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Definition of literature

Examples of literature in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'literature.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Phrases Containing literature

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woman sitting on floor holding book in front of her face on pink background

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Taking the temperature of a literary genre.

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Trending: 'Literature' As Bob Dylan Sees It

We know how the Nobel Prize committee defines literature, but how does the dictionary?

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Cite this Entry

“Literature.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literature. Accessed 12 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of literature, more from merriam-webster on literature.

Nglish: Translation of literature for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of literature for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about literature

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writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.

the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.

the profession of a writer or author.

literary work or production.

any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills: literature describing company products.

Archaic . polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.

Origin of literature

Synonym study for literature, other words from literature.

  • pre·lit·er·a·ture, noun

Words Nearby literature

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use literature in a sentence

If you want to understand the flamboyant family of objects that make up our solar system—from puny, sputtering comets to tremendous, ringed planets—you could start by immersing yourself in the technical terms that fill the scientific literature .

Poway Unified anticipates bringing forward two new courses – ethnic studies and ethnic literature – to the school board for review, said Christine Paik, a spokeswoman for the district.

The book she completed after that trip, Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928, would be hailed as a classic in the literature on sexuality and adolescence.

He also told Chemistry World he envisages the robots eventually being able to analyze the scientific literature to better guide their experiments.

Research also suggests that reading literature may help increase empathy and understanding of others’ experiences, potentially spurring better real-world behavior.

The research literature , too, asks these questions, and not without reason.

She wanted to know what happened over five years, or even 10, but the scientific literature had little to offer.

The religion shaped all facets of life: art, medicine, literature , and even dynastic politics.

Speaking of the literature you love, the Bloomsbury writers crop up in your collection repeatedly.

literature in the 14th century, Strohm points out, was an intimate, interactive affair.

All along the highways and by-paths of our literature we encounter much that pertains to this "queen of plants."

There cannot be many persons in the world who keep up with the whole range of musical literature as he does.

In early English literature there was at one time a tendency to ascribe to Solomon various proverbs not in the Bible.

He was deeply versed in Saxon literature and published a work on the antiquity of the English church.

Such unromantic literature as Acts of Parliament had not, it may be supposed, up to this, formed part of my mental pabulum.

British Dictionary definitions for literature

/ ( ˈlɪtərɪtʃə , ˈlɪtrɪ- ) /

written material such as poetry, novels, essays, etc, esp works of imagination characterized by excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest

the body of written work of a particular culture or people : Scandinavian literature

written or printed matter of a particular type or on a particular subject : scientific literature ; the literature of the violin

printed material giving a particular type of information : sales literature

the art or profession of a writer

obsolete learning

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Definition of literature noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary

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Definition of 'literature'

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Literature in american english, examples of 'literature' in a sentence literature, cobuild collocations literature, trends of literature.

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Meaning of literary in English

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  • She has been described as the creative colossus of the literary world .
  • Her internationally acclaimed novel has won several literary prizes .
  • The annotation of literary texts makes them more accessible .
  • Her novels are packed with literary allusions .
  • Maybe the author should have rephrased the title of his article to make it more literary.
  • Self-educated and with a great desire for knowledge , he was a very literary man.
  • action hero
  • alliterative
  • alternative history
  • fictionality
  • fictionally
  • non-character
  • non-literary
  • non-metrical
  • nonsense verse
  • swashbuckler
  • sympathetically
  • tartan noir

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Definition of Literature

What is literature (definition of literature by celebrated authors).

What is literature

The word ‘ Literature’   is a modified form of a Latin word ( literra, litteratura or litteratus)  that means: ‘ writing formed with letters’ . Let us look at what is literature according to definitions by different celebrated literary personalities.

Literature can be any written work, but it is especially an artistic or intellectual work of writing. It is one of the fine arts, like painting, dance, music, etc. which provides aesthetic pleasure to the readers. It differs from other written works by only its one additional trait: that is aesthetic beauty. If a written work lacks aesthetic beauty and serves only utilitarian purpose, it is not literature. The entire genre like poetry, drama, or prose is a blend of intellectual works and has an aesthetic beauty of that work. When there is no any aesthetic beauty in any written work that is not pure literature.

