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Example sentences body of literature

The new research adds to a growing body of literature surrounding music’s influence on insect behavior.
Writing smuggled out of prisons or done after the writer's release has left its indelible mark on the body of literature .
The body of literature included popular fiction, text books and academic works.
It was seen as a great advance both in results and method, and rendered obsolete a large body of literature .
Its main goals are to situate the current study within the body of literature and to provide context for the particular reader.

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Definition of 'literature' literature


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It's always difficult at first to gain a sense of the body of literature on your topic - particularly its boundaries. This is because 'the body of literature' relevant to your topic often does not pre-exist definition of your topic. Part of your task in early months of candidature is to explore the studies, frameworks, concepts and methods that might be relevant to your inquiry. As you prioritize these, it becomes clearer which areas of research you need to review. For example, the literature review for a research project examining the sustainability of community-managed forestry practices in Papua New Guinea will not be limited to the literature on that particular topic. Indeed, there is not likely to be very much existing literature on that topic. However, there is a wealth of literature on ‘sustainability’, on ‘forestry practices’, and even on ‘community-management of forestry resources’. All these studies will need to be reviewed to define and contextualise these key terms in the proposed project. Determining what literature or previous research is relevant to your topic involves careful thought about your project's relationship to the discipline or disciplines within which you are working. Understanding the 'body' of literature also involves reading across articles and papers, rather than viewing each one independently. With this latter task, it can help to think about the following:

  • Is this topic well established and extensively researched within the discipline or is it an area of emerging interest and expertise?
  • Is there consensus or disagreement about the topic and how it should be approached?
  • What are the issues or themes that arise most frequently in consideration of this topic?
  • Can existing studies be grouped by method, results, approach or theme?
  • Within the body of literature on this topic, which studies or authors are producing outstanding results? Why are these results particularly significant?
  • What are the limitations of, and where are the gaps in, the existing literature? 
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Definition of literature

Examples of literature in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'literature.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Phrases Containing literature

  • gray literature

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“Literature.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Nov. 2023.

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Embodiment

Introduction, general overviews and edited collections.

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Embodiment by Anna Harris LAST REVIEWED: 23 April 2021 LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0151

Embodiment is a concept in constant motion, threading through swaths of literature from anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and, more recently, neuroscience. Although the concept becomes different things in different places, broadly speaking in anthropology, embodiment is a way of describing porous, visceral, felt, enlivened bodily experiences, in and with inhabited worlds. While anthropology has long had bodily concerns at its heart, issues of embodiment really became a central concept and object of study only in the mid-1980s, in the midst of a more general philosophical trend in the humanities and social sciences. A move was made here from studies of the body to taking the perspective of a bodily being-in-the-world as the starting point. Anthropological engagements with embodiment have several characteristics, which distinguish them from other fields of study. First, theoretical understandings of embodiment are stitched not only from bringing together and critically examining a key set of philosophies (predominantly phenomenology and practice theory), but also doing so in correspondence with insights from ethnographic fieldwork. This theoretical approach has developed largely in opposition to Western dualisms and stagnate bodily categories, emphasizing process and contingency. For many first tackling embodiment head-on, their concern was to address questions of power and oppression through looking at ideologies of sex, gender, and racial difference. Medical anthropologists further developed the concept in their studies of illness. Topics now have now expanded greatly, including new approaches to traditional themes and emerging concerns about the virtual, the (epi)genetic, toxic environments and beyond-human bodies. Anthropology is also characterized by embodied fieldwork, where the researcher’s body is recognized as being deeply entangled in the process of study. The selection of texts in this article, chosen from a vast and growing body of literature, reflects both embodied anthropology and anthropologies of embodiment. It includes works by authors who have contributed to these areas in substantial ways through methodological reflections, ethnographic cases, and/or theoretical developments. The texts highlight not only how arbitrary it is to separate theories from fieldwork and methods from findings, but also nature/culture, mind/body, reason/emotion, inner/outer, self/other, and many other binaries that anthropologists continually seek to problematize, stitch together, and pull apart in their study of the elusive yet captivating questions of embodiment.

Scholars new to the embodiment literature, as well as those looking for good overviews, will find helpful several anthologies of classic and contemporary texts on key topics related to embodiment, as well as the summaries published in the journal Annual Review of Anthropology (see Journals and Blogs ). Csordas 1994 is one of the earlier edited collections marking the rise of embodiment in anthropology. Farquhar and Lock 2007 offers one of the better compendiums of classic and contemporary texts theorizing the body, introducing many of the key themes and historical developments in anthropology. Mascia-Lees 2011 is an edited collection that offers slightly more recent texts on embodiment, which draw predominantly from North American scholars, with many similar themes shared with Farquhar and Lock’s collection. While embodiment scholars will find numerous articles in Annual Review of Anthropology of interest, several overview articles are worth highlighting, including Lock 1993 , a historical location of embodiment work prior to the 1990s; van Wolputte 2004 , an overview of the ways in which embodiment literature relates to issues of identity and subjectivity; and Desjarlais and Throop 2011 , which focuses on phenomenology and embodiment.

Csordas, Thomas, ed. 1994. Embodiment and experience: The existential ground of culture and self . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Contributors to this edited volume move beyond body as text and representation to advance a more dynamic, sensate study of the body through chapters on pain, emotion, and violence, for example. This is a classic compendium for students of embodiment.

Desjarlais, Robert, and C. Jason Throop. 2011. Phenomenological approaches in anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology 40:87–102.

DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-092010-153345

A critical historical and contemporary review of phenomenologically oriented anthropology. Topics covered are vast and include politics and violence, language, emotion, illness, pain, ageing and death, sensory perception, subjectivity, empathy, morality, religion, art, aesthetics, narratives, temporality, and spatiality.

Farquhar, Judith, and Margaret Lock, eds. 2007. Beyond the body proper: Reading the anthropology of material life . Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

A particularly useful compendium of classic and important texts theorizing the body by leading anthropologists in the field. Terrific source of material for postgraduate teaching as well as reading groups. Issues explored include the commodification of bodies, gender, sex, colonialism, and the biosciences.

Lock, Margaret. 1993. Cultivating the body: Anthropology and epistemologies of bodily practice and knowledge. Annual Review of Anthropology 22:133–155.

DOI: 10.1146/

Charts the work prior to the early 1990s that engaged with the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the body. Offers great summaries of key literatures while arguing for an open approach toward embodiment, which resists limiting its boundaries and circumscribing its qualities.

Mascia-Lees, Frances E., ed. 2011. A companion to the anthropology of the body and embodiment . Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

A collection of twenty-nine essays on themes such as affect, biopower, (trans)gender, genomics, bodily modification, pain, post-socialism, racialization, and transnationalism. Marking out key themes of embodiment in anthropology the volume also offers more recent studies into the production of scientific, technological, and medical expertise in studying bodies and embodiment.

van Wolputte, Steven. 2004. Hang on to your self: Of bodies, embodiment, and selves. Annual Review of Anthropology 33:251–269.

DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.143749

Another useful overview article, focusing on anthropological debates that challenge the making of selves, identities, and belonging. Calls for an embodied epistemology as “knowledge-in-action” as the basis for social practices.

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Bodies in Literature

What kinds of reading, writing, and translation occur in relation to and between bodies nine writers explore the contours—and limits—of the human form on the page. .


Curated and introduced by Sara Wilson

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Portrait of Wally Neuzil

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Written on the Body

Roasted Lover Thighs illustration by Marla Johnson

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body literature definition

September 2015

Bodies in Literature, new fiction by Naja Marie Aidt and Nnedi Okorafor; verse by Dunya Mikhail, Jiang Tao, and six Cuban poets; and essays by Ma Jian and Chris Astwood.

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Literary Theory

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A body of written works related by subject-matter (e.g. the literature of computing), by language or place of origin (e.g. Russian literature), or by prevailing cultural standards of merit. In this last sense, ‘literature’ is taken to include oral, dramatic, and broadcast compositions that may not have been published in written form but which have been (or deserve to be) preserved. Since the 19th century, the broader sense of literature as a totality of written or printed works has given way to more exclusive definitions based on criteria of imaginative, creative, or artistic value, usually related to a work's absence of factual or practical reference (see autotelic). Even more restrictive has been the academic concentration upon poetry, drama, and fiction. Until the mid-20th century, many kinds of non-fictional writing—in philosophy, history, biography, criticism, topography, science, and politics—were counted as literature; implicit in this broader usage is a definition of literature as that body of works which—for whatever reason—deserves to be preserved as part of the current reproduction of meanings within a given culture (unlike yesterday's newspaper, which belongs in the disposable category of ephemera). This sense seems more tenable than the later attempts to divide literature—as creative, imaginative, fictional, or non-practical—from factual writings or practically effective works of propaganda, rhetoric, or didactic writing. The Russian Formalists' attempt to define literariness in terms of linguistic deviations is important in the theory of poetry, but has not addressed the more difficult problem of the non-fictional prose forms. See also belles-lettres , canon, paraliterature. For a fuller account, consult Peter Widdowson, Literature (1998).

