When people write an essay or a scientific paper, they often say that it is possible to “find something in the literature”. But why “the literature”? “Literature” is an uncountable noun, so couldn’t you say simply “in literature”?
The problem is that “literature” has several different meanings. When we speak about literature itself, there is no need to use an article, as in the following quotation by Tom Baker:
There is no reason to use “the” here, just like you wouldn’t say “the water consists of hydrogen and oxygen” when speaking about water in general. However, “literature” also has a different meaning. When it refers to a specific collection of books, papers, etc., related to a given subject, it is often used as a countable noun, and you should say “the literature”, referring to the literature of the given field. For example, a physicist could write:
(It is not common to discuss quantum entanglement in literature in general.) In this sense, “literature” may also be used with the indefinite article (a, an), usually when it is combined with an adjective, e.g.
Using the plural “literatures” is rather rare (it is not even listed in most dictionaries), but it possible. For example, the following quotation comes from the American Journal of Public Health: