Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art.
The term has its origin in the Ancient Greek word διδακτικός (didaktikos), "related to education and teaching", and signified learning in a fascinating and intriguing manner.
Didactic art was meant both to entertain and to instruct. Didactic plays, for instance, were intended to convey a moral theme or other rich truth to the audience. An example of didactic writing is Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism (1711), which offers a range of advice about critics and criticism. An example of didactism in music is the chant Ut queant laxis, which was used by Guido of Arezzo to teach solfege syllables.
Around the 19th century the term didactic came to also be used as a criticism for work that appears to be overburdened with instructive, factual, or otherwise educational information, to the detriment of the enjoyment of the reader (a meaning that was quite foreign to Greek thought). Edgar Allan Poe called didacticism the worst of "heresies" in his essay The Poetic Principle.
Some instances of didactic literature include:
- Works and Days, by Hesiod (c. 700 BC)
- On Horsemanship, by Xenophon (c. 350 BC)
- The Panchatantra, by Vishnu Sarma (c. 300 BC)
- De rerum natura, by Lucretius (c. 50 BC)
- Georgics, by Virgil (c. 30 BC)
- Ars Poetica by Horace (c. 18 BC)
- Ars Amatoria, by Ovid (1 BC)
- Thirukkural, by Thiruvalluvar (between 2nd century BC and 5th century AD)
- Remedia Amoris, by Ovid (AD 1)
- Medicamina Faciei Femineae, by Ovid (between 1 BC and AD 8)
- Astronomica by Marcus Manilius (c. AD 14)
- Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, by Seneca the Younger, (c. 65 AD)
- Cynegetica, by Nemesianus (3rd century AD)
- The Jataka Tales (Buddhist literature, 5th century AD)
- Philosophus Autodidactus by Ibn Tufail (12th century)
- Theologus Autodidactus by Ibn al-Nafis (1270s)
- The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian (1480s)
- The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (1678)
- Rasselas, by Samuel Johnson (1759)
- The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (anonymous, 1765)
- The Adventures of Nicholas Experience, by Ignacy Krasicki (1776)
- The Water-Babies, by Charles Kingsley (1863)
- If-, by Rudyard Kipling (1910)
- Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (1952)
- Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder (1991)
- Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. by F. J. Harvey Darton
||Look up didacticism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
- Glaisyer, Natasha and Sara Pennell. Didactic Literature in England, 1500-1800: Expertise Reconstructed'.' (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003).