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writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.

the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.

the profession of a writer or author.

literary work or production.

any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills: literature describing company products.

Archaic . polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.

Origin of literature

Synonym study for literature, other words from literature.

  • pre·lit·er·a·ture, noun

Words Nearby literature Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use literature in a sentence

If you want to understand the flamboyant family of objects that make up our solar system—from puny, sputtering comets to tremendous, ringed planets—you could start by immersing yourself in the technical terms that fill the scientific literature .

Poway Unified anticipates bringing forward two new courses – ethnic studies and ethnic literature – to the school board for review, said Christine Paik, a spokeswoman for the district.

The book she completed after that trip, Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928, would be hailed as a classic in the literature on sexuality and adolescence.

He also told Chemistry World he envisages the robots eventually being able to analyze the scientific literature to better guide their experiments.

Research also suggests that reading literature may help increase empathy and understanding of others’ experiences, potentially spurring better real-world behavior.

The research literature , too, asks these questions, and not without reason.

She wanted to know what happened over five years, or even 10, but the scientific literature had little to offer.

The religion shaped all facets of life: art, medicine, literature , and even dynastic politics.

Speaking of the literature you love, the Bloomsbury writers crop up in your collection repeatedly.

literature in the 14th century, Strohm points out, was an intimate, interactive affair.

All along the highways and by-paths of our literature we encounter much that pertains to this "queen of plants."

There cannot be many persons in the world who keep up with the whole range of musical literature as he does.

In early English literature there was at one time a tendency to ascribe to Solomon various proverbs not in the Bible.

He was deeply versed in Saxon literature and published a work on the antiquity of the English church.

Such unromantic literature as Acts of Parliament had not, it may be supposed, up to this, formed part of my mental pabulum.

British Dictionary definitions for literature

/ ( ˈlɪtərɪtʃə , ˈlɪtrɪ- ) /

written material such as poetry, novels, essays, etc, esp works of imagination characterized by excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest

the body of written work of a particular culture or people : Scandinavian literature

written or printed matter of a particular type or on a particular subject : scientific literature ; the literature of the violin

printed material giving a particular type of information : sales literature

the art or profession of a writer

obsolete learning

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Writing the Body in Literature and Culture

Key information, module code:, credit value:, module description.

Until recently, the physical body has been a much-neglected subject of contemporary women's writing, whether fictional or autobiographical. Theoretical writings that emerged from contemporary feminist debates in the latter part of the twentieth century tended to privilege more psychoanalytic or abstract considerations of the corporeal. Feminist thought's differentiation of sex and gender, and consequent drive to dissociate biology from determinism and to emphasise the power of the rational female mind may further account for the only recent emergence of the body as a subject worthy of critical and literary analysis. How can language capture the physiological changes and states undergone by the body? Is the 'unspeakable' nature of certain physiological experiences compounded by their unspoken nature, their taboo status? This module seeks to redress that imbalance by focusing more on the materiality of bodies (principally female or non-binary) as they evolve through a series of life events or experiences: abortion; motherhood; transition and ageing. It locates the body in different epochs and national contexts in order to examine the relationship between subjectivity, corporeality and identity more broadly. The content of this module will also be supplemented with audiovisual and filmic representations of the body as part of its secondary corpus. All texts on this module are available in translation.

Assessment details

one 4000-word essay (100%)

Educational aims & objectives

  • To introduce students to the literary, historicaland cultural contexts of twentieth-century and twenty-first century women's writing
  • To deepen students' knowledge of different genres dealing withrepresentations of the body: theory, fiction(including the short story), autobiography, and the essay
  • To introduce students to (or to consolidate their prior knowledge of) theories of corporeality and the body in relation to women's writing in particular

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will:

  • demonstrate sound knowledge of the various contexts of the twentieth- and twenty-first century writing dealing with representations of the body
  • be able to analyse a generically diverse selection of texts dealing with corporeality by placing them in their context and by adopting different theoretical approaches
  • have developed a series of transferable skills (essay writing, textual analysis, individual or group presentations)
  • have gained an insight into the specificities of writing the body from a female and feminist

Teaching pattern

two hour seminar, weekly

Suggested reading list

Marie Darrieussecq, Truismes (Paris: POL, 1996) Marie Darrieussecq, Pig Tales , trans. by Linda Coverdale (London: Faber and Faber, 1997)

Diamela Eltit, Jamás el fuego nunca (Cáceres: Editorial Periférica, 2013) Diamela Eltit, Never Did the Fire , trans. by Daniel Hahn (Edinburgh: Charco Press, 2022)

Annie Ernaux, Les Armoires Vides (Paris: Gallimard, 1974). Annie Ernaux, Cleaned Out , trans. by Carol Sanders (Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996).

Annie Ernaux, L'évenement (Paris: Gallimard, 2001) (French original). Annie Ernaux, Happening , trans. by Tanya Leslie (New York: Seven Stories, 2019).

Jenny Erpenbeck, Die Geschichte vom alten Kind (Frankfurt am Main: btb, 2001). Jenny Erpenbeck, 'The Old Child', in The Old Child and the Book of Words , trans. by Susan Bernofsky (London: Portobello, 2008).

Ariana Harwicz, Mátate, amor (San José, Costa Rica: Ediciones Lanzallamas, 2012) Ariana Harwicz, Die, My Love, trans. by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Edinburgh: Charco Press, 2017)

Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Ausser sich (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017). Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Beside Myself , trans. by Imogen Taylor (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2019).

Subject areas

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.

Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Body in Cultural Studies

Body in Cultural Studies

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 23, 2018 • ( 0 )

Until recently, the body has been either ignored or made marginal in philosophical, political and cultural theory. Thus, in philosophy, human agency and the identity of the person were traditionally seen to lie in the mind. The mind (or soul) was permanent and, in its rationality, was the source of all our knowledge. A key philosophical problem (for example from the writings of Descartes in the seventeenth century onwards) was the relationship of the mind to the body. A few thinkers, especially within the seventeenth- and eighteenth- century empiricist tradition of British philosophy (such as David Hume ), could be seen to be making something of the human body by recognising that our experience of the world entirely depends upon our bodily sense organs. However, even this potential was stifled by emphasising sight and hearing as the sources of knowledge. The more obviously bodily senses of smell, taste and touch are sidelined, and so too are the implications that they have for our practical engagement with the world through our bodies. At the end of the eighteenth century, Kant demonstrates the problematic status of the senses in his Critique of Judgement (1987). On the one hand he argues that it is only as both rational and sensual (or embodied) creatures that we can experience the pleasure of beauty (as opposed to the purely rational delight in the morally good, or the purely physical agreeableness of food and drink). On the other hand, beauty rests in sight and hearing, not in touch, smell and taste.


In the mid-nineteenth century, Marx ’s view of human beings as fundamentally beings that transform and create their own environment through labour offers some awareness of embodiment. It is perhaps only in American pragmatism, at the end of the nineteenth century, that the importance of the embodied, practical experience of the world is given thorough and rigorous treatment in philosophy. It is here that the importance of taken-for-granted knowledge of the world, carried in the habitual skill and competence with which we use our bodies to manipulate and test the world, comes to the fore. In the twentieth century, this perspective is developed in Heidegger ’s work, for example in his concepts of ‘ready–to–hand’ and ‘present–at–hand’ (1962:102–7). Normally, objects are used unthinkingly. While a tool works, we do not worry about it. When it fails, we step back and question and examine it. Thus, we acquire conscious, theoretical knowledge of the world, only when the world trips us up practically. Against Descartes’s assumptions, we cannot gain knowledge through merely reflecting on the world. We need a reason to reflect upon it, and that reason comes only through a bodily engagement. Thus Heidegger, like the pragmatists and even David Hume, introduces the body into philosophical thought by directly criticising the way in which Descartes does philosophy. Heidegger further emphasises the necessity of the body—along with all its contingencies—to our selfunderstanding as human beings in the demand that we must accept that we are mortal. The Heideggerian approach was influential on the development of French phenomenology, particularly in the analysis of ‘flesh’ by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (again beginning from the argument that consciousness is embodied in a particular world) (1962), and Jean-Paul Sartre (not least in his spectacular analysis of torture, as the attempt to capture and possess the freedom of the victim within his or her flesh) (1958:303–59).


