Literature is a loaded word. In its most basic sense, literature is anything written, as suggested by its etymology: littera is Latin for "letters." We still have that sense when we talk about "product literature" and the like — it's just any printed matter. It lets us distinguish literate from oral cultures, for instance.

But that's not a particularly useful sense, because literate and oral cultures share a great many qualities. leads us to the embarrassing oxymoron, "oral literature." In its most loaded sense, literature refers to "good" or "important" literature — and you can easily see why it's a loaded sense, because there's little agreement over what's good or important. ???

From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.