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I do not understand what "although the literature maintains that it’s a noble thing" really means.

Here is the full sentence: Dealing with unrequited love is remarkably unpleasant, and although the literature maintains that it’s a noble thing, there is no escaping the fact that it is painful.

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    This is just speculation, but perhaps you're having trouble with the meaning of maintain as it is used in this sentence. The meaning in this context is the fourth one listed here. – pyobum Apr 16 '15 at 7:04
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The literature refers here to the collected body of all literature written by humanity.

To maintain in this sense means to assert something, to say that something is the case.

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