In Western political theory, the body is again ignored until recently. Liberalism, for example, adopts a model of human being that stresses rationality. As such, it is the human intellect that matters. Indeed, the unrestrained pursuit of bodily desires may be theorised as a threat to political order. In addition, liberalism tends to assume a series of more or less implicit dichotomies. Reason is set against unreason, mind against body, and male against female. Liberalism’s traditional blindness to gender difference, and to the exclusion of women from politics, may in part be understood through this association of reason, mind and masculinity.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the revival of liberal theory through the work of John Rawls (1972), there also came a new criticism of liberalism from the communitarians. In this line of argument, Michael Sandel (1982) is critical of Rawls (and thus contemporary liberalism) precisely because the Rawlsian model of human beings is disembodied and disembedded. That is to say that Rawls artificially abstracts human beings from the bodily and cultural experiences that form them as the particular beings they are. In effect, Rawls is accused of assuming that the human being, as a rational personality capable of choice, exists prior to its embodied life in a particular community. Sandel argues that the very ability to choose and to hold values, and to be aware of ourselves as individuals, comes only from bodily experience, and cannot exist prior to it.

In cultural theory, there is a significant literature on the nude as a core subject matter of Western art. In part, this literature comes from the orthodox approach of a cultural historian, such as Clarke’s analysis of the idealisation of the body according to historically varying cultural norms (1956). More recently feminists and others (such as John Berger (1972)) have placed the nude in a political context, in order to question the ascription of intrinsic aesthetic value to it as part of the patriarchal or ideological structure of power in Western culture (Diprose 1994; Grosz 1994; Irigaray 1985a).

The understanding of the body develops in cultural studies through the recognition of the body as a site of meaning. A semiotic approach may be taken to the body Umberto Eco ’s characterisation of the body as a ‘communication machine’ is telling (1986). The body is not simply there, as a brute fact of nature, but is incorporated into culture. The body is indeed a key site at which culture and cultural identity is expressed and articulated, through clothing, jewellery and other decoration and through the shaping of the body itself (through tattoos, hair styles, body-building and dieting, for example). It is through the body that individuals can conform to or resist the cultural expectations imposed upon them. Sociology has thus been able to turn to the analysis of ‘body-centred practices’ (see Turner 1984). Foucaul t’s analysis of the development of the prison system and state punishment focuses on the body as the subject of discipline (1977a). Crucially, the body is shaped and disciplined through systems of surveillance, either actual surveillance or surveillance that is imagined to be occurring. Analysis of the body can therefore increasingly see it as a product of social constraint and construction (which is a theme also found in Goffman ’s work), or of the languages and discourses within which it is discussed and analysed (as, for example, in the languages of medical science, psychiatry and criminology).

Source: Edgar, Andrew, and Peter R Sedgwick. Cultural Theory The Key Concepts . London: Routledge, 2008. Print.

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Writing the Body: Trauma, Illness, Sexuality, and Beyond

Eileen myles, ruth ozeki, porochista khakpour, anna march & alexandra kleeman.

In September, Michele Filgate’s quarterly Red Ink Series—focused on women writers, past and present—brought together Eileen Myles, Ruth Ozeki, Porochista Khakpour, Anna March, and Alexandra Kleeman for a wide-ranging discussion about writing the body, from health to gender, sexuality, and beyond. The next Red Ink event, “ Writing About Depression ,” will take place at BookCourt this Thursday, 12/8.

Michele Filgate:  I wanted to start out by reading a quote from Rene Gladman’s new book Calamity that Leads Books just published. I really recommend it. She says, “I began the day trying to say the word ‘body’ as many times as I could, for myself and for everyone in the room. I wanted to exchange the word with all my correspondents. I wanted to say ‘body’ to them: How is your body, or Write through the body, or How does the body activate objects in the room. I hoped to say ‘body’ and see a change come over your face: inside your body, the edge of the body, your body split. (I split you.) I hoped to reach a point in speaking where when it was time to say ‘body’ I could go silent instead. I’d pause and everyone in the room would sound the word within themselves. I’d go, ‘Every time you put a hole in the _____,’ and demur. Lower my head like a 40-watt bulb, look solemn. Or say, ‘We all carry something in our _____,’ and the collective internal silent hum would overwhelm my senses. This would be real communication: something you started in your _____ would finish in mine.”

So I put together this panel because I think it’s so important to talk about bodies, about women and bodies. Some of these questions may be directed to individual authors but I encourage anyone to answer or chime in whenever they want.

Ruth, in The Face: A Time Code , you sat in front of the mirror for three hours and wrote about your face. How did this mirror change the way you think about your body and your writing, and can you also tell us what your Zen is?

Ruth Ozeki:  Sure, well mirror Zen, it turns out, is actually a practice, though I didn’t realize that at the time I came up with this idea to sit in front of a mirror for three hours and observe my face. The reason I did this was really kind of practical. I needed to write this commission for Restless Books—an essay about my face—and when I actually thought about sitting down to do this, it was just so appalling to me that I needed some kind of device that would get me through. Being a Zen practitioner, and certainly being a Zen writer, the way I approach these things is to sit with whatever it is that I’m writing. So in this case I thought, “Well I’ll just put a mirror up, and I’ll sit with my face for three hours”—which seemed like a suitably painful length of time—”and something will happen, right? Something will happen.”

It was interesting because after I did this, and in fact after I wrote the essay, I discovered that there is really a practice called mirror Zen. It started in Kamakura, at a temple called Tōkei-ji. It was a nunnery, and it was the only place in Japan during, you know the, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th    centuries—around that time—where a woman could get a divorce. Women who were trying to escape abusive marriages, or who wanted to be divorced, would come to the nunnery, and they would throw their shoes over the nunnery gate, and that would gain them admittance. Then they would sit for three years and study their reflections in a mirror—they would sit zazen in front of a mirror—and the idea is that, by doing so, you start to understand your attachments and your aversions to your face. It’s a way of reclaiming your image.

So, I think that’s kind of what happened during those three years—three hours. It felt like three years. By sitting there, what I started to realize was that these were all stories that I had—that the face is just filled with stories, and the body is filled with stories. That was an interesting realization, and I think that the most sort of profound part of that was really at the end of three hours, when I walked out of the apartment, and I looked around, and it was astonishing because everyone had faces. Everyone has this complex relationship with—and sort of embedded stories in—their faces, and of course we can’t really see that in each other’s faces. But just the practice of sitting there for three hours opened up this world. So that was really wonderful.

MF:  That sounds terrifying and amazing at the same time. Have any of you ever spent that much time looking at the mirror?

Eileen Myles:  I just want to chime in that the phrase “the Zen writer” is amazing, an amazing pair of words I’ve never heard together like that. It’s really exciting.

MF:  Eileen, I read an interview with you in Rookie mag where you said, “In some way I want my writing to take care of me. I want to live in my worlds. I want to carry my world with me like a shell. I want a home.” Do you think of your body as a home? And do you feel more comfortable with your body on or off the page?

EM:  I sort of feel like writing creates the body, in a way. When I really think about how I felt when I was a kid—I mean, when I was a kid I guess I wrote somewhat, but I drew more, you know. That somehow delivered me into dreams and into some awkward state; it was some way to bear the present, or school, or whatever. But when I stop to think about it, when I really began to have a pretty frequent practice of setting words down, I started to exist. I started to exist on the page. It was almost like until I was out there, I couldn’t be in here, you know? I absolutely don’t say—I could never say—that I feel at home in my body, but I think that my writing created a safe place for it. Putting it out there created an account, or relay, which is kind of the world and my position in it. It’s really literal because so many of us have gotten to our identities through our writing, like it or not. Then you can feel kind of weighed down by that identity. But it started there and I still—I mean, the practice of keeping a journal is not constant in my life, but it’s important because then I’m very aware of when I’m not writing stuff in my journal. When I do, I know there’s a sort of presence, and it’s different from poetry and different from a writing project. It’s all very similar to the way you were describing looking at your face in the mirror and dropping those words on the page. The journal is a self-created image that starts to make it be that I’m here.

RO:  It’s a reflection, too.

EM:  Absolutely. Yeah.

Anna March:  The thing that’s interesting to me about Eileen talking about getting your identity from writing—and I got a lot of this as a young women from her writing, actually—is how you get a lot of your identity from the identity marker of being a woman in society. So you don’t escape that, or you don’t live beyond that—a lot of times it determines the way culture looks at you, the way the world looks at you. So as much as I don’t want to go all Heidegger, I’m thinking about the way that you enter the space by dwelling in the space. I entered the space of feminism, and I entered the space of my body, by writing in it, but also the world enters me through that space of my body, for better or worse, and through the writing as well. So I think that’s kind of what were here about—how were at home in it and how we are not at home in it and alienated from it.

EM: So often they’ll say “she’s there,” but that doesn’t mean that I’m there. They start talking to “her,” and that’s not me. There’s a whole way of, you know, you start as an absence and then you have to write yourself into another thing.

AM:  When you start all that caught up identity of “her,” who’s “her”?