Definition of Literature According to Different Writers

  Throughout the history of English literature , many of the great writers have defined it and expressed its meaning in their own way. Here are the few famous definitions of literature by timeless celebrated authors.

Virginia Woolf :   Virginia defined literature in a perfect way. “Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.”

Ezra Pound :  “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

Alfred North Whitehead :  “It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression.”

Henry James :  “It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.”

Lewis :  “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

Oscar Wilde :  “Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac.”

Chesterton :  “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Forster: The definition of literature by Forster is much interesting. “What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote”.

All the these definitions of literature by great writers represent different aspects of it, and shows that in how many ways it can be effective.

Literature: A Depiction of Society

It might sound strange that  what is literature’s  relation with a society could be. However, literature is an integral part of any society and has a profound effect on ways and thinking of people of that society. Actually, society is the only subject matter of literature. It literally shapes a society and its beliefs. Students, who study literature , grow up to be the future of a country. Hence, it has an impact on a society and it moulds it.

According to different definitions of literature by authors, it literally does the depiction of society; therefore, we call it ‘ mirror of   society’ . Writers use it effectively to point out the ill aspects of society that improve them. They also use it to highlight the positive aspects of a society to promote more goodwill in society.

The  essays   in literature often call out on the problems in a country and suggest solutions for it. Producers make films and write novels, and short stories  to touch subjects like morals, mental illnesses, patriotism, etc. Through such writings, they relate all matters to society. Other genre can also present the picture of society. We should keep in mind that the picture illustrated by literature is not always true. Writers can present it to change the society in their own ways.

The Effects of Literature on a Society:

 The effects of literature on a society can be both positive and negative. Because of this, the famous philosophers Aristotle and Plato have different opinions about its effect on society.

Plato was the one who started the idea of written dialogue. He was a moralist, and he did not approve of poetry because he deemed it immoral. He considered poetry as based on false ideas whereas the basis of philosophy came from reality and truth. Plato claims that, “poetry inspires undesirable emotions in society. According to him, poetry should be censored from adults and children for fear of lasting detrimental consequences” (Leitch & McGowan). He further explains it by saying, “Children have no ability to know what emotions should be tempered and which should be expressed as certain expressed emotions can have lasting consequences later in life”. He says, “Strong emotions of every kind must be avoided, in fear of them spiraling out of control and creating irreparable damage” (Leitch & McGowan). However, he did not agree with the type of poetry and wanted that to be changed. ( read Plato’s attack on poetry )

Now Aristotle considers literature of all kinds to be an important part of children’s upbringing. Aristotle claims that, “poetry takes us closer to reality. He also mentioned in his writings that it teaches, warns, and shows us the consequences of bad deeds”. He was of the view that it is not necessary that poetry will arouse negative feelings. ( Read Aristotle’s defense of poetry )

Therefore, the relation of literature with society is of utter importance. It might have a few negative impacts, through guided studying which we can avoid. Overall, it is the best way of passing information to the next generation and integral to learning.

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Writing Explained

What is a Genre? Definition, Examples of Genres in Literature

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is a Genre? Definition, Examples of Genres in Literature

Genre definition: Genre is the organization and classification of writing.

What is Genre in Literature?

What does genre mean? Genre is the organization of literature into categories based on the type of writing the piece exemplifies through its content, form, or style.

Example of Literary Genre

The poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke fits under the genre of poetry because its written with lines that meter and rhythm and is divided into stanzas.

It does not follow the traditional sentence-paragraph format that is seen in other genres

Types of Literary Genre

There are a few different types of genre in literature. Let’s examine a few of them.

Poetry : Poetry is a major literary genre that can take many forms. Some common characteristics that poetry shares are that it is written in lines that have meter and rhythm. These lines are put together to form stanza in contrast to other writings that utilize sentences that are divided into paragraphs. Poetry often relies heavily on figurative language such as metaphors and similes in order to convey meanings and create images for the reader.

