Probing into the meaning of literature is an interesting thing. I have classified the meaning of Literature as Art, Life, Culture and Philosophy.
Literature as Art
Literature as Art resembles a painting. The tropes or figures of speech used in the literary language ornament it. Literature as art belongs to the realm of aesthetic appreciation. Art of Literature uses various literary devices like Metaphors, Similes, Puns, Parables, Hyperboles, Allusions, Allegories, hyperbole, rhetorical question, Metonymy, Zeugma, Oxymoron, Fables and many more.
When it comes to life, what is literature? What does literature do? Life of Literature is a character sketch. Character is the revelation of biography and autobiography. Character also includes the plot of the novel or the mystery hidden in the novel.
How can literature become culture? Looking at literature from the cultural point of view, we have to take a plunge into structuralism. Structuralist thought divides all language into signs. A sign consists of the signifier (a visual tangible element) and the signified (an idea). When we say Rose is love, we mean that Rose is the signifier and love the signified. A writer will write culture into signs. As culture, literature also dwells on the socio-cultural institutions.
How can we look at literature from the philosophical point of view? Philosophy of the novel contains ideas in the novel. For example: in Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus, we find that Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the uphill, only to find it rolls down again. What Camus meant was life is chaotic and absurd. The literature of Camus paved the way for the philosophy of existentialism.