Porochista Khakpour: For me, I’ve never felt that my personality matches me physically, so I’ve always felt out of place. I said at some event last year that I felt uncomfortable in every environment I’ve ever been in. I constantly feel uncomfortable. Everybody makes me uncomfortable: my family, my friends, lovers. Everybody I meet I’m not at ease. So I can try to write from a man’s perspective. I’ve written from the perspective of people with no sexuality. I’ve written from magical perspectives. It’s like an endless quest because, for me, the body is not a temple, and nature is not benevolent. I happen to be somebody who is ill with a pretty seriously chronic illness, so what I get really uncomfortable about is when women—I feel like there’s this goddess culture, right? Loving your body. I mean, I was a yoga teacher at one point, and I was the worst yoga teacher. But it was so violent for me because I don’t like super-feminine identity stuff. I’m wearing a dress tonight, and I know what I might look like, but I find it to be really uncomfortable and hypersexualizing. So I’m still trying to escape the body. Writing for me is my escape from it. It’s kind of like what Eileen is saying: it’s a way for me to multiply my identity so that I’m not trapped in this one.

Alexandra Kleeman:  I just wanted to second what you said, about never feeling like you’re clean, or matching your external appearance. I remember going through puberty and having this experience that people were finding messages in my body that I never placed there. I have no way to rewrite them, but taking them to the page is a way to create reality, or specifically, recreate reality, as a way of taking that back.

MF:  Porochista, you mentioned earlier that you’re chronically ill. You have a memoir coming out called Sick about dealing with late-stage Lyme disease, and you experienced a relapse while you were writing about it. I’m curious—Virginia Woolf wrote in her essay on being ill, “Illness is the great confessional . . . Things are said. Truths blurted out which the cautious respectability of health conceals.” Did you find that to be true while working on your book, and now that you’ve finished the book, do you feel differently about your body?

PK:  The book that I sold, I thought I was going to be well—that I’d gotten cured from late-stage Lyme and cured of all my addictions. So I sold the book as really cheerful, like “Yay, I’m a survivor!” Actually, it was going to be a really shitty book, I think because there was all this false promise of, “You too can be strong like me and in the world.” But then I got hit by a car, an 18 wheeler, and I had this horrible Lyme relapse last winter where it threatened me daily. It threatened my writing life daily. So I actually couldn’t write it. To my editor, I was like, “Hey, do you think I can have some extra time because I heard writers always get extra on books.” They were like, “No,” and I was like, “I’m in the hospital, and there’s no reading of my liver, and they think I might be dying.” They said, “We’ll see if we can . . . maybe give it to us by May.” I was like “Okay, this is fucked up.”

I just somehow did it, but it was really dark, and the thing that helped me a lot was actually social media and writing to strangers. Maybe sort of like what Virginia Woolf was saying—I don’t know if she would be on social media a lot—but I was sharing a lot of inappropriate things. People were writing me like, “I kind of feel like you’re crossing some lines; it’s kind of gross. Did they really need to know about all the blood and all of that?” I had a lot of Miss Manners writing to me on Facebook, and I was like, “Go fuck yourself. First of all I’ve never been someone who’s that pristine or good.” But I was desperate, and my own friends and family were the least helpful people. People in the illness community—there’s a whole underworld there, and it appealed to me in a way that punk rock appealed to me. It’s this other world of invisible people who are all desperate and all there, coming up with crazy solutions. So Sick  became a very different book, and I’m still finishing edits now. I resent saying illness is a teacher. I hate that stuff. But in a way it was, I guess.

MF:  I have a question for you, Anna. In a piece you wrote for Literary Orphans called “What’s In a Name,” you say, “To rewrite our own redemption by telling ourselves our own true stories.” And you wrote a really terrific short story on angels this year called “Sometimes the Angel Has Dreadlocks and Talks Dirty to You.” Yes, we’re getting into the sex portion of the writing about bodies. I’m wondering—there are some really vivid and spectacular sex scenes in that story. When you write about sex, are you writing so you can inhabit your own body more, even if the body is fictional? I’m asking this of all of you.

AM:  No, I’m not writing to inhabit my own body more, but I’m want to talk about another thing related to that question. First, though, I want to talk about what Porochista said about the policing. I write monthly for Salon ; I’ve written a lot about my body. I was a part of the Body Parts section of Salon for a while. There’s very little about my body that I haven’t published somewhere. But I live part-time in this town of 500 people . . . 500 people. I just want to say again,  500 people , and if you come up to me after I’ll tell you all of their names and all of their dogs. So I’m 48, I’m a raw feminist, a feminist killjoy, and I’m totally in your face about it, but I won’t buy tampons in my town. Because I’m 48, but I’m 14, right? I don’t want to get Charlie, who hands me my turkey sandwich four days a week to ask me questions about my period. I just don’t.

So I wrote this piece in Salon about how feminists need to not tolerate men. Feminism has a men’s problem. Forty percent of progressive men identify as feminist vs. eighty percent of progressive women. That is some bullshit. So, Eileen Myles comes over on my page and tells people to blow me when they’re giving me a hard time about Salon. Now I’m feeling all empowered, right? So I decide to go buy tampons. I get the tampons, and Charlie says, “Do you need Advil? Are ya’ feeling all right?” And I’m like, “Can I just get my tampons?” But he’s really sweet, and he’d say the same thing if I was buying Orajel. He’d be like, “Do you have a toothache?” So, a month later I go back and buy more tampons from Charlie. And he goes, “Didn’t you just have your period two weeks ago?” And I’m kind of pissed off. I shouldn’t have been, really. But I’m kind of pissed off, so I say that there’s an app—that you can track your period on the app. So Charlie, who is like 73 and the nicest person, who gives me half a pound of turkey on my sandwich, says, “I’d like to have that app so I can slip some chocolates in your bag for when you’re having PMS.” So here I am, this big bitch.

I go home, and do what I do because I live in a town of 500 people —did I mention that?—and I post it on Facebook. Right away a very important feminist—like, if you Google “very important feminist,” her name is the first one—she writes me, and she says, “You know, Annie, you really shouldn’t let people talk about your body that way.” I’m only trying to tell this nice story about how I live in this town, and how I’m 14 even though I’m not, and how I’m trying to do this thing, and here’s this guy who’s just totally not weird about it. What does feminist mean? It means living in your body out loud. But then I get policed, and people start sharing it, and there’s this full discussion going on about how it’s not okay. So I’m the one that has to deal with this story about inhabiting my body.

I don’t know if I write fiction that way, but it’s certainly true of my nonfiction that I write to inhabit my body more and also to hold myself to what I’m calling for or trying to call for in the world, which is to be more integrated, and to stop being ashamed of your body. I go out and have these talks around the country about shame in your body and all this stuff, and then I won’t buy tampons? No. So I’m trying to integrate that more. In terms of my fiction, though, I write what I like, and what I want to like, and I try to stay true to my characters.

MF:  Back to sex. Why is it so difficult to write about sex? There are awards for bad sex writing, but there aren’t really awards, as far as I know, for bad food writing or bad nature writing, even those can be tough to write about too. So I’m wondering, why sex? What’s difficult about it?

AM:  I think there’s a lot of policing. I participated in a talk for PEN this year called “Beyond Lolita”—which Michele curated or moderated, one of them. It was about writers writing. We had Steve Almond over there saying you should never do these nine things. Then we had Cheryl Strayed saying you should always do these nine things in your writing. I think there are two things: One, a lot of sex writing ignores that women have bodies, and have periods, and buy tampons, and have breasts, and have orgasms, and have them in different ways than men. We have this whole canon of literature where none of that is brought forth. So then when women start writing about that, or men write that about women, it’s like, “Ew, what’s going on?” Lidia Yuknavitch talked about this. Cheryl talked about how she had to fight for the four sex scenes that are in her memoir. I think there’s this sort of notion of “we don’t do that.” Scott Spencer, who wrote Endless Love , which is a horrible movie but a beautiful book, has some of the best—Jonathan Yardley, who hated everything said, “For a few hours of my life it broke my heart. It had some of the most magical, dazzling sex scenes.” He has this 13 page sex scene where Jade has her period, and they’re having sex, and there’s blood everywhere.

I think a lot of this is gendered, and I think also a lot of it is about comfort. There’s also this perception that less is more, and I don’t understand less is more. Why is less more? Why is that? Because Toni Morrison said that once in a Paris Review interview? Alyssa and I have had that fight on panels about this topic. She’s like, “Well, I think less is more,” but why? We can have 20 pages about people sitting at the dining room table which we’re supposed to keep. But then they fuck for, like, one sentence? I don’t get it. And now I won’t talk anymore.

RO:  I was just going to say that we have to parse out this difference between bad sex and bad writing. So there’s bad sex, there’s bad writing, and then there’s bad writing about bad sex. I think these are distinctions that are worth naming. Probably the reason that there are no awards for bad food writing or bad nature writing is that food and nature aren’t really funny in the way that sex is funny, especially when it’s written about badly. I was hanging out with a group of writer friends of mine when Fifty Shades of Grey first came out, and I did an interpretive reading of the first two chapters. In the first two chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey there is very little sex. There’s just a lot of implying that there will be, but it’s so much fun to read out loud. Anyway, I think that there is something to be said for bad writing about bad sex. There’s a virtue there.

