Generally it means a body of literary work including essays, prose, poetry - anything that utilizes the written word in a particular culture.
How does enjoying literature contribute to personal development?
These days with so much of our time spent being entertained by movies, video games and the like, less is spent reading and enjoying the literary works of celebrated writers from the past and present.
This is unfortunate because there is so much we could learn about life and ourselves if we take time to read more.
When we read, our imaginations take over and we cannot help but become part of the plot in a fiction or non-fiction work.
We find ourselves empathizing with the characters and living through them as they plod on and deal with the predicaments they find themselves in. We see how they solve their problems, the mistakes they make and how they could have made better choices. We learn how the personalities of different characters deal with situations and intermingle with each other.
Without having to experience the tragedies, difficulties and pain ourselves, we broaden our understanding of human nature and the human condition. We live and learn through the experiences of the characters.
To paraphrase Marcel Proust:
"Only through literary art
we escape from our selves and know the perspective of another on the
Likewise the timeless works of the great literary masters such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Voltaire, Hugo, Cervantes, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy to name a few, enrich and deepen our understanding by giving us great insight into human nature and the consequences of human action.
Some famous contemporary writers include: James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, D.H. Lawrence and Vladimir Nabokov.
There is nothing like reading literature of all types and genres to expand you and develop your understanding of human nature in a variety of ways.