While other copies of the Kesh Temple hymn have surfaced, the oldest tablets date from around 2600 BC. The scribes faithfully copied the hymn, showing that it was important to the Sumerians. The literature of the Old Kingdom of Egypt developed directly from practical use during the Fifth Dynasty. Lists of offerings to the gods were rewritten in the form of prayers, and statistical information on state officials was developed into autobiographies. These autobiographies were written to illustrate the virtues of their subjects, and often included a fluid style that mixed prose and poetry. Kings were not written beyond the clerical archives, but poems were performed at the funerals of kings as part of a religious ritual. The Instructions, a form of popular wisdom literature throughout most of ancient Egyptian history, taught maxims from ancient Egyptian philosophy that combined pragmatic thought and religious speculation.  Although there are many claims that older tablets from various parts of the world represent the oldest writing, the Kish tablet is widely regarded as the oldest writing in the world that has been confirmed. The tablet was found in Iraq at the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Kish and has been dated to around 3500 BC. Transcendentalism developed as a philosophical school in the early 19th century, and authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson contributed to transcendentalist literature.  Many books on slavery were written in the early United States, including Harriet Beecher Stowe`s Uncle Tom`s Cabin.
 Freedmen such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs also wrote autobiographies that promoted the cause of abolitionism.  Early 19th century Native American literature was in conflict between the preservation of traditional elements and the inclusion of elements of contemporary American literature.  Realism and naturalism became popular in the United States in the late 19th century. Mark Twain has received great success for his novels, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Regionalism developed, with various literary traditions developing in the West, Midwest, South, and New England. African American and Native American literature also developed as distinct literary traditions.  Although Shuruppak`s paternal wisdom is one of the earliest examples of written literature, the oldest known fictional story in history is probably the « Epic of Gilgamesh, » a mythical poem first published in the third millennium B.C. The adventurous story revolves around a Sumerian king named Gilgamesh, who is described as one-third man and two-thirds god. Over the course of twelve clay tablets, he embarks on a classic hero`s journey in which he kills monsters, rubs elbows with the gods, and searches for the key to immortality – all with predictable tragic consequences.
The Epic of Gilgamesh began as a series of Sumerian poems and stories dating back to 2100 BC, but the most complete version was written by the Babylonians around the 12th century BC. The story was then lost after 600 BC, and it was not until the middle of the 19th century. In the nineteenth century, archaeologists excavated a copy near the Iraqi city of Mosul. Since then, scholars have celebrated the 4,000-year-old epic as the founding text of world literature. Although the Kish tablet contains mainly pictograms, some of the markings represent the transitional stage between syllabary writing and the first true writing system called cuneiform. Today, Kish`s tablet is on display at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford. The Ashmolean Museum houses one of the largest collections of cuneiform tablets in the world. Dante Alighieri`s Divine Comedy, considered the greatest epic of Italian literature, draws many feature films and episodes on the afterlife directly or indirectly from Arabic works on Islamic eschatology: the Hadith and the Kitab al-Miraj (translated into Latin in 1264 or shortly before under the title Liber Scale Machometi, « The Book of Muhammad`s Ladder ») on Muhammad`s ascension to heaven, and the spiritual writings of Ibn Arabi.
The Moors also had a notable influence on the works of George Peele and William Shakespeare. Some of his works feature Moorish characters, such as Peele`s The Battle of the Alcazar and Shakespeare`s The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus and Othello, which features a Moorish Othello as the main character. These works are said to have been inspired by several Moorish delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England in the early 17th century.  The impression first spread to the Northern Song. Northern Song lyricism was developed by Yan Shu, Liu Yong and Zhang Xian and became a popular pastime among the lower class. Ouyang Xiu developed the popular style of poetry, while Yan Jidao developed the refined style.  The poetry contrasted with the more formal Shi poetry, which followed canonical literary forms and was used by scholars.  Political pressure greatly influenced the poetry of Northern Song scholars, as mastery of older styles was a prerequisite for scholars to enter public service.  In particular, politics and Confucianism increasingly influenced poetry among the Northern Song.