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Genre is a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.

Understanding the genre of a specific literary work helps a reader know what they are getting into. The four main genres of literature are fiction, prose, drama, and poetry. Each of these presents its own challenge and if one is prepared for what those challenges might be, they will be more prepared for whatever the piece of writing throws at them. 

The Four Genres of Literature



The first of the four genres is poetry, it is defined as a test that follows metro and rhythm. The lines are often structured with a specific number of syllables and the writer can choose to use rhyme to create a musical pattern. Like the other genres of literature, this one can be subdivided into several smaller genres. This include narrative poetry, romantic, lyric, and epic. These may be further divided into genres like tragedy, elegy, ballad, and ode. 

These poetic forms are all different and have certain features a reader should be prepared for before they start in on an analysis of any one of them. But, they are also similar in a number of ways. Verse writing does not worry about sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation. Lines and lines of text might go by before a reader finds an example of end-punctuation. Poetry is also known for its use of figurative language, such as hyperbole, alliteration, simile, and metaphor. 

Take a look at these lines from Talisman by Marianne Moore as an example of several techniques found in poems: 

a stumbling shepherd found

embedded in the ground,

a sea-gull

of lapis lazuli,

a scarab of the sea,

with wings spread—

Here, a seagull is described as being made of “lapis lazuli,” an expensive blue gemstone. It only becomes clear with analysis that the speaker is describing a jewelled sculpture of some kind. It is compared, through a metaphor, to “a scarab,” a symbol in Egypt of immortality and resurrection. The seagull has its “wings spread” in these lines. This is another symbol, this time of freedom and escape, a factor that should be juxtaposed against where the “stumbling shepherd” found it.



A broad and wide-reaching genre, fiction has three sub-categories. These include realistic, non-realistic, and semi-fiction. A fiction work is based on an untrue story. It is something that the writer crafted for the pleasure of writing and storytelling. Fiction is more structured than poetry. It pays attention to the formatting of sentences and paragraphs. 

Fiction writers might make use of figurative language like their poetic counterparts. They may also explore different ways of playing with the parts of story. These include plot, exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. In the end, a fiction work usually has a resolution that brings the story to a close. Some of the best-loved examples of English-language fiction include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. 



Prose writing is different from both poetry and fiction. It structured as fiction is, but it is usually more formal. It is subdivided into sections which include speeches, essays, and criticism. Prose is focused on characters, plots, and outcomes rather than figurative language and sound. 

Prose can be further divided into these four sections: nonfictional prose, fictional prose, heroic prose, and prose poetry. The first, nonfictional prose is concerned with biographies and essays. It can contain fiction in it, but it is based on true facts. Fictional prose is a literary work that is wholly, or at least partially, imagined. This can include novels. Heroic prose is a worrier that recited, eventually written down, and found in oral traditions. These include legends and myths. The final category, prose poetry, refers to a literary work that has some of the attributes of poetry but is structured as a novel. 



A dramatic work, also known as a play, is a story that is performed for an audience. It made up primarily of dialogue, but it also includes stage directions and context. Sometimes the playwright will include information about what the characters look like and what they are wearing. But, this information is for those performing the work, not for those observing.

The most famous English—language playwright is William Shakespeare. His plays are performed as they were when he wrote them to this day. They are also consumed as fiction, read by lovers of great stories all over the world. He made use of all the sub-categories of drama, like comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy, and history.

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