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An oeuvre is a writer’s body of work. It includes everything they wrote and published throughout their life. 

The term oeuvre is most commonly applied when speaking about authors who had a substantial impact on the literary world. For example, those who engaged with multiple formats and subjects are well-known by the public.

While this isn’t always necessarily the case, it’s more likely that the word “oeuvre” will be used when speaking about someone like William Shakespeare’s work than an unknown author who has only just begun publishing poems in local publications. 

Oeuvre pronunciation: oo-vruh

Oeuvre Definition, Meaning, and Examples

Oeuvre Definition

An oeuvre is the body of work a writer creates throughout their life. This could be confined only to poems or only to novels. But, it more often than not is used when speaking about writers who created poems, novels, short stories, and more. 

How to Use Oeuvre in a Sentence? 

Below are a few example sentences that show how the term “oeuvre” can be used in a sentence. For example: 

  • I’ve read his entire oeuvre, and I have to say I was generally disappointed. 
  • Her oeuvre spans multiple genres and styles. 
  • William Shakespeare’s oeuvre is studied worldwide. 

Examples of Oeuvre 

The Works of William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare’s literary oeuvre is perhaps the most obvious example one could sight. The route his career, William Shakespeare wrote more than 150 poems, some of which are quite long and most of which serve as examples of the best sonnet writing in the English language. He also crafted the best-known plays of his time or any time. They span the genres of tragedy, comedy, history, and some say romance. Here is an example of one of William Shakespeare’s sonnet writing. These are the first eight lines from Sonnet 116:’

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

As a reflection of his wide-ranging interests, here is an example of a few of the most famous lines from his tragedy, Macbeth

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Lovers of literature and scholars of Shakespeare will explore as much of the Bard’s literary oeuvre as possible. But, fully understanding and appreciating his entire collection of published works could take a lifetime. 

Explore William Shakespeare’s poetry

The Works of Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou is a modern example of a writer with a vast oeuvre. She’s known for writing beautiful poetry, numerous autobiographies, personal essays, cookbooks, children’s books, plays, scripts for film and television, creating recordings and spoken word albums, hosting a radio show, and even performing in plays herself. Take a look at a few lines from one of her best poems, Africa:’ 

Thus she had lain

sugercane sweet

deserts her hair

golden her feet

mountains her breasts

two Niles her tears.

Thus she has lain

Black through the years.

Here is another excerpt from one of her other best-known poems, Phenomenal Woman:’ 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,   

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.   

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.   

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,   

And the flash of my teeth,   

Today, Maya Angelou is regarded as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. She is well-loved for her passionate verse that promotes equal rights, and feminism, and celebrates Black culture and beauty. 

Discover more Maya Angelou poems


What is a literary oeuvre?

A literary oeuvre is a writer’s entire collection of work that they accumulated throughout their life. The term is most commonly applied to writers who had a substantial influence on literature in general. It refers to every piece of writing they created, regardless of style and format in their career.

What word is a synonym for oeuvre?

There are several synonyms that you might use in place of the word “oeuvre.” These include opus, magnum opus, the body of work, output, poetic works, collected works, masterwork, etc. 

What is an oeuvre in music?

As with literary writing and visual arts, the term is used in music to refer to the entire output of an artist. For example, every song they wrote, every album they released as well as every piece of music that they had input on or influence.

What is an artist’s body of work called?

An artist’s body of work is known as an oeuvre. It refers to everything they ever made throughout their lives, whether each part of it is considered successful or not. Every creator has an oeuvre or collected works, but not every artist is as well-known as the next. 

Related Literary Terms 

  • Anatomy: anatomies are the division of a literary work or idea into parts. This is done so that a reader might better analyze the individual pieces.
  • Anthology: a collection of literary works that were chosen by a single compiler, a group of people, or an institution of some kind.
  • Canon: a collection of materials that are considered to represent a specific period or genre.
  • Intertextuality: a feature of a text that references another text. It reflects upon the latter and uses it as a reference for the new written work.
  • Bard: used to describe a professional storyteller. They could also be a musician, oral historians, genealogist, or another writer. 
  • Bibliography: a list of books an author has consulted in the creation of a novel, essay, short story, or any other written work that requires research.

Other Resources 

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