We have to answer some basic questions when we study theory of literature. What is literature? What is literary study? Are they both different? What is the distinction? These questions are followed by the questions about the nature of literature, its functions, etc. Theory of literature, as much as possible, tries to answer these.
First, it is quite necessary for us to know the definition of literature. Literature is a creative act. It is an art. On the other hand, literary study is knowledge about literature itself. Since long ago, there are some efforts to differ them. But these efforts only make literature and literary study come to a very complicated relation. Also, it is important to distinguish what literature is and what is not. First, literature ought to be everything in print. Literature was learnt using any other science of culture. But this effort replaced the pure literary criteria. Other criteria came to the literature realm. Literature was supposed to give nothing to the knowledge. This occurred when in the further, the knowledge notably increased.
Second, literature ought to be the great-book namely "notable for literary form or expression". The criteria, namely the aesthetic, dealt with the "general intellectual distinction". This has resulted in value judgement, particularly to the non-great-books. Social background, linguistic, ideology, and other conditional circumstances, then, had no means. Third, the term of 'literature' ought to be limited at imaginative literature. It was too difficult to find the exact word in any languages. To overcome this, the speech community had to be divided in detail. It was a must to note that language is a human creation contained cultural heritages of linguistic group.
Here, it can obviously be seen that there are four natures of literature. The first nature of literature is imaginative. Traditional literary works fulfill this nature.