PK:  Wait, where can we hear Ruth Ozeki read Fifty Shades of Grey ? [ Laughter. ]

MF:  That will be the next event.

RO:  It was a wonderful group of women. It was Karen Joy Fowler, Jane Hamilton, Dorothy Allison, and we were all living it up.

EM:  Isn’t all porn bad? I don’t mean like gnarly bad, but what I mean is almost anybody I know who likes porn likes certain kinds of bad—they’re like, “I love bad 70s porn.” It’s sort of like the off register is the register.

AM:  And if it’s true to character, is it bad? If your character is weird about sex and awkward, and can’t talk dirty in bed, and then tries to, then you should write that. You should be true to your characters no matter who they are. If you’re writing fiction, then you should be true to yourself and honest as much as the piece requires just like you would about anything else in nonfiction, right? I don’t think it’s that complicated. I think we make it complicated.

PK:  I think it goes back to that idea about being honest. That’s where the humor comes in; that’s why we like awkward sex because my guess is that most people mostly have awkward sex. I don’t know, maybe I do. I think that we haven’t been honest throughout history; women’s bodies have been overly idealized and porno always presents this type of ideal. So we just haven’t been ourselves as human beings a lot. This is something my gynecologist said to me that’s so tragic. Many women don’t realize until much later in life what ovulation looks like or what it is, and they come and say they have yeast infections or something. Nobody ever told me about ovulation when I was in school. I didn’t even know what that was supposed to feel like. We don’t know these things. We are constantly disassociated from our bodies, our own physical realities, so we either go into the realm of the purple—which is like the overly idealized or that sort of porn thing—or it’s clinical, and there’s no in-between. I think this is a good time to be alive because we’re just approaching a sort of raw honesty.

EM:  Have you guys seen the new drawings of the clit?

RO:  Oh, yeah . . .

EM:  It’s all over the media because they have 3D models now and never drawings. The thing that’s really weird is that they had these drawings several centuries ago, and they got suppressed for one or two hundred years because it was disturbing. It’s like the grotto, the dirty. Because it was too systemic and complicated; there was so much more than there was supposed to be.

AK:  I want to second what Porochista was saying about learning about your body from sources that you should have been learning about these things, like in school or in a more professional way. I learned that the vagina can tear during childbirth from a set of poems by a Japanese poet. Then I immediately was like, “Let me look this up on the internet. Let me read more about it.” This should have been basic knowledge. It’s a bad surprise to spring on someone. [ Laughs ] But one of my personal answers as to why writing about sex is so limited right now is that I feel like we’re taking as our model a lot of film images, or images of sex, and those images are flattened in some way. They don’t have viscera; there is no mass to those bodies. I think that good sex writing would be writing that mass back in, and writing in all the parts of the body that have been sort of excluded from the sex act in descriptions. The digestive tract, the skin, the imperfections in the skin, what they mean, how it feels. I think what gives sex so much gravity is that you’re negotiating your body with another person. It’s not that you’re one, and that’s so wonderful, it’s that you’re actually doing this with another person and they don’t always do what you want them to do. And there’s friction, and it fails sometimes, and then it starts working later, or it fails for moments. That’s what’s bad for me.

EM:  I just want to add that what was dirty about you reading Fifty Shades of Grey , Ruth, is that you were the wrong body. I think if you take the text and put it over the right body, then it becomes another type of writing, another type of porn, another kind of permission to hear it. It’s almost like the text doesn’t matter.

AM:  I wrote a whole novel about a 16-year-old girl who really wants to have good sex, and women I knew were like, “Oh, man, hot.” I went through so much of that when I was a teenage girl myself, and men sometimes were like, “Teenage girls don’t want that. Teenage girls don’t think that way.” I mean progressive, good guys, were like, “Really?” I think sometimes writing gets called bad writing, untrue writing because it’s not heteronormative, it’s not the male gaze: it’s queer sex, it’s disabled sex, it’s not Philip Roth. Thank god for that.

PK:  A lot of what we’re talking about here, I think, is, from the perspective of this moment, and a lot of that is being dominated by white women too. So there are a lot of cultural factors at play, where I sometimes want to be like, “Okay, rad white feminists. This a great moment for you, and I’m with you mostly.” I’m sorry to even go here in a way because I know there are other people of color here—thank god, for once. But it’s also like, this conversation, when it just goes to white women, it becomes dangerous for a lot of the world. I’m watching people I really like on social media going off about the burkini, right? And it’s so hideous. Eileen, you have a great twitter essay about this, and you were literally the only white person I saw talk about the burkini in a sophisticated way. That to me is a major issue about women and the body right now, that we’re telling women half the time that they’re not wearing enough clothes, or they’re wanting to be covered up and then we tell them, no, you have to take it off—which, like Eileen was saying, it’s violence. So I always want these conversations to include other cultures as well because it’s different.

MF:  Me too, and this actually leads me to my next question about that. I want to talk about bodies that ignorant people try to silence. I’m thinking of many different categories of women: transgender people, disabled women, aging women, women of color, women who have been raped or sexually assaulted or abused, women of all body sizes, women with eating disorders, women who have strong opinions, women who are too scared to share their opinions, women who run for the presidency of the United States, mothers, child-free or childless women. How can we amplify all of the bodies this society tries to make invisible?

AM: Well, we can write them. Is it a trick question? We can write them, right? We can write them. We can read them. That’s the other thing; we can’t just write them. We have to buy and support independent booksellers, and the fiction and nonfiction that we want to read. It’s great to say we want literary fiction, but we have to go to our independent bookseller to buy those books. So we can write them, we can buy them, we can read them, and we can promote them. I think that’s how we amplify them. And we call out; we say, I don’t care that anyone loves this book by so and so, I think that the sex is heteronormative and white and not all that. I think we should do that as critics sometimes.

EM:  I’m having a hard time summing up what I’m trying to say. But I feel like part of the problem with—I don’t mean the question exactly—but when we talk about all these different bodies, the problem is the stillness of the question, or the stillness of the subject of identity, as if this is about a transgender person, and this is about an Asian person. We’re always kind of writing about books or thinking about books or text as if subject matter is this static frontal thing that’s squared in the center. I think the problem with the way so many bodies are written about is that they’re always not in passing. They’re being dissected and held still. Is this the real world in which people come onstage and offstage? I mean like, why isn’t there a minor despicable transgender character—just because that person exists rather—than those questions of is this a correct novel about a transgender person by a correct transgender author, you know what I mean? I think that we just live in this much more moving way which isn’t reflected in our text at all. I’m only starting to scrape the surface of it, but it’s framing; it’s like our conceptual frames are fucked up. That goes directly into the writing and the books are sold that way, are written about that way. And then the inadequacies of the writer are shown up in a particular way rather than the fact that the whole world is not true.

MF:  I think that’s so right, and I think we’re putting people into boxes too much, which is basically what you’re saying. We’re trying to say, this is the box they go in, and that’s bullshit.

EM:  The subject matter is a fiction.

AM:  For three and a half years I’ve had a partner who is a complete paraplegic, and I cannot tell you how writers—how editors, rather—wanted me to write about the complications of our sex life. And I was like, “Well, really there aren’t any.” And editors were like “No, no, no. We want to pay you a lot of money. We don’t want to pay you for these other things. We want to pay you a lot of money to write about this because we want to hear this story, because we thought here’s this frame, here’s this story of the disabled sex . . . ”

EM:  That’s exactly the other disabled sex story I know of from another writer who was telling me that she had written this book all about her incredible sex life, and they were like, “This is not possible.”

AM:  They wanted me to write that. That’s what they wanted me to write.

EM:  Hers was “too much.” It gets back to the clothes issue. It’s sort of like policing sex. It’s always this “too much.” It’s the wrong person having sex.

AM:  And the grappling. They wanted to do all this grappling. I told them, “Dude, that was 20 minutes over beer. We haven’t talked about it since.” What you’re saying, though, about the wrong person: it’s like we want women to be virginal and not have these desires, teenage girls don’t do this, and then all of a sudden we expect them to be these sex maidens when they’re 30. I don’t know how we expect them to get there. But we’ve sort of have been writing: teenage girls do this, women in their early 20s do this, and then in their 30s they do this, and then at 40 they stop having sex. [ Laughs ]

PK:  I think this stuff comes into a fever pitch, though, at times. I’m looking at this from a slightly different angle. It happens when we’re in times of extreme misogyny, or homophobia, or transphobia, or racism. Writing becomes this model minority trap where before I can write about, say, a Muslim woman who’s wearing a veil, she’s got to be presented as—I’m not saying she has to be—but my instinct would be, in this climate that we’re in today, to make that person a really good person instead of a bad person. Every fucking day I feel like I’m assaulted by this other message. It becomes very challenging to write completely freely when you’re in this environment that we’re in today. This election has just been, like: everything’s out there. It’s not like any of this got created by the election, but it’s really laid it bare, and it’s worse than I thought it was. It’s kind of hard to think of how to create within that.

