activism in Mexico, 1900-1955” by Kathleen Mary McIntyre
In what will be the first history of its kind, Kathleen McIntyre’s upcoming book will document the distinct forms that Protestant women’s citizenship took in post-revolutionary Mexico. Despite prevailing beliefs that politics were antithetical to both Protestantism and femininity, these women organized numerous civil society groups—including suffrage clubs and temperance organizations—that advanced both evangelical and feminist aims. McIntyre will also discuss contemporary relations between Catholic and Protestant Mexican women at a time when their nation’s religious culture was exceptionally fraught. Learn more about McIntyre’s work here .
“Making Paper in Mexico: A Material, Political, and Environmental History” by Corinna Zeltsman
In her upcoming material history, Corinna Zeltsman will explore the wide-ranging implications of papermaking in Mexico’s past. While paper was a source of political power during the nation’s early years of independence, it quickly became a locus of economic and political contention in the nineteenth century as various industries—from logging to paper mills, to newspapers—became increasingly dependent on paper for their prosperity. Learn more about Zeltsman’s work here .
Downloads & streaming, can't find it, other access, upcoming events, events by age, ongoing events, trending now, genealogy & local history, career & economic success, creating & making, research & learn, homework help, online courses, kids & teens, library information, library organization, support the library, connect with us.
- Search the: Catalog
- Search the: Website
Native Literature is a Gift: A Booklist for Native American Heritage Month
- November 1, 2023
Now and always is the time to read American Indian stories. In an interview with Oprah Magazine , Vassar poet and professor Molly McGlennen (Anishinaabe) says, “I always think of Native literature as a gift to the world. Telling our own stories on our own terms is a political act. Native writers and artists allow non-Indigenous people to reckon with what’s been obfuscated from their consciousness. Whether you know it or not, you benefit from violence against Native peoples.”
Here is a selection of recently-published picture books, middle readers, teen, and adult titles that center the indigenous perspective.
Grandma’s Tipi: A Present-Day Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson
Check It Out: Book
The Secret Pocket by Peggy Janicki, illustrated by Carrielynn Victor
Check It Out: Book
Voices of the People by Joseph Bruchac
The Song that Called Them Home by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Maya McKibbin
Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers, illustrated by Jeff Edwards
The Lost Journals of Sacajewea: A Novel by Debra Magpie Earling
A Council of Dolls: A Novel by Mona Susan Power
Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events by Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, Paulette F. Molin
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath: A Novel by Moniquill Blackgoose
Indigenous Ingenuity: A Celebration of Traditional North American Knowledge by Deidre Havrelock and Edward Kay, with illustrations by Kalila Fuller
Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology , Edited by Shane Hawk
Check It Out: Book
Held by the Land: A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness by Leigh Joseph
Project 562: Changing the Way We See Native American by Matika Wilbur
VenCo: A Novel by Cherie Dimaline
Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir by Thomas C. Gannon
Check It Out: Book
Films from Kanopy
Children of the Arctic | Watch Now
A year-in-the-life portrait of Native Alaskan teenagers coming of age in Barrow, Alaska – the northern-most community of the United States.
Gather | Watch Now
GATHER follows the stories of natives on the frontlines of a growing movement to reconnect with spiritual and cultural identities that were devastated by genocide.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World | Watch Now
This revelatory documentary brings to light the profound and overlooked influence of Indigenous people on popular music in North America.
What Was Ours | Watch Now
- Written By: Skyler
- Tags: 2023 , Native American Heritage Month
SHARE THIS STORY
Mend-It Café for Ages 10-18 | A Do-It-Yourself Workshop
Insights from Northwest Authors: NaNoWriMo
Gale Databases: An Information Wonderland
Books, movies & more, search the catalog get a card download apps explore all digital suggest a purchase research tools a-to-z obituaries book a meeting room children’s playspaces, about us library news the blog diversity, equity, & inclusion sign up for newsletters leadership employment policies help & faqs, central shadle park liberty park the hive® south hill indian trail hillyard all locations, connect with us, 509.444.5300.
Spokane Public Library is a Community of Learning
Central Shadle Park Liberty Park The Hive ™ South Hill Indian Trail Hillyard All Locations
- Today’s Paper
- Mini Crosswords
- Today's 🎧
- Elections 2023
- Premium Stories
- UPSC Special
- Health Specials
- October in Books: What to read next, as per the jury
Apart from the JCB Prize for Literature, three book awards came out with short- and long-lists for literature in translation, business stories, and Indian history. Here’s what the juries chose, and why
Literature in Translation
An award by The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), one of the most prestigious prizes of its kind, announced its shortlist and two Indian-language translations (Tamil and Malayalam) made it.
They are Sheela Tomy’s Valli (Rs 699, HarperCollins), translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil and Jeyamohan’s Stories of the True (Rs 799, Juggernaut), translated from Tamil by Priyamvada.
The book-length works are part of the National Translation Awards in Prose 2023 (administered by ALTA), currently in its 25th year. The winning translator, announced on November 11, will win $4,000.
On Valli , about Adivasi communities in the Western Ghats fighting back against generational exploitation, a jury note says, “Exploratory in form — encompassing… letters, folk songs, and poems — the story is as much about a family and the inhabitants of Kalluvayal as it is about the proximate ancient trees, flora, and quick-flowing Kabani river.”
On Stories of the True , a short fiction collection about everything from India’s former pulp fiction industry to state-enabled casteism, a jury note says, “From tending to animals in a forest to begging a publisher for payment that is rightfully due, [its] scenes are electric in nature and cinematic in feel, engraving a lasting impression on the reader.”
