Literature, in its broadest sense, refers to any collection of written material; but, it is often used more narrowly to refer to writings that are particularly regarded to be works of art, such as prose fiction, drama, and poetry. During the last several centuries, the term has been broadened to encompass oral literature, a significant portion of which has been recorded. It is a means of recording, conserving, and disseminating information and amusement; it may also play a function in society on a variety of levels, including social, psychological, spiritual, and political.
Literature may encompass works in a variety of non-fiction genres, such as biography, diaries, memoir, correspondence, and the essay, as well as works in the fiction genre. Nonfictional books, articles, and other written material about a specific topic are included in the wide definition of literature.
The word is derived from the Latin literatura/litteratura, which means "learning, a writing, grammar," and originally meant "writing made with letters," from litera/littera, which means "letter." Despite this, the word has also been used to refer to writings that are spoken or sung. Because of advancements in print technology, written works have been distributed and reproduced in ever-increasing numbers, and this has now expanded to encompass electronic literature.
Literature is classed according to whether it is poetry, prose, or drama, and such works are further divided according to historical eras, as well as its adherence to specific aesthetic characteristics, which is referred to as a genre.