MF:  Yeah, absolutely. Alexandra, you talked about the strangeness of the body, of writing about all of the body when you’re writing about sex. You said in an interview for Electric Lit, “Eating is something we do almost without thinking about it, but within that act is the crushing-up of another thing’s life structures with your own teeth, the pre-digestion inside the mouth, the genuine digestion in the stomach, the continual death on a large scale of bacteria living within us.” Aren’t you guys hungry right now? [ Laughs ] “We need it in order to get nutrients from food-material. It’s violent and amazing, and looking microscopically at this quotidian activity shows us something about how messy our lives are, whether we perceive it or not.” I feel like a lot of writers shy away from writing about bodily functions. Bodies are strangers, you remind us. And I wonder whether writing about this strangeness has made you feel it more acutely. Is that acknowledgement of our body’s strangeness liberating in itself, since recognizing it forces us to maybe suspend our ideals of cleanliness, perfection, or a narrow definition of health?

AK:  That’s a lot of questions. [ Laughs ] I came to writing about the body when I already had a writing practice going on, but I realized that I was treating my body like an impediment to writing. I was trying to sort of tamp it down when I got hungry, or when I got tried, or when I ate, or needed sleep. I was moving further away from my body and also being very unhealthy. And so part of what I wanted to do was take my body out of this obscure zone, or out of this sort of transparency zone where it seemed ignored or like someone had sent out an alarm. But then I don’t think that writing about my body at all was what brought me closer to it because I think there’s one way of focusing on the body that makes it almost dysmorphic to me. When you search up pathologies it becomes a constant source of pathology, and you can’t accept the perception of the fairly normal process in your body for a fairly normal process. Not every signal is an alarm, right? I started thinking about auscultation, an obsolete medical practice of listening to the body to try to assess what’s wrong with it, and working sort of on spending time—I don’t want to call it meditation because I’m not a professional—but listening to my body, and trying to pay more attention to it, and appreciate the signals it sends for what they are, I guess.

For me, the way back into my body was more thinking about these unseen processes, processes that I have to believe are going on but I can’t see traces of. And also thinking how they connect me to the world because the number one thing about my body, for me, is that it is my interface with the world. Without it there’s nothing for my mind to do. Although sometimes when your mind is really active you can almost believe it will go on by itself. But it doesn’t. It relies on the outside world. I feel like thinking about these processes, thinking about the bacteria, thinking about myself as an ecosystem actually makes me feel much more alive and much more in touch with what’s out there.

RO:  I think that really is a definition of meditation. It’s being a body. I mean, you’re sitting, you’re being a body, you’re paying attention to the signals. It is exactly that. It’s becoming aware of the body as an interface with the world, that there’s this interdependency that’s happening. It’s interesting because I think that when I’m teaching writing I always have my students sit first. They sit in silence first, and we do a body scan and just sort of settle and spend five minutes just being bodies, and then move from there into writing. It seems to me that literature works because we are all bodies, because we have bodies with which we respond to the world. Our readers do too. So when that experience is translated and evoked on the page, readers respond to it precisely because they do have bodies. If readers did not have bodies, we would not have literature. So the tie there between body and words is a really important one.

AK:  I used to work in cognitive science. We were testing body cognition in the language labs, so what we were exploring was this effect that when you hear the word hammer, you can actually see activation in the motor center; you can see a change in the muscles that use the hammer. It’s this sort of knowledge of the world that would be really hard to represent logically, or as a proposition, or to define. Like what is a hammer? It is an object. How do you use it? You can write pages on that. But words connect to the body in this really deep way and immediately.

MF:  I want to talk about gender and vulnerability. Eileen, you said in an interview with Slutever that when a man writes about his own experiences, he’s seen as vulnerable, but when a woman does it, she is criticized. And the word confessional is often used in a condescending tone to talk about women’s writing. So how do we get around that? How do we use our bodies on the page to fight that notion?

EM:  I think it’s more that it’s the same old thing. I think there are ideas of how women are and how men are. When men do certain things they’re supposedly being incredibly different and fresh. Like if a man writes in a personal way, or writes in an abject way, or writes about what a loser he is, or writes about how vulnerable . . . I mean it’s such a rage in the new kind of loser-guy film. It’s like, “Oh my god he’s so funny. He’s naked and he’s dancing. His girlfriend comes in and breaks up with him. That’s amazing.” But what female would be framed that way? That’s just what some sad, slutty girl would be doing and just getting dumped because girls always get dumped. So It’s sort of like we go through these ages of . . . I remember the first time I read in some magazine that different eras had a certain nose; all movie stars were supposed to have the 1930s nose and so on. I think that just in literature—in the 80s you were supposed to be a kind of postfeminist; every female narrator or even writer was the utter top. We really wanted the top female writer because there was no position, no area for masochism. I just feel I don’t identify as a body, but I definitely identify as a masochist, and masochistic storytelling being not so much, you know, constructing a story out of what’s there and dominating the material so much as not having an agenda before I go into it and start and what I find and then rearranging it accordingly. I know that as a female, I’m supposed to write this story and writing the story that I have instead is like gender action in a way.

MF:  I interviewed the incredible writer, who I think a lot of us on this panel really admire, Lidia Yuknavitch who writes about the body all the time and in fact has a class she teaches called Corporeal Writing. She said in the interview, “To my knowledge, no one’s corporeal experience is limited to the novelistic plot points I see supersaturating the market. We are more contradictory than that sexually. Our sexuality is far in excess of those puny stories. Our sexualities deserve better representation than traditional narrative has allowed. But I’m not doing anything new . Walt Whitman. Or Sappho. Or Duras. Or Acker. I mean, Jesus. Let the body go. Let it rise inside language and shatter the story.” How can you let the body go like Lidia suggests?

EM:  By not dying. [ Laughs ]

RO:  By not dying? I would say by dying. [ Laughs ]

AM:  I mean one thing I heard—and, Michele, you probably heard this too, I think you heard this that night when we did “Beyond Lolita”—one thing I heard from all the women who did the panel who write fiction is that there’s always this thing where people think you’re writing about yourself. I mean, I’ll tell you it’s a real thing. I can’t tell you how many men this year have said to me, “So, I read about Daisy in that story.” And it’s like, “Really?” They assume that it’s you and that’s what you want to do in bed. I’m going to write what’s true to the character. I’m going to write the character I want to write. I’m going to give the character the sex I want to give the character and not worry about that. But I heard from all of the women fiction writers, “Oh, where are all the people going to fit?” I heard from none of the men who were writing fiction but from all of the women fiction writers like Cheryl said when she wrote Torch, “I thought, oh, I want to have kids. What are the kids’ teachers going to think about these sex scenes I wrote?”

EM:  I sort of disagree in a way. I feel like everything you write is you. I just think it’s my choices. It’s not like, this is an illustration of the philosophy of Eileen, or my literal existence, but it’s my pornography. It’s the color I want to be with for chapters and chapters, it’s the period of history. The thing that’s weird, I think is, when somebody is overly excited and appropriative about your choice. I mean, every time a man does something to me that I feel like that’s fucked up. It’s like I’m passing through a hallway and somebody just touches my hip a little bit, because isn’t that appropriate? To make a little room around a gal? Like what the fuck! Don’t be an asshole. I think around that same remark . . . it sort of presupposes that you’re sexually available to this person, and that these are appropriate gestures—like you’re there in their field of vision, and this may be done.

AM:  Absolutely and, you know, there’s Judy Bloom. We don’t always think about Judy Bloom, but Judy Bloom talks about this really eloquently because she wrote Wifey,  where she has all this really hot sex going on, in the 70s, at the same time she was publishing Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and all that. She talks about giving your characters that stuff and not letting people appropriate you. Also, if you haven’t read Wifey yet, I suggest you all go do read it. That’s some good sex writing

RO:  I was just thinking of Virginia Woolf’s idea about killing the angel in the house. It was a lecture, actually, that she gave, but there’s this idea that in order to let the body go that the necessary step is to kill the angel in the house. And there are many ways of doing that, I think. But personally, it was very much about letting my father’s surname go. Ozeki is a pen name. I only started using it when my first novel was about to be published. It was fascinating. My father was dying at the time, and he’d been raised as a Christian fundamentalist. He had family who was still alive, and he was very proud of the fact that I was publishing a book. He knew that I always wanted to. But I could tell that there was something really disturbing him about it. And finally I just said, “I mean, yeah, there’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in the book. Is this going to bother you that I’m publishing it under your name?” And he burst into tears and said, yes, he was afraid that his sister would find it because she was still a fundamentalist Christian, and that she would be ashamed. So it was like ,  ugh.  It was a blow. But I decided at that point to publish under a pseudonym, and it was the most amazing thing because I did the edit of that book knowing that I was going to be publishing under Ozeki. It was literally a feeling of letting the body go. All the crampedness, the restriction, it just disappeared. So I was able to edit it with the kind of freedom that I had never had in my writing before. It was really wonderful. The problem is now, of course, Ozeki is my name. So now I need another pseudonym if I’m going to start publishing Fifty Shades of Grey.

