Read By Mitchell Stuart
What are the Genres of Literature?
Every piece of literature can be categorised in a specific group; also known as a genre. Genres are present in other forms of art such as music and film and in each of them they have a specific style in terms of how they are portrayed. There are essentially three main genres of literature; poetry, prose and drama and each can be broken down further still into multiple sub genres. There is a lot of debate on whether non-fiction and media should be added to the main genres or whether it is a sub-genre of the three mentioned previously.
For the purpose of this article, I will break down the most common of the genres and also include media and non-fiction.
Poetry is often considered the oldest form of literature. Before it was common to write any literature down, stories were often put into a poetic form to make them easier to remember and recite. As a rule, poetry is usually written down but is still adapted for the stage and for small performances.
Poetry conjures thoughts of a specific number of syllables, rhyming couplets and strict forms to follow which is certainly true for a lot of poetry. Other types are very free form and don’t follow any sort of rhyming pattern. There are even types of poetry that cross genre lines such as prose poetry. In general, poetry has some sort of rhythm, with a focus on syllables and words and phrases that sound similar to one another. They are heavy in imagery and aim to bring to life whatever is being described in the reader’s imagination. They are often made of phrases instead of full sentences and nearly always written in stanzas which creates a unique look when written down.
Poetry, particularly to students, is usually experienced in three forms:
· Shorter, usually more modern poems spanning from a few lines to pages. Often collected in books by the same author or multiple authors.
· Classic, formulaic poems such as the sonnet or the blank verse. Most common in the time of Shakespeare.
· Ancient, epic poems that recount oral stories of past events such as The Odyssey.
Prose is considered to be any form of text that isn’t written in the form of a poem. As you can imagine this covers a multitude of catergories. The most common varieties include novels and short stories, letters, diaries and journal entries. Prose is written in full sentences and paragraphs and instead of focusing on sounds and how it is performed, more emphasis is given to the plot and the characters.
Prose is the most common literature to be studied in the classroom particularly novels and short stories from Jane Eyre to Lord of the Flies. Just like poetry, prose can be further categorised into sub genres. Some of these are geared around the text’s structure like novellas and memoirs. Whilst others are based on the subject of the prose like horror or romance.
When a piece of literature is intended to be performed rather than read (with the exception of a poem) it falls under the genre of drama. Dramas are usually known as plays. When a play is viewed in its written form, it mostly consists of character dialogue with stage directions for the actors. Often when drama is taught in the classroom, it is read the same way as a novel. Since dramas are created for the stage it is very hard to appreciate them when read in this way. Students of this genre can fully appreciate the beauty of it when they encouraged to act out scenes or have it acted for them in either theatre or cinema.
Dramas most often taught in the classroom are plays like Shakespeare including Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
Drama and poetry belong to a broader category of fiction which surrounds texts of events and characters that have been imagined. Non-fiction is a type of prose that that includes many different sub-genres. Non-fiction can be creative or factual. Sometimes the purpose of it is to tell a story, like an autobiography but for the majority of the time its purpose is to pass on information on a specific subject or subjects to educate the reader.
Some genres of non-fiction include histories, textbooks, travel guides, newspapers or self-help books. The varieties most used in the classroom are textbooks, essays and literary criticism. Students practise writing non-fictional essays in many classes and is often used to support and expand student’s understanding of texts. For example, after reading Hamlet, students are able to read and write critical articles on the play.
The newest type of genre to literature, media, has been introduced to categorise new and important kinds of literature in our society today. This includes film, websites, commercial advertisements, podcasts and radio programs. Any piece of literature that doesn’t appear as text is often categorised as media especially if it relies on specific technologies to present itself. Media covers a vast amount of purposes that include; entertainment, education, advertising or persuasion.
It is becoming more and more important to teach media within the classroom. Students are more likely to come into contact with this form of literature than any other in their day to day lives. It makes sense to train their minds to be critical consumers. Internet literacy is becoming essential for today’s job market and is a key skill for students to learn for once they have finished their studies.
Hamlet well you cant have aliteracy blog without mentioning it.
“First performed around 1600, Hamlet tells the story of a prince whose duty to revenge his father’s death entangles him in philosophical problems he can’t solve.”
A story of revenge played out in the 1600’s this is a must read for every book worm. It is one i have personally revisted noticing the intrecacyies of the story as I read it with a fresh set of eyes. Keep an eye out for my full review of this book.
The generes you can uncover are vast and I would spend my life revieiwing them if i could but unfortunaltley lifes tasks get in the way. Follow me as I ddelve into new geners one book at a time. I hope you enjoy the read Mitchell Stuart.