  • “Sonnet 18” is a poem by William Shakespeare that falls within this category of literature. It is a structured poem that consists of 14 lines that follow a meter (iambic pentameter) and a rhyme scheme that is consist with Shakespearean Sonnets.

Drama : This literary genre is often also referred to as a play and is performed in front of an audience. Dramas are written through dialogue and include stage directions for the actors to follow.

  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde would be considered a drama because it is written through dialogue in the form of a script that includes stage directions to aid the actors in the performance of the play.

Prose : Prose is a type of writing that is written through the use of sentences. These sentences are combined to form paragraphs. This type of writing is broad and includes both fiction and non-fiction.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an example of fictional prose. It is written in complete sentences and divided through paragraphs.

Fiction : Fiction is a type of prose that is not real. Authors have the freedom to create a story based on characters or events that are products of their imaginations. While fiction can be based on true events, the stories they tell are imaginative in nature.

Like poetry, this genre also uses figurative language; however, it is more structural in nature and more closely follows grammatical conventions. Fiction often follows Freytag’s plot pyramid that includes an exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and dénouement.

  • The novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is an example of a fictional story about the main character’s experience with his self-acclaimed ability to time travel.

Nonfiction : Nonfiction is another type of prose that is factual rather than imaginative in nature. Because it is more factual and less imaginative, it may use less figurative language. Nonfiction varies however from piece to piece. It may tell a story through a memoir or it could be strictly factual in nature like a history textbook.

  • The memoir Night by Elie Wiesel is a memoir telling the story of Wiesel’s experience as a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust.

The Function of Genre

Genre is important in order to be able to organize writings based on their form, content, and style.

For example, this allows readers to discern whether or not the events being written about in a piece are factual or imaginative. Genre also distinguishes the purpose of the piece and the way in which it is to be delivered. In other words, plays are meant to be performed and speeches are meant to be delivered orally whereas novels and memoirs are meant to be read.

Summary: What Are Literary Genres?

Define genre in literature: Genre is the classification and organization of literary works into the following categories: poetry, drama, prose, fiction, and nonfiction. The works are divided based on their form, content, and style. While there are subcategories to each of these genres, these are the main categories in which literature is divided.

Final Example:

The short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is a fictional short story that is written in prose. It fits under the prose category because it is written using complete sentences that follow conventional grammar rules that are then formed into paragraphs.

The story is also identified as fictional because it is an imagined story that follows the plot structure.

literature definition grammar


literature definition grammar

Parallelism Definition

What is parallelism? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

Parallelism is a figure of speech in which two or more elements of a sentence (or series of sentences) have the same grammatical structure. These "parallel" elements can be used to intensify the rhythm of language, or to draw a comparison, emphasize, or elaborate on an idea. The following well-known adage is an example of parallelism: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." The grammatical structures of the first and second sentences parallel each other.

Some additional key details about parallelism:

  • Parallelism can be as simple as choosing grammatically similar elements when writing a list, as in "First do X, second do Y, third do Z."
  • In some cases, parallelism involves the exact repetition of words, but all that is required to fit the definition of parallelism is the repetition of grammatical elements.
  • Parallelism is a prominent feature of Hebrew and Middle Eastern poetry, and it appears frequently in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

How to Pronounce Parallelism

Here's how to pronounce parallelism: par -uh-lel-iz-em

Parallelism in Grammar vs. in Rhetoric and Literature

The term "parallelism" is used to describe both a figure of speech and a principle in grammar, although its use in each context is slightly different.

Parallelism in Grammar

In grammar, parallelism is the principle that using similar grammatical elements in certain contexts—when making a list, for example—leads to sentences that flow in a more natural way. In the following sets of sentences, the first version is parallel while the second is not. Note how the examples without parallelism are awkward and a little confusing.

In this first set of sentences, the first sentence contains a list of three parallel nouns , while the second combines two nouns with a verb .

  • Parallelism: Their son loved playing chess , video games , and soccer .
  • No parallelism: Their son loved chess , video games , and to play soccer .