PK:  I think that’s really interesting because I think personally, as creators, it’s really important for us to let go. The thing of being a writer is you’re also a reader; you’re a consumer of art as well. What I like about this period, what I like about my students or the people that I’m around, is that they’re thinking more about the body, and how to approach different bodies, and how they should address bodies. So maybe that’s like what these politicians talk about as being politically correct. I see so much disdain around the word “consent,” a concept I think is really radical and really helpful and has saved lives. I think that I don’t really want to let go because I don’t think were there yet societally. We haven’t faced certain bodies. We haven’t thought of certain possibilities. How is it that we’re just now having discussions around trans people? How is it that a whole group has been invisible for so long? For the first time in my life, just in the last two years, we’re talking about what pronoun we want to use. I hear that being made fun of on late night TV or something, and it’s like, what’s so funny? Trans people were committing suicide. It’s too much work for you to use the right gender pronoun? It’s just really shocking to me, so I actually think that one of the right things about the internet—which has been in my head a lot in this panel—is that it does create a safe space for us to sit back and think a little bit, get information, and be exposed to different people without just projecting our selfhood onto different types of people. I think that thinking and moving slowly and holding on are also important.

MF:  I like that. Is the body related to empathy? The root of the word path, which means feeling or disease, would lead us to believe so. Empathy is such a buzz word these days, but what does it have to do with writing about bodies?

RF:  I think literature works because we have the ability to empathize. We have the ability to imagine, to inhabit other bodies, and so a writer who is doing her work well is creating an empathetic site, a site of empathy where you can lead your way into it somehow. You can write your way into it. You can read your way into it.

EM:  I think reading is empathetic. My decision about whether to keep reading a book or not is utterly an empathetic thing. I don’t just mean I feel for these characters, but it’s a question of the pace and the rhythm: Can I take this into my body and not resist? If I have to read that paragraph over and over again, am I enjoying this process? And then of course there is the fact of the things literally in this book. Are these things I want to have in my head and be in the room that I’m sitting in? I think empathetic is a word I’m really excited by.

AK:  I think that the body empathizes first. I think when you see someone, you can’t help but empathize with them. That’s part of why people react so strongly against people they don’t want to empathize with. They feel the feeling, and they reject it. I think it’s not that they see that person and see they have nothing in common with them; I think they don’t like being made to feel in common with them. The dumb example is if someone is biting their fingernails in the subway or something, it’s not that the sound annoys you or pushes you away, it’s that you’re thinking “I wouldn’t do that.” You’re imposing yourself on them. You’re pushing them away.

AM:  I think that’s also true with the confessional thing. I think that a lot of what we hear about confessional writing, and a lot of the reason that standard is considered to be different is because women have a lot of experiences commonly that a lot of men don’t have. Dramatically more women are sexually assaulted than men, so it’s like this whole other thing from what men are experiencing. It becomes this othered thing because of how it’s defined by men in a patriarchal culture. I think that the whole failure of empathy is the failure to reject the patriarchy. I think that when we don’t do that we fail to have empathy in what we’re approaching as both writers and readers, not to steal your line.

EM:  Confessional is such a weird word, as is the rise of it. It didn’t occur to me to look at who coined it when and in what fucking review and for what purpose. Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath in poetry. Or if you think about en plein air painting, it was a big weird thing when people suddenly decided not to write about the gods, or to sit out in the world and paint and use real things, use more peasant subject matter, and so on. It’s sort of like in poetry when people suddenly used life like yours. Whether you’re Robert Lowell or Sylvia Plath or whoever is doing it, it’s sort of disturbing the order of poetry and allowing the wrong thing in. Suddenly it’s almost like photography. I think with confessional . . . it’s so funny to think of such a private term erected, very phallically, to negate a whole practice that is actually the absolute opposite. It’s all about allowing. You make it be about denying.

PK: When I think back to confessional breakthroughs, I was just telling my students this, the two things that for me were confessional breakthroughs in my life were, one, telling a room full of strangers that I’d been sexually assaulted. That was a big one. I think a lot of people share that. The other one was telling people that I had a mustache growing up. That was somehow harder than talking about being raped. I just remember the first time I decided to blurt it, I think it was when my first novel came out, I just sort of said it, and I looked everybody in the eye in the audience like, “Okay, what do you want to say? Look at me now.” I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was trying to be like, “But I look good, right?” I don’t even know what I was trying to say. I was just like, “Why don’t we talk about the fact that some women have mustaches. It’s totally normal. Who cares?” [ Laughs ] But it’s sad to me that I went home feeling like I got a trophy for that because it was this confessional breakthrough for me. It felt like I released something, that I could go on. But it feels like we have these things which we’re not allowed to say.

EM:  I remember a million years ago with a poem I suddenly just put in, “I’m not a bad looking woman, I suppose,” and it was so fucking radical to say that because I knew in that moment I would be reading out loud, that people were looking at me. They would be thinking about what I was thinking about myself, and how I look, and I am a little vain. I mean, I was like 30, and I just thought, I’m fucking saying that I think I’m kind of hot . And then of course it was wrong on so many levels, even for me personally, who I thought of myself as. But that is art and poetry: just make the wrong move and feel all the light kind of shift.

RO:  And you’re still using the double negative. “I’m not a bad looking woman.”

MF:  I want to ask a question about body and trauma, and I’m going to ask the question by quoting the wonderful Claudia Rankine from Citizen . “How to care for the injured body, the kind of body that can’t hold the content it is living? And where is the safest place when that place must be someplace other than in the body?”

EM:  That’s a complicated one.

PK:  That’s hard to disassociate from the context of Citizen , especially given even just this week’s news, that you can have a black man just reading a book or leaving a music appreciation class and get shot. To me, it’s almost impossible to divorce that quote specifically from race. Of course you can apply it to different types of identity. But then I think, that’s the dilemma of a lot of what we’re talking about in this panel, too, because the problem is that we’re so visual as people, right? I think that’s our dominant sense. I take that for granted because I learned everything from hearing mostly, and I’m not that visual. But we are as a culture, and so with that comes all sorts of wrongseeing and then hopefully not wrongdoing, but it’s sort of the basis of all sorts of sickening prejudices.

EM:  I think you have to disable the text in some way to deal with difference and disability. I always think of Jonathan Franzen. I read The Corrections by accident. I lost something at the airport, and I kept going back to the lost and found, and they finally just let me all the way in the back room to the big gray chest and said, “Well, take whatever you want. There are a lot of notebooks and books here.” I saw The Corrections , and I thought, “Why not?” I thought it wasn’t bad. It was a good read, but what was really weird is when you got to the part where the father was having hallucinations, he couldn’t write that. I thought that’s so weird he can’t . . . he’s such a straight dude that he can’t imagine an altered state. I thought, any poet could write this scene. Anybody could do seeing shit, hallucinating. He couldn’t do that. I thought there was so much about ability of this. I don’t mean to take him out. He’s not a bad guy. But just as an example of something that was an alteration that couldn’t be written and that was somebody else’s cup of tea.

AM:  I think the way you care for the traumatized body and the traumatized experience of so many of us is to tell it truthfully. I know that sounds obvious but truthfully, with a capital T. I think you don’t call it violence. You spell out what it is step by step. I have this piece called “The Church of Dead Girls” where I just walk through what happened to a girl who was killed. I got the transcript from her mother of the police report of what had happened to her body; what had happened to her before she was raped and then murdered. I think if we stop and think, this is what happens, this is what trauma looks like, and we talk about trauma in real ways . . . I’m not saying that people should write their trauma if they’re not comfortable writing their trauma or if it’s going to be re-traumatizing for them. I’m not saying that. But I think the more we look at trauma, the more we spell it out in a truthful way, both what it is and the repercussions of it, I think that’s how we capture this society and also force it in and care for ourselves.

RO:  I think the question also relates back to the question about empathy. We’re blessed with these imaginations and empathy is not something passive. It’s active. It’s something that we can do both as writers and as readers. But especially as writers. We have the duty to go beyond and unpack the convenient phrases.

Feature photo by Sean Fitzroy.

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What is literature?

Literature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by their authors’ intentions and their execution’s perceived aesthetic excellence. Literature may be classified according to various systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.