The prose judges for this year’s award are Natascha Bruce, Shelley Frisch, Jason Grunebaum, Sawad Hussain, and Lytton Smith. There is a poetry counterpart to the same prize, which represented 19 languages and 19 presses in the longlist stage.
The award has been won by an Indian writer once before, in 2021, by Tejaswini Niranjana for her Kannada-to-English translation of Jayant Kaikini’s No Presents Please .
The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2023 announced its longlist which includes stories of forgotten freedom fighters, constitution-makers, and journalists.
The prize, instituted in 2018 by the New India Foundation, carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh and goes annually to an author of a book about Independent India’s history.
This year’s longlist of 10 books includes The Eastern Gate: War and Peace in Nagaland, Manipur and India’s Far East (Rs 899, Simon and Schuster) by Sudeep Chakravarti, and Founding Mothers of the Indian Republic: Gender Framing of the Politics of the Constitution (Rs 1295, Cambridge University Press) by Achyut Chetan.
It also includes Delhi Reborn: Partition and Nation Building in India’s Capital (Rs 2599, Stanford University Press) by Rotem Geva, and Insurgency and the Artist: The Art of the Freedom Struggle in India (Rs 2495, Roli Books) by Vinay Lal.
Also included is Crooked Cats: Beastly Encounters in the Anthropocene (Rs 499, HarperCollins) by Nayanika Mathur, and Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya (Rs 999, Penguin) by Akshaya Mukul.
The Journey of Hindi Language Journalism in India: From Raj to Swaraj and Beyond (Rs 1435, Orient BlackSwan) by Mrinal Pande, and Land, Guns, Caste, Woman: The Memoir of a Lapsed Revolutionary (Rs 499, Navayana) by Gita Ramaswamy, are also in the longlist.
So are House of the People: Parliament and the Making of Indian Democracy (Rs 1435, Cambridge University Press) by Ronojoy Sen, and Nehru’s India: A History in Seven Myths (Rs 899, Princeton University Press) by Taylor C Sherman.
The jury comprises political scientist Niraja Gopal Jayal (chair), historian Srinath Raghavan, diplomat Navtej Sarna, president and chief executive of Centre for Policy Research Yamini Aiyar, and vice-chairman of TeamLease Manish Sabharwal.
Previous winners include The Chipko Movement: A People’s History (Rs 895, Permanent Black) by Shekhar Pathak in 2022. Naroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism (Rs 699, Harvard University Press) by Dinyar Patel won in 2021.
Business and Entrepreneurship
The Gaja Capital Business Book Prize 2023 also announced its shortlist. The annual non-fiction book prize carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh for an author of business and entrepreneurship stories.
Against All Odds: The IT Story of India (Rs 799, Penguin) by Kris Gopalakrishnan, N Dayasindhu and Krishnan Narayanan is in the shortlist. So is Capture the Dream: The Many Lives of Cap CP Krishnan Nair (Rs 799, Juggernaut) by Bachi Karkaria.
Essentially Mira: The Extraordinary Journey Behind Forest Essentials (Rs 699, HarperCollins) by Mira Kulkarni is also in, as is The Tech Phoenix: Satyam’s 100-Day Turnaround (Rs 395, Rupa) by TN Manoharan and V Pattabhi Ram.
Lastly, Winning Middle India: The Story of India’s New-Age Entrepreneurs (Rs 599, Penguin) by TN Hari and Bala Srinivasa is in the shortlist.
The winner will be declared in November. The jury comprises veterans from business, academia and governance: Manish Sabharwal (chair), Imran Jafar, Arindam Bhattacharya, Lakshmi Venu, Sangita Reddy, Michael Queen, Neelkanth Mishra, Prithvi Haldea, Shailesh Haribhakti, and Upendra Kumar Sinha.
ALSO READ | JCB Prize for Literature 2023 shortlist features three translations, four presses, a debut novel and debut translation
Last year’s award was won by The Indian Express National Rural Affairs and Agriculture Editor Harish Damodaran for Broke to Breakthrough: The Rise of India’s Largest Private Dairy Company (Rs 699, Penguin).
- book reviews
- Israel-Hamas War News Live Updates: Blinken says 'need to do more to protect Palestinian civilians' as Israeli troops tighten encirclement of Gaza 3 hours ago
- Delhi News Live Updates: LG calls air pollution situation 'worrisome', urges people to remain indoors and use public transport 4 hours ago
- Elections 2023 Live Updates: LPG cylinders for Rs 500, financial assistance under PMAY among BJP sops in Chattisgarh 6 hours ago
- Mumbai News Live Updates: Air Quality Index stands at 168; BMC to install air purifiers 12 hours ago
Best of Express
Nov 03: Latest News
- 01 ED officer arrested in Jaipur by Rajasthan ACB for accepting Rs 15 lakh bribe
- 02 Dust from construction works: BMC to install air purifiers at 5 locations
- 03 Asian Champions Trophy: India turn on afterburners to defeat Korea, as Salima and Sangita shine with their mentor in attendance
- 04 Karthi: ‘I don’t see Madras as a film about caste’
- 05 Karnataka health dept issues advisory after detection of Zika virus in mosquito pool in Chikkaballapura
- How Chandler’s sarcasm spoke to Gen Z
- Jor Bagh’s The Bookshop moves to Lodhi Colony, ending 52-year era
- Political Pulse
- Movie Review
- Web Stories