In the second set of sentences, the first contains parallel adjectives , while the second combines two adjectives with a verb .

  • Parallelism ( adjectives ): The Bach Sonata was beautiful , moving , and inspiring .
  • No parallelism: The Bach Sonata was beautiful , moving , and it inspired .

Parallelism in Rhetoric and Literature

In contrast to the strictly grammatical view of parallelism, in rhetoric and literature parallelism can do much more than just create a pleasing and grammatical sentence structure. Writers use parallel grammatical elements within one sentence or, more broadly, between and among different sentences in a paragraph, for effect : to emphasize ideas or themes , suggest connections, or highlight contrasts, all while adding rhythm to the structure of their expression.

Parallelism and Related Figures of Speech

While parallelism is itself a figure of speech, it can also be seen as a kind of "umbrella" category of a number of different figures of speech. Put another way: there are a number of figures of speech that make use of parallelism in specific ways. It's useful to know what these other terms mean, since technically speaking they are specific types of parallelism.

Parallelism and Antithesis

One literary device that often makes use of parallelism is antithesis . In antitheses, two elements of a sentence are placed in contrast to one another. This opposition is clearest when a writer puts the ideas in parallel positions. Neil Armstrong used antithesis with parallelism when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969, using the parallel structure of the two halves of his sentence to highlight the contrast between his "small step" and the "giant leap" that this step represented in the history of humanity.

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Parallelism and Anaphora

Another specific type of parallelism is anaphora . This figure of speech involves the repetition of at least one word at the beginning of successive clauses or phrases. In one of Winston Churchill's most famous speeches during World War II, he makes stirring use of anaphora :

.... We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...

Note that there are also other uses of parallelism in this excerpt of Churchill's speech that do not fall into the category of anaphora. The different locations that Churchill names ("on the beaches...on the landing grounds...in the fields and in the streets...in the hills") create parallelism through their grammatical similarity.

Parallelism and Asyndeton

In asyndeton , a conjunction (such as "and") is omitted between parts of a sentence to create a certain rhythm. Often, this is made possible by parallelism, which helps the reader to interpret the sentence's meaning even when it is not (technically) grammatically correct. In Julius Caesar's famous boast to the Senate after his victory at the Battle of Zela, he makes use of asyndeton because he omits the word "and" before the final clause.

Veni, vidi, vici : I came, I saw, I conquered.

Technically this omission of "and" makes the sentence an example of "comma splicing," which is a grammatical no-no, but the parallelism allows the meaning to come through and creates a pleasing rhythm.

Parallelism and Epistrophe

Epistrophe is the opposite of anaphora . Instead of repeated word(s) at the beginning of successive phrases, epistrophe involves repeating words at the end of successive phrases. Abraham Lincoln employed epistrophe when he declared in his Gettysburg Address that the Union was fighting to defend a government "of the people , by the people , for the people ." Again, this is an example of parallelism as well as epistrophe, since epistrophe is just a specific type of parallelism.

Parallelism Examples

Parallelism examples in literature.

Parallelism occurs frequently in poetry and prose, from ancient Hebrew poetry to contemporary fiction.

Parallelism in Psalms of the Old Testament

Parallelism is found throughout both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. In this pair of verses from Psalm 24, there are two examples of what biblical scholars call synonymous parallelism , meaning that the idea of the first clause is repeated and rephrased with a parallel grammatical structure in the second clause to emphasize or amplify the point.

The earth is the LORD's and everything in it , the world, and all who live in it ; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters .

Parallelism in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar , Mark Antony is given the opportunity to speak at the funeral of his recently assassinated friend, Caesar. He uses this chance to incite a riot in the hopes of winning back control of the Senate from the conspirators who assassinated Caesar in the first place.

Friends, Romans, countrymen , lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar , not to praise him . The evil that men do lives after them ; The good is oft interred with their bones ...

The first use of parallelism in Antony's speech comes in the list of nouns with which he calls the crowd to attention, naming their reasons to be loyal listeners as friends and patriotic citizens. Antony then uses parallelism again (with antithesis ) to state his intended purpose by contrasting the verbs "to bury" and "to praise." The third instance of parallelism is also an example of antithesis.

