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instructional literature in artistic form. Didactic literature presents philosophical, religious, moral, and scientific knowledge and ideas in various imaginative literary genres. In the period when there was no ideological separation between science and art (syncretism)—in primitive art, for example—didactic literature was a vital, naively integral form of contemplation and could be realized poetically. But as the specialized forms of scientific and philosophical exposition were distinguished, particularly in modern times, the artistic form of didactic literature became, in Hegel’s words, simply “ornamentation,” lending a “cheerful aspect to dry, serious instruction.”;
Some examples of didactic literature still bear the mark of syncretism: for example, in ancient Rome, Hesiod’s moral-agricultural epic Works and Days, Lucretius’ philosophic poem On the Nature of Things, and Horace’s epistle The Art of Poetry, in ancient China, Lao-tsu’s philosophical poem Tao Te thing, in Iran, the works of Zoroaster, and in ancient Rus’, The Instructions of Vladimir Monomakh. In addition to the purely didactic literature of antiquity and the Middle Ages, numerous works and even specialized genres were created, which were imbued to various degrees with religious, moral, and philosophical didacticism (for example, the diatribe, parable, apologia, gnome, and miracle and morality plays). Similar to these Western genres were the Panchatantra, a collection of Indian fables, tales, and parables, and the Argument With God by the Persian poet Nasir-i Khusrau. In modern times a number of authors have resorted to didactic poetry, including N. Boileau (L’ Art poétique), Pope (Essay on Man), Goethe (The Metamorphosis of Plants), and M. V. Lomonosov (Letter on the Usefulness of Glass). Since the 19th century the term “didactic” has had a negative connotation suggesting a rationalistic, tendentious, and exhortatory art.
D. P. MURAV’EV