List of literary genres
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Classifications of literature
The following is a list of genres in literature.
A literary genre is a category, type or class of literature.
Major forms of literature
The major forms of Literature are:
Various works of literature are written in and further categorized by genre. Sometimes forms are used interchangeably to define genre. However, a form, e.g., a novel or a poem, can itself be written in any genre. Genre is a label that characterizes elements a reader can expect in a work of literature. The major forms of literature can be written in various genres. Genre is a category characterized by similarities in style, or subject matter.
The classic major genres of Literature are:
Genre categories: fiction and nonfiction
Genre may fall under one of two categories: Fiction and Nonfiction. Any genre can be either: a work of Fiction (nonfactual descriptions and events invented by the author) or a work of Nonfiction (a communication in which descriptions and events are understood to be factual).
Common genres: fiction
Subsets of genres, known as common genres, have developed from the archetypes of genres in written expression. The common genres included in recommended Literature from kindergarten through grade twelve by the California Department of Education are defined as:
- Drama – stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action
- Fable – narration demonstrating an useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale
- Fairy tale – story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children
- Fantasy – fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality
- Fiction narrative – literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact
- Fiction in verse – full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form
- Folklore – the songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or "folk" as handed down by word of mouth
- Historical fiction – story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting
- Horror – fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread and sometimes fear in both the characters and the reader
- Humor – Usually a fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain and sometimes cause intended laughter; but can be contained in all genres
- Legend – story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, that has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material
- Mystery – fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets
- Mythology – legend or traditional narrative, often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behavior and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods
- Poetry – verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses
- Realistic fiction – story that is true to life
- Science fiction – story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets
- Short story – fiction of such brevity that it supports no subplots
- Tall tale – humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance
Common genres: nonfiction
- Biography/Autobiography - Narrative of a person's life. A true story about a real person.
- Essay - A short literary composition that reflects the author's outlook or point.
- Narrative nonfiction - Factual information presented in a format which tells a story.
- Speech - Public address or discourse.
- Textbook - Authoritative and detailed factual description of a topic.
Literary fiction vs. genre fiction
Literary fiction is a term used to to distinguish certain fictional works that possess commonly held qualities that constitute literary merit. Genre works are written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Literary fiction may fit within a classification of market fiction, but also possesses generally agreed upon qualities such as "elegantly written, lyrical, and ... layered" that appeals to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression. There are many sources that help readers find and define literary fiction and genre fiction.
Genres and subgenres
Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.
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- Absurdist fiction
- Adventure novel
- Brit lit
- Children's literature
- Comic novel
- Education fiction
- Experimental fiction
- Erotic fiction
- Historical fiction
- Literary fiction
- Mathematical fiction
- Nonfiction novel
- Occupational fiction
- Philosophical fiction
- Political fiction
- Pulp fiction
- Quantum fiction
- Religious fiction
- Speculative fiction
- Science fiction
- by Theme
- By setting
- Speculative cross-genre fiction
- Suspense fiction
- Women's fiction
- Workplace tell-all
- Urban fiction
- General cross-genre
These are genres belonging to the realm of nonfiction. Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.
- Creative nonfiction
- Diaries and Journals
- Erotic literature
- Essay, Treatise
- Fable, Fairy tale, Folklore
- Religious text
- Literary Genres – Recommended California Department of Education
- Nancy Pearl, Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, Libraries Unlimited, 1999, 432 pp. (1-56308-659-X)
- Saricks, J. (2001). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago and London: American Library Association.