Parallelism in Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

In this passage from A Farewell to Arms , Hemingway uses repetition and parallelism to create a rhythm that gives his simple style a precise and powerful effect. This repetition continues the matter-of-fact tone in which the narrator is describing the events of the war. This particular parallelism could also be called an example of epistrophe because its repetition occurs at the end of successive clauses.

Up the river the mountains had not been taken ; none of the mountains beyond the river had been taken . That was all left for next year.

Parallelism in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride"

In this famous poem, Longfellow chronicles the ride of Paul Revere on his way to warn colonists of the attacking British soldiers. The first two instances of parallelism are simple repetitions of grammatical elements— first the repetition of a verb phrase, and then a series of adjectives . The third instance is also an example of antithesis (as well as anaphora , with the repetition of "now"). This third parallelism also sets the scene with the striking imagery of the horse's hooves.

He has left the village and mounted the steep And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep , Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; And under the alders, that skirt its edge, Now soft on the sand , now loud on the ledge , Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

Parallelism in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake

In this short excerpt from Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake , there are several examples of parallelism used to create rhythm within a sentence while elaborating on an idea. Here you can see how even without using the more elaborate versions of parallelism (anaphora, antithesis, asyndeton, etc.), the simple choice to use elements that are grammatically parallel within a sentence helps these sentences to flow effectively.

Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby's birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard , only half true . As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can't help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone , so deprived .

Parallelism Examples in Rhetoric

Parallelism can add pleasing rhythm to speech that makes it seem more eloquent, can help to highlight or emphasize ideas, and through its use of repetition can make a speech more persuasive. No wonder politicians and other speech-makers use it all the time.

Parallelism in President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address

In his first speech to the American public as President, JFK explicitly sent a message to the nations of the world that the United States would undergo any difficulty to defend liberty around the world. In just this one sentence, he uses parallelism in a few places, two of which could also be classified as antitheses .

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill , that we shall pay any price , bear any burden , meet any hardship , support any friend , oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Parallelism in President George W. Bush's Address to the Nation on Terrorism (September 20th, 2001).

In this speech, delivered just over a week after the attacks of September 11th, President Bush declared a "war on terror." There are three instances of parallelism in just these two sentences, with the first also being an example of anaphora , since it involves a repetition of words at the beginning of a phrase. The second and third uses of parallelism are lists whose parallel structures create rhythm and establishes a link between the many different responses to the terrorist attack.

We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We've seen the unfurling of flags , the lighting of candles , the giving of blood , the saying of prayers —in English , Hebrew , and Arabic .

Parallelism Examples in Song

Parallelism is a common feature of many song traditions. Songwriters use parallelism to create rhythm and link ideas together.

Parallelism in "The House of the Rising Sun"

In this traditional folk song from the American South, made famous by The Animals, parallelism paints a picture of the singer's background, while contrasting his mother's honest profession (tailor) with his father's dishonest one (gamblin' man):

My mother was a tailor She sewed my new blue jeans My father was a gamblin' man Down in New Orleans.

Parallelism in "Days Like This" by Van Morrison

In this song , Van Morrison uses several forms of parallelism, including both anaphora and epistrophe —which, when used together, create symploce . This example makes the rhythmic potential of parallelism clear, and shows its usefulness in song-writing.

When it's not always raining there'll be days like this When there's no one complaining there'll be days like this When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch Well mama told me there'll be days like this .

Why Do Writers Use Parallelism?

Parallelism is an important tool at any writer's disposal, and can be used for a variety of purposes:

  • To emphasize the relationship between two or more sentences in a paragraph, or two or more ideas within a single sentence.
  • To compare or contrast two different things or ideas.
  • To create a stronger sense of rhythm in a text.
  • To drive home a point through repetition.
  • To elaborate on an idea.