Definitions of the word literature tend to be circular. Collegiate Dictionary considers literature to be “writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.” The 19th-century critic Walter Pater referred to “the matter of imaginative or artistic literature” as a “transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinitely varied forms.” But such definitions assume that the reader already knows what literature is. And indeed, its central meaning, at least, is clear enough. Deriving from the Latin littera, “a letter of the alphabet,” literature is first and foremost humankind’s entire body of writing; after that, it is the body of writing belonging to a given language or people; then it is individual pieces of writing. But already, it is necessary to qualify these statements. To use the word writing when describing the literature is itself misleading, for one may speak of “oral literature” or “the literature of preliterate peoples.” The art of literature is not reducible to the words on the page; they are there solely because of the craft of writing. As an art, literature might be described as the organization of words to give pleasure. Yet through words, literature elevates and transforms experience beyond “mere” pleasure. Literature also functions more broadly in society as a means of both criticizing and affirming cultural values.

How did literature evolve?

Taken to mean only written works, literature was first produced by some of the world’s earliest civilizations—those of Ancient Egypt and Sumeria—as early as the 4th millennium BC; taken to include spoken or sung texts, it originated even earlier, and some of the first written works may have been based on a pre-existing oral tradition. As urban cultures and societies developed, there was a proliferation in the forms of literature. Developments in print technology allowed for literature to be distributed and experienced on an unprecedented scale, culminating in electronic literature in the twenty-first century.


Forms of Literature:

Literature is a form of human expression. But not everything expressed in words—even when organized and written down—is counted as literature. Those writings that are primarily informative—technical, scholarly, journalistic—would be excluded from the rank of literature by most, though not all, critics. Certain forms of writing, however, are universally regarded as belonging to literature as an art. Individual attempts within these forms are said to succeed if they possess artistic merit and fail if they do not. The nature of artistic merit is less easy to define than to recognize. The writer need not even pursue it to attain it. On the contrary, a scientific exposition might be of great literary value and a pedestrian poem of none at all.

The purest (or, at least, the most intense) literary form is the lyric poem, and after it comes elegiac, epic, dramatic, narrative, and expository verse. Most literary criticism theories base themselves on an analysis of poetry because the aesthetic problems of literature are there presented in their simplest and purest form. Poetry that fails as literature is not called poetry at all but verse. Many novels—certainly all the world’s great novels—are literature, but thousands are not considered. Most great dramas are considered literature (although the Chinese, possessors of one of the world’s greatest dramatic traditions, consider their plays, with few exceptions, to possess no literary merit whatsoever). The craft of writing involves more than mere rules of prosody. The work’s structure must be manipulated to attract the reader. First, the literary situation has to be established. The reader must be directly related to the work, placed in it—given enough information on who, what, when, or why—so that his attention is caught and held (or, on the other hand, he must be deliberately mystified, to the same end).


In the 20th century, the poetry methods also changed drastically, although the “innovator” here might be said to have been Baudelaire. The disassociation and recombination of ideas of the Cubists, the free association of ideas of the Surrealists, dreams, trance states, the poetry of preliterate people—all have been absorbed into the practice of modern poetry. This proliferation of form is not likely to end. The effort that once was applied to perfecting a single pattern in a single form may in the future be more and more directed toward the elaboration of entirely new “multimedia” forms, employing the resources of all the established arts. At the same time, writers may prefer to simplify and polish the forms of the past with a rigorous, Neoclassicist discipline. In a worldwide urban civilization, which has taken to itself the styles and discoveries of all cultures past and present, the future of literature is quite impossible to determine.

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
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See an example

body literature definition

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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  1. body of literature collocation

    noun [U] uk / ˈlɪt.rə.tʃə r/ us / ˈlɪt̬.ɚ.ə.tʃɚ / written artistic works, especially those with a high and lasting ... See more at literature (Definition of body and literature from the Cambridge English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press) Examples of body of literature These examples are from corpora and from sources on the web.

  2. BODY OF LITERATURE definition and meaning

    (lɪtrətʃəʳ , US -tərətʃʊr ) variable noun Novels, plays, and poetry are referred to as literature, especially when they are considered to be good or important. [...] See full entry for 'literature' Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers COBUILD Collocations body of literature

  3. Body Definition & Meaning

    : the organized physical substance of an animal or plant either living or dead She has a muscular body. body parts normal body temperature : such as (1) : the material part or nature of a human being when the soul leaves the body (2) : a dead organism : corpse The body was shipped home for burial. b : a human being : person What's a body to do? 3 a

  4. BODY OF LITERATURE definition in American English

    (bɒdi ) countable noun Your body is all your physical parts, including your head, arms, and legs. [...] See full entry for 'body' Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers Definition of 'literature' literature (lɪtrətʃəʳ , US -tərətʃʊr ) variable noun

  5. Literature

    Literature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. It may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language and genre.

  6. Defining 'the body of literature'

    Defining 'the body of literature' It's always difficult at first to gain a sense of the body of literature on your topic - particularly its boundaries. This is because 'the body of literature' relevant to your topic often does not pre-exist definition of your topic.

  7. Literature Definition & Meaning

    : the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age French literature Renaissance literature d : printed matter (such as leaflets or circulars) campaign literature 2 : the production of literary work especially as an occupation Literature is his profession. 3

  8. Embodiment

    Introduction. Embodiment is a concept in constant motion, threading through swaths of literature from anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and, more recently, neuroscience. Although the concept becomes different things in different places, broadly speaking in anthropology, embodiment is a way of describing porous ...

  9. Bodies in Literature

    Bodies in Literature What kinds of reading, writing, and translation occur in relation to and between bodies? Nine writers explore the contours—and limits—of the human form on the page. featuring LAURA RUIZ MONTES 42 YIN LICHUAN 43 NAJWA ALI 44 ZSUZSA TAKÁCS 46 JOSHUA BENNETT 48 NAUSHEEN EUSUF 50 JIM PASCUAL AGUSTIN 51 ZSOLT LÁNG 52

  10. Literature

    Quick Reference A body of written works related by subject-matter (e.g. the literature of computing), by language or place of origin (e.g. Russian literature), or by prevailing cultural standards of merit.

  11. LITERATURE Definition & Usage Examples

    noun writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.

  12. Writing the Body in Literature and Culture

    Educational aims & objectives. To introduce students to the literary, historicaland cultural contexts of twentieth-century and twenty-first century women's writing. To deepen students' knowledge of different genres dealing withrepresentations of the body: theory, fiction (including the short story), autobiography, and the essay.

  13. body of literature

    African-American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. WikiMatrix. A large body of Literature has been written with the view that it is so. WikiMatrix. From the classic language to the present day, a body of literature has been written in Mayan languages.

  14. Body in Cultural Studies

    Body in Cultural Studies. Until recently, the body has been either ignored or made marginal in philosophical, political and cultural theory. Thus, in philosophy, human agency and the identity of the person were traditionally seen to lie in the mind. The mind (or soul) was permanent and, in its rationality, was the source of all our knowledge.

  15. English literature

    The term "English literature" refers to the body of written works produced in the English language by inhabitants of the British Isles from the 7th century to the present, ranging from drama, poetry, and fiction to autobiography and historical writing. Landmark writers range from William Shakespeare and Arundhati Roy to Jane Austen and Kazuo Ishiguro.

  16. Writing the Body: Trauma, Illness, Sexuality, and Beyond

    By Literary Hub. December 6, 2016. In September, Michele Filgate's quarterly Red Ink Series—focused on women writers, past and present—brought together Eileen Myles, Ruth Ozeki, Porochista Khakpour, Anna March, and Alexandra Kleeman for a wide-ranging discussion about writing the body, from health to gender, sexuality, and beyond.

  17. Body of literature definition and meaning

    The entire physical structure of an organism (an animal, plant, or human being) of. Denoting identity or equivalence; -- used with a name or appellation, and equivalent to the relation of apposition; as, the continent of America; the city of Rome; the Island of Cuba. literature. noun. Creative writing of recognized artistic value.

  18. What is Literature?

    Literature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by their authors' intentions and their execution's perceived aesthetic excellence.

  19. body of literature definition

    ketone body n (Biochem) any of three compounds (acetoacetic acid, 3-hydroxybutanoic acid, and acetone) produced when fatty acids are broken down in the liver to provide a source of energy. Excess ketone bodies are present in the blood and urine of people unable to use glucose as an energy source, as in diabetes and starvation, (Also called) acetone body

  20. body of literature definition

    body. ( bodies plural ) 1 n-count Your body is all your physical parts, including your head, arms, and legs. The largest organ in the body is the liver. 2 n-count You can also refer to the main part of your body, except for your arms, head, and legs, as your body. (=torso, trunk) Lying flat on the floor, twist your body on to one hip and cross ...

  21. How to Write a Literature Review

    A literature review is a survey of on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or. There are five key steps to writing a literature review: themes, debates, and gaps.

  22. B O D Y is a Prague-based lit journal

    Interview with artist Khari Johnson-Ricks. Khari Johnson-Ricks is a New Jersey-based artist and DJ who paints, makes zines, and videos. Jessica Mensch caught up with him to talk about his art. B O D Y is an international literary journal that features high quality writing in English and English translation by writers from all over the world.