Genre is a category of composition, whether that is artistic, literary, or musical. A genre is defined by its style, content, and approach to its subject matter.

AJAX progress indicator
Clear Search
  • a

  • AbsurdThe absurd is a style of writing that is influenced by humanity’s isolation and a lack of logic in the universe.
  • Adventure StoryAn adventure story tells the tale of a protagonist’s journey. They go on an adventure or quest: one that could be personal or geographical.
  • AgitpropAgitprop is political propaganda conveyed through art, music, literature, and films.
  • AlbaAlba is a specific type of poetry. It’s a genre of lyric poetry from the Old Occitan period, also known as the Old Provençal.
  • Amatory FictionAmatory fiction is a genre of literature that was popular in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It is today considered a predecessor of the romance novel.
  • AntinovelAn antinovel is any novel that disregards traditional conventions of novel-writing. These books push the limits of what a novel can be.
  • ApocalypticThe term “apocalyptic” is applied to a genre of classical religious literature that contends with end of the world scenarios. These stories contain an author's unique vision of the end of the world, as inspired by religious texts. 
  • ApologueAn apologue is a short story, sometimes a fable, that shares a moral lesson. For example, kindness is more important than power, or love triumphs over hate.
  • Arthurian LiteratureArthurian Literature is a category of writing that encompasses stories written during the 12th, 13th, and later centuries that tell the story of King Arthur and his court.
  • AutobiographyAn autobiography is an account of one’s life written by the subject.
  • b

  • Beast FableA beast fable, also known as an animal tale, is a short story or long poem that uses animal characters to relay a moral or narrative. 
  • BildungsromanA bildungsroman is a literary genre that focuses on coming of age stories, following a character's progression towards adulthood.
  • BiographyA biography is an account or description of a person's life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.
  • Blackout PoetryBlackout poetry is also known as redacted poetry and erasure poetry. It is also regarded as a type of “found poetry.” 
  • Bodice RipperA bodice ripper is a genre of romantic literature. It refers to novels that take place in a historic context and follow an erotic or outwardly passionate relationship.
  • BurlesqueBurlesque is a style of literature that mocks its subject. Burlesque writers represent their subjects using irony and obviously outrageous imagery. 
  • c

  • Campus NovelThe campus novel, also known as the academic novel, is a book set around a university or college campus.
  • CarolA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Carol Ann DuffyA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Carol DuffyA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Carol ParsonsA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Carol RumensA carol is a song sung during a festive period, such as Christmas, although not exclusively. They are usually religious in nature.
  • Carpe DiemThe term “carpe diem” is used to describe a genre of poetry that seeks to “seize the day.” It inspires readers to live as well as possible.
  • Chick LitChick lit is a genre of literature that focuses on female protagonists. These stories are usually targeted at younger women and are described as “popular fiction.”
  • Chivalric RomanceChivalric Romance is a genre of literature and culture popular during the Medieval and Early Modern periods in Europe from the 12th century.
  • ChronicleA chronicle is an account of events that occurs in the order that they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.
  • Chronicle NovelA chronicle novel is a long novel, or one in a series of novels, that follows at least two generations of a family or group.
  • Chronicle PlayA chronicle play describes a piece of drama that consists of a series of short episodes that are arranged chronologically, or at least loosely so.
  • ClassicismClassicism is a term used to describe literature that reflected the thoughts and ideas from Ancient Greece and Rome. 
  • ComedyComedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • Coming-of-Age NovelA coming-of-age novel is a book that tells the story of a character growing up and going through a series of important life-defining changes.
  • Companion PoemsCompanion poems are pieces of poetry that were written to accompany one another. They can also be poems written by multiple authors in response to one another. 
  • Confessional PoetryConfessional Poetry is a style of poetry that is personal, often making use of a first-person narrator. It is a branch of Postmodernism that emerged in the US in the 1950s.
  • Conversation PoemA conversation poem is a style of poetry that addresses someone close to the poet in an informal way. These poems use serious language and usually discuss a specific topic. 
  • d

  • Detective StoryThe detective story is a sub-genre of fiction that follows an investigator as they try to track down a criminal, solve a crime, or prevent one from happening. 
  • Devotional PoetryDevotional poetry refers to poems that express worship or prayer. They’re most commonly religious in nature.
  • Dime NovelA dime novel is a form of short, cheap fiction popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. 
  • Divine ComedyComedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • DocumentaryA documentary or documentary film is a genre of non-fictional filmmaking. It is used for the purpose of sharing real-life events as they happened. 
  • DramaDrama is a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with.
  • Dub PoetryDub poetry is a form of performance poetry common to Caribbean immigrants and the West Indian region. It refers to poetry that’s spoken above a reggae music backing. 
  • DystopiaA dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. It is an imagined place or community in which the majority of the people suffer. 
  • e

  • ElegyAn elegy, in literature, is a poem or song that is written in dedication to someone who has died.
  • Epic PoetryAn epic is a long narrative poem that tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters.
  • EpistolaryAn epistolary novel is a book made up of a series of documents, usually letters, diary entires, or newspaper clippings.
  • EssayAn essay is a short piece of writing that is based around a single subject. More often than not, the personal opinion of the author is included. 
  • f

  • FableA fable is a short and concise story that provides the reader with a moral lesson at the end.
  • FabliauA fabliau is a traditional French tale penned by an anonymous writer between 1150 and 1400. These were usually written by jongleurs or medieval entertainers.
  • Fairy TaleFairy tales are short stories that include fanciful and magical elements such as goblins, elves, fairies, and ogres.
  • Fantastic GenreThe word “fantastic” is applied to a specific genre of stories and poems in literature. These stories feature supernatural forces that are presented in an unusual and sometimes strange way.
  • FantasyFantasy is a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.
  • FarceA farce is a genre of comedic literature. It uses exaggerated and outrageous situations to create humor and make the audience laugh.
  • Folk SongA folk song is a piece of music that was composed within the parameters of folk music. These songs are usually about a particular group of people, an event, or an experience. 
  • FolkloreFolklore refers to stories that people tell. These include folk stores, fairy tales, urban legends, and more. 
  • g

  • Ghost StoryA ghost story is any story that involves a supernatural, ghost element. It is a subgenera of fantasy and mystery.
  • GothicGothic literature, poetry, and prose is that which deals with themes of death, the supernatural, sorrow, fear, loss, and more.
  • h

  • Heroic PoetryHeroic poetry is a form of narrative verse that is elevated in style, commonly sung or chanted aloud, and focuses on the deeds of high-ranking warriors and heroes.
  • Historical FictionHistorical Fiction is a genre that fictionalizes real places, people, and events. It takes place in the past with accurate historical details in regard to customs, technologies, people, and events.
  • History PlayA history play is a genre of theatre. It is based on a historical events, usually set sometime in the past with characters from the period. 
  • HomilyA homily is a speech delivered by a religious person, usually a priest, in front of a group of people.
  • HorrorHorror is a genre of fiction that plays with human fear, feelings of terror, dread, and repulsion to entertain the audience. 
  • Hysterical RealismHysterical realism is a genre of fiction, coined by James Wood. It refers to novels that he found to be absurdly elaborate in their use of characters and plots and that delve into real-life experiences.
  • i

  • IdyllAn idyll is a type of short poem that describes rural life or a natural scene.
  • j

  • JuveniliaThe term “juvenilia” refers to creative works finished during the early points of someone's career. It can be used to describe music, art, or literary work.
  • l

  • LampoonA lampoon is a type of satire in which a person or thing is attacked unjustly. They can be found in prose and verse.
  • LegendA legend is a genre of folklore that features stories about human events and actions.
  • Life Writing Life writing is a term used to define a variety of genres focused on recording personal memories and experiences. It includes biographies, diaries, letters, personal essays, memoirs, and more.
  • Light VerseLight verse is poetry that touches on amusing, light-hearted topics. It does not deal with emotionally heavy themes or traumatic life events. 
  • Lyric PoemA lyric poem is a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.
  • m

  • Magical RealismMagical Realism is a genre of fiction writing that is interested in imbuing the modern realistic world with magical, fantastical elements.
  • MedievalismMedievalism is a set of beliefs that are inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. It’s possible to find examples of Medievalism in art, music, literature, philosophy, architecture, and more. 
  • MelodramaA melodrama is a work of literature or a theatrical performance that uses exaggerated events and characters.
  • MetafictionMetafiction refers to stories in which the characters, author, or narrator acknowledge the fact that they're parts of a fiction.
  • Morality PlayA morality play is a genre of theatre popular in the medieval and Tudor period. 
  • Mystery PlayMystery plays were developed in medieval Europe and focused on representations of the Bible. They were originally performed in churches and then moved out into public squares and marketplaces.
  • MythA myth is a genre of folklore that usually includes a hero and sometimes fanatical elements. 
  • MythopoeiaMythopoeia is a genre of modern literature (and film) that refers to the creation of artificial mythology.
  • n

  • NaturalismNaturalism is a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre that focuses on the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles
  • Newgate NovelThe Newgate novel, or the Old Bailey novel, is a type of book published in England from the 1820s to the 1840s that glamorizes criminals' lives.
  • Noir FictionNoir, or noir fiction, is a kind of crime fiction. It is a subgenre in which anti-hero and flawed protagonists are very common. 
  • Non-FictionNon-fiction is applied to prose writing that's based on real events and facts. It includes several different genres, such as biography and history.
  • NovelA novel is a long, written, fictional narrative that includes some amount of realism.
  • NovellaA novella is a prose, fiction work that’s shorter than a novel and longer than a short story. 
  • Nursery RhymeA nursery rhyme is a short rhyming song or poem that conveys a lesson or tells an amusing story. They are aimed at children.
  • o

  • Occasional Verse Occasional verse is a type of poetry written to commemorate an event. For example, a wedding, birth, military victory, or holiday.
  • Old Comedy The term “Old Comedy” describes a specific type of play written by Aristophanes in the 5th century B.C. It is also known as an Aristophanic comedy. 
  • p