Notice how even the bulleted list above is an example of parallelism. It's easy to read in part because the grammatical structure of each line is identical, beginning with an infinitive ("to" + verb). Parallelism is everywhere because it's one of the rules of grammar that makes ideas (both simple and complex) easier to understand.

Other Helpful Parallelism Resources

  • Sound bites from history: This website collects audio samples from speeches in American history, so that you can hear parallelism in action.
  • University Webpage: This professor's page includes some helpful breakdowns of sentence structure and grammatically correct examples of parallelism.
  • The Wikipedia Entry on Parallelism: A useful rundown of parallelism with relevant examples from throughout world history.

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Genres in Literature

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In literature, every piece of writing falls under a general category, also known as a genre. We experience genres is other parts of our daily lives, such as movies and music, and in each case, the individual genres typically have distinctive styles in terms of how they are composed. At the most basic level, there are essentially three main genres for literature - poetry, prose and drama - and each can be broken down even further, resulting in dozens of subgenres for each. Some resources will cite only two genres: fiction and non-fiction, though many classics will argue that fiction and non-fiction can, and do, both fall under poetry, drama or prose.  

While there is much debate over what constitutes a genre in literature, for the purposes of this article, we will break down the classic three. From there, we will outline some of the subgenres for each, including those that some believe should be classified as main genres.

Poetry is a style of writing that tends to be written in verses, and typically employs a rhythmic and measured approach to composition. It characteristically is known for evoking emotional responses from readers through its melodic tone and use of creative language that is often imaginative and symbolic in nature. The word “poetry” comes from the Greek word “poiesis” which essentially means, making, which is translated into the making of poetry. Poetry is typically divided into two main subgenres, narrative and lyric, which each have additional types that fall under their respective umbrellas. For example, narrative poetry includes ballads and epic tales, while lyric poetry includes sonnets, psalms and even folk songs. Poetry can be fiction or nonfiction.

Prose is essentially identified as written text that aligns with the flow of conversation in sentence and paragraph form, as opposed to verses and stanzas in poetry . Writing of prose employs common grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech, not a specific tempo or rhythm as is seen in traditional poetry. Prose as a genre can be broken down into a number of subgenres including both fiction and non-fiction works. Examples of prose can range from news, biographies and essays to novels, short stories, plays and fables. The subject matter, if it is fiction versus nonfiction and length of the work, are not taken into consideration when classifying it as prose, but rather the style of writing that is conversational is what lands works in this genre.

Drama is defined as theatrical dialogue that is performed on stage and traditionally is comprised of five acts. It is generally broken down into four subgenres including comedy, melodrama, tragedy and farce. In many cases, dramas will actually overlap with poetry and prose, depending on the writing style of the author. Some dramatic pieces are written in a poetic style, while others employ a more casual writing style seen in prose, to better relate to the audience. Like both poetry and prose, dramas can be fiction or nonfiction, though most are fictional or inspired by real life, but not completely accurate.

The Genre and Subgenre Debate

Beyond these three basic genres, if you conduct an online search for “genres of literature,” you will find dozens of conflicting reports that claim any number of main genres that exist. There is often debate over what constitutes genre, but in most cases, there is a misunderstanding of the difference between genre and subject matter. It’s common for subject matter to be considered a genre in not only literature, but also in movies and even games, both of which are often based on or inspired by books . These subjects can include biography, business, fiction, history, mystery, comedy, romance and thrillers. Subjects may also include cooking, self help, diet and fitness, religion and many many more.  

Subjects and subgenres, however, can often be intermixed. Though, it can be a challenge to determine how many subgenres or subjects actually exist, as there are differing opinions on each, and new ones are created regularly. For example, young adult writing has become increasingly popular, and some would classify it as a subgenre of prose.

The difference between genre and subject is often blurred by the world around us. Think of a time when you last visited a bookstore or library. Most likely, the books were divided into sections - fiction and non-fiction for sure - and further categorized based on the type of books, such as self-help, historic, science fiction and others. Many people assume that these categorizations of subject matter are genre, and as a result, common language today has adopted a casual use of genre to mean subject.

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  1. What is Literature

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