Themes and Classification of Literature


What are the subjects, purposes, or, themes of literature? How does Hudson classify them in the first chapter?

Hudson’s An Introduction to the Study of Literature is an interesting guide for the beginners of literature. He does not simply define the literature in first chapter but also classifies literature theme-wise and content-wise. He says that literature comes out of life, hence life is the primary theme of literature, but later he confirms five themes of literature.

Various Themes of Literature

There are various themes of literature. The five broad themes of literature, according to Hudson, are:
1.      The Personal Experiences of Individuals as Individuals:

This includes the things which make up the sum-total of the writer’s personal life. It suggests that literature deals with the personal thoughts, ideas, experience, problems and achievements of writer’s life. Literature is an expression of writer’s personal life as well. Whatever experience man is having as individual, he reports all these experiences in literature with enough sincerity.
 
2.      The Experience of Man as Man:

Some experiences of man as man are always the same, such as, the great common questions of life and death, sin and destiny, God and man’s relation to God, and, the general fate of human race. Literature deals with all these aspects of man’s life as man. In this way, these form one of the major themes of literature.

3.      The Relations of Individual with entire Social World:

The relation of individual with his fellows, or entire social world, also forms an essential theme of literature. Literature, in fact, is revelation of man’s relation with the whole world, his response to the society and his problems with the world. How man acts or reacts to the world that literature shows us.     

4.      The External world of Nature and our relation to it:

Man lives in lap of nature. Nature has a great importance in life of man. Man cannot think of his own existence without nature. Nature is a good friend of man. And hence, it is for sure that nature finds expression in all activities of man, including literature. In literature, we find expression of writer’s love of nature and the relation of human with it.

5.      Man’s effort to create and express under the various forms of literature and art:

Man, by his nature, is unable to keep his experience, observations, emotions, ideas, fancies, to himself, but he is on the contrary under the stress of constant desire of expressing these to other and for that he chooses various channels of expression. Thus man’s own effort to create and express under the various forms of literature and art forms this theme of literature.

Followed by these five themes of literature, Hudson discusses “five classes of production.”  These five classes are the theme-based classifications of literature. They are:

1.      The literature of purely personal experience.
2.      The literature of common life of man as man.
3.      The literature of the social world under all its aspects.
4.      The literature which treats nature.
5.      The literature which treats of literature and art.

The second type of classification which Hudson suggests is the content-based classification. Here he classifies literature into three groups. They are:

1.      Personal literature

Personal literature is literature of self-expression. It includes the different kinds of lyric of poetry, the poetry of meditation and argument, and, elegy. It also includes the essay, treatise, and criticism, written from personal point of view.

2.      Objective literature

Objective literature means literature which deals objectively with life of other people. This includes history and biography, the ballad and epic, the romance in verse and prose, the story in verse and prose, and, novel and drama.

3.      Descriptive literature

This is not an important division as above mentioned two groups may include this. However Hudson says that it includes book of travel and descriptive essays and poems.

To conclude, we can say that Hudson suggest us the theme-based and the content-based classification of literature in the first chapter.

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