  • PaeanA paean expresses thanks, elation, or triumph through the form of a song or lyrical poem.
  • ParodyA parody is created based on an already existing work in order to make fun of it.
  • PasticheA pastiche is a literary creation that imitates a famous work by another author.
  • PastoralPastoral poetry is a genre or mode of poetry that refers to works that idealize country life and the landscape they take place in.
  • Penny DreadfulPenny dreadfuls were a cheap, serialized form of literature popular in the nineteenth century. 
  • Picaresque NovelA picaresque novel is a genre of prose fiction that depicts a roughish hero who experiences episodic adventures.
  • Play (Theatre)A play is a form of writing for theatre. It is divided into acts and scenes. 
  • Poetic DramaPoetic drama is a genre of literature that refers to plays that contain distinctly poetic elements. These are sometimes referred to as verse plays. 
  • Postcolonial LiteraturePostcolonial literature is literature by people who were formally colonized. The term refers to anything, from poems to essays, produced after a colonizing force is left and that is inspired by the impact this immense change made. 
  • ProseProse is a written and spoken language form that does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.
  • PsalmA psalm is a sacred song of worship, such as those featured in the Book of Psalms in the Bible.
  • Psychological RealismPsychological realism is a type of realism that focuses on why a character does what they do.
  • Pulp FictionPulp fiction is a type of short, cheap storytelling that was popular from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.
  • r

  • RomanceRomance is a narrative genre of literature. It can feature elements that include mystery, adventure, bravery, and more.
  • Romantic ComedyRomantic comedy is a genre of literature. It follows two characters who fall in love, face obstacles that might separate them, and are reunited for a happy ending.
  • s

  • Science FictionScience fiction is a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science. 
  • Sensation NovelThe sensation novel was a genre of literature that took advantage of outrageous and sensational topics to entertain readers. 
  • Sentimental NovelA sentimental novel, or a novel of sensibility is a literary genre, popular in the 18th century, that is defined by its focus on concepts of sentiment and sensibility. 
  • Short StoryA short story is a piece of writing with a narrative that’s shorter than a novel. These stories usually only take one sitting to read.
  • Situational ComedySituational comedy, also known as a sitcom, is a genre of comedy and (primarily) television and film. It refers to comedic situations that are awkward, inescapable, and lighthearted.
  • Spoken Word PoetrySpoken word or spoken word poetry is a poetic form that is meant for performance and incorporates the wordplay, alliteration, and intonation of ancient oral traditions.
  • t

  • Tall TaleTall tales are stories that feature unbelievable or outrageous elements. They include hyperboles and other forms of exaggeration. 
  • the divine comedyComedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • The Divine ComedyComedy is a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
  • Theatre of CrueltyThe Theatre of Cruelty is an experimental genre of theatre that’s concerned more with audience sense-experience than it is with dialogue and content.
  • ThrillerThe thriller is a genre of fiction that is defined by its wide variety of sub-genres. They range from crime to science fiction.
  • TragedyThe word “tragedy” refers to a type of drama that explores serious, sometimes dark, and depressing subject matter.
  • Tragedy of BloodTragedy of Blood theatre, also known as revenge tragedy or revenge drama, is a genre of theatre that’s primarily concerned with revenge and its consequences.
  • TragicomedyA tragicomedy is a fictional genre that incorporates elements of tragedies and comedies.
  • u

  • UtopiaThe word “utopia” refers to a perfect, or nearly perfect, place or ideal. 
  • v

  • VaudevilleVaudeville is a genre of entertainment or theatre that originated in France in the 19th century. It is based in lightly comical situations without deeper moral intentions. They included dances and songs. 
  • w

  • What is a Poem?A poem can be written down or spoken aloud. It is a collection of ideas and emotions in a creative way.

Explore more categories in the Literary Terms Glossary:

Shakespeare Quotes

William Shakespeare is considered to be one of, if not the, most important English-language writers of all time. He crafted


A proverb is a short saying that’s used to convey wisdom or advice. It is widely known within a specific

Poetic Meters

Meter is the rhythmic structure of a poem. It refers to the number of syllables and the arrangement of stresses

Poetic Forms

A poetic form is the structure of the poem. This includes how long it is, how many lines or words


A literary movement is a term used to define literature created during the same time period by different authors. They

Literary Term Definitions

A definition is an explanation of a word’s meaning, in this case, in regard to how it’s used in literature.

Literary Devices

Literary devices are techniques writers use to improve their work. They can hint at themes, convey the meaning of the


An idiom is a phrase that cannot be understood through its individual words. It often uses figurative language, allusions, and


Genre is a category of composition, whether that is artistic, literary, or musical. A genre is defined by its style,

Figurative Language

Figurative language is language that creates an image, connection, or expands one’s interpretation of what a phrase or idea can


Diction is the writer’s choice of words and phrases and how those phrases convey their story. Depending on the type