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Western literature, also known as European literature,is the literature written in the context of Western culture in the languages of Europe, including the ones belonging to the Indo-European language family as well as several geographically or historically related languages such as Basque and Hungarian. Western literature is considered one of the defining elements of Western civilization.
The best of Western literature is considered to be the Western canon. The list of works in the Western canon varies according to the critic's opinions on Western culture and the relative importance of its defining characteristics.
Western literature includes written works in many languages:
Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in the Western world traditionally refers to the study of Classical Greek and Roman literature in their original languages of Ancient Greek and Latin, respectively. It may also include Greco-Roman philosophy, history, and archaeology as secondary subjects.
Most languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. Out of a total European population of 744 million as of 2018, some 94% are native speakers of an Indo-European language; within Indo-European, the three largest phyla are Romance, Germanic, and Slavic with more than 200 million speakers each, between them accounting for close to 90% of Europeans. Smaller phyla of Indo-European found in Europe include Hellenic, Baltic, Albanian, Celtic and Indo-Aryan.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania, other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,400 years of written records. Its writing system is the Greek alphabet, which has been used for over 2,600 years; previously, Greek was recorded in writing systems such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
H, or h, is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is aitch, or regionally haitch.
The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress in the United States. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries.
The Western canon is the body of high culture literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that is highly valued in the West: works that have achieved the status of classics. However, not all these works originate in the Western world, and such works are also valued throughout the world. It is "a certain Western intellectual tradition that goes from, say, Socrates to Wittgenstein in philosophy, and from Homer to James Joyce in literature". The word canon is derived from ancient Greek κανών, kanṓn, meaning a measuring rod, or standard. The Bible, a product of ancient Jewish culture, from the Levant, in Western Asia, has been a major force in shaping Western culture, and "has inspired some of the great monuments of human thought, literature, and art".
Greek literature dates back from the ancient Greek literature, beginning in 800 BC, to the modern Greek literature of today.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves an analysis of language form, language meaning, and language in context.
Gerard of Cremona was an Italian translator of scientific books from Arabic into Latin. He worked in Toledo, Kingdom of Castile and obtained the Arabic books in the libraries at Toledo. Some of the books had been originally written in Greek and, although well known in Byzantine Constantinople and Greece at the time, were unavailable in Greek or Latin in Western Europe. Gerard of Cremona is the most important translator among the Toledo School of Translators who invigorated Western medieval Europe in the twelfth century by transmitting the Arabs' and ancient Greeks' knowledge in astronomy, medicine and other sciences, by making the knowledge available in Latin. One of Gerard's most famous translations is of Ptolemy's Almagest from Arabic texts found in Toledo.
Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages. The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works. Just as in modern literature, it is a complex and rich field of study, from the utterly sacred to the exuberantly profane, touching all points in-between. Works of literature are often grouped by place of origin, language, and genre.
A sacred language, "holy language" or liturgical language is any language that is cultivated and used primarily in religious service or for other religious reasons by people who speak another, primary language in their daily life.
Comparative literature is an academic field dealing with the study of literature and cultural expression across linguistic, national, geographic, and disciplinary boundaries. Comparative literature "performs a role similar to that of the study of international relations, but works with languages and artistic traditions, so as to understand cultures 'from the inside'". While most frequently practiced with works of different languages, comparative literature may also be performed on works of the same language if the works originate from different nations or cultures among which that language is spoken.
A classical language is a language with an independent literary tradition and a large and ancient body of written literature. Classical languages are typically dead languages, or show a high degree of diglossia, as the spoken varieties of the language diverge further away from the classical written language over time.
The culture of Spain is based on a variety of historical influences, primarily based on pre-Roman Celtic and Iberian culture. Other ancient peoples such as Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks also had some influence. In the areas of language and also religion, the Ancient Romans left a lasting legacy in the Spanish culture because Rome created Hispania as a political, legal and administrative unit. The subsequent course of Spanish history added other elements to the country's culture and traditions.
High culture encompasses the cultural objects of aesthetic value, which a society collectively esteem as exemplary art, and the intellectual works of philosophy, history, and literature that a society consider representative of their culture.
Greek East and Latin West are terms used to distinguish between the two parts of the Greco-Roman world, specifically the eastern regions where Greek was the lingua franca and the western parts where Latin filled this role. During the Roman Empire a divide had persisted between Latin- and Greek-speaking areas; this divide was encouraged by administrative changes in the empire's structure between the 3rd and 5th centuries, which led ultimately to the establishment of separate administrations for the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire.
Gaelic literature is literature in the vernacular Gaelic languages of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include oral literature, much of which has been transcribed. Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment.
The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and states, depending on the context, most often consisting of the majority of Europe, the Americas, and Australasia. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient or Eastern world. It might mean the Northern half of the North–South divide.
The legacy of the Roman Empire has been varied on it and significant, comparable to that of other hegemonic polities of world history.