Difference Between English Literature & Literature in English

English Literature vs Literature in English

Although the terms “English literature” and “literature in English” may seem similar and confusing, there is a distinct difference between the two. Literature refers to the collective body of literary productions from around the world, written in many languages. As the study of literature has interested people from various regions for centuries, it has become a subject taught in educational institutions, offering diverse programs for students. Literature can be categorized by country, chronological period, or geographic area. Regional literature includes literary works written in multiple languages of a specific region. This article delves into the differences between English literature and literature in English.

What is English Literature?

English literature refers to literary works written not just in England, but also in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and former British colonies, including the United States. However, as literary works from America began to flourish in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a sub-branch of English literature called American literature emerged. Chronologically, English literature is divided into eras such as Old English literature (c.658-1100), Middle English literature (1100–1500), English Renaissance (1500–1660), Neo-Classical Period (1660–1798), 19th-century literature, and English literature since 1901, which includes modern, post-modern, and 20th-century literature. Renowned English literature writers include William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, William Blake, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Arthur Conan Doyle, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Salman Rushdie, and Dylan Thomas, among others. Learning English literature is essential as it deals with universal themes and values that help readers grow in their everyday lives.

What is Literature in English?

Literature in English refers to literary works written in languages other than English but translated into English. For example, French literature is written entirely in the French language. However, when the famous French novel Les Miserables is translated into English, it becomes literature in English. Thus, literary productions written in different parts of the world in various languages and scripts, when translated into English, are called literature in English.

Key Takeaways

  • English literature refers to literary works written in Great Britain and British colonies, whereas literature in English refers to literary works from all over the world written in any other language.
  • English literature is written in the English language, while literature in English is written in other languages but is translated into English.
  • English literature primarily reflects English culture, while literature in English mirrors diverse cultures.

Despite the distinct and subtle differences between English literature and literature in English, they are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably.

Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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