Literary genres are categories that distinguish the different types of written works. The distinctions of the literary forms, their classes and their numerous subgroups are flexible and vaguely defined. That being said, there are universal literary categories in which we can place the tens of millions of literary compositions. First of all, it is important to note that there are two types of writing, prose and poetry or, more specifically, writing in verse.
Two Types of Writing
The prose is a form of free expression that is close to the natural flow of speech dictated by the laws of grammar. Poetry and verse writing, on the other hand, are a form of language that serves to exacerbate the musical and aesthetic qualities of speech by respecting specific rules that limit its rhythm, the phonaesthesia, the symbolism of words and the metre or length of verses. Both forms of writing are present in all literary genres. They are, therefore, not distinguished by the end of using one or the other but by their respective substance.
The Major Literary Genres
• Epistolary Genres: The epistolary genre consists of a collection of real or fictitious correspondence between two or more protagonists.
• Argumentative Genres: The argumentative genre is characterised by its intention to convince the reader by elaborating an argument constructed in several theses which lead the reader to understand the purpose, the concept or the opinion of the author. Essay, pamphlet, and parody are some of the literary categories that fall under the argumentative genre.
• Graphic Novel Genres: The graphic novel genre is an extensive literary category grouping together several writing styles, several cultures and several themes. Three major trends stand out, the Franco-Belgian comic strip, the Japanese manga and the American comic.
• Poetic Genres: The poetic genre exists in a great variety of forms that have evolved with the centuries, cultures, and regions of the world in which poetry has developed. These forms of poetic expression are mostly associated with technical and typographical conventions such as the layout of verse or the different meters. Characterized by the elaboration of style, they are distinguished by the musicality, the expression of the emotions and the force of suggestion that they describe. Ballad, calligram, song writing, elegy, lament, fable, ode, epic, madrigal and many more are all part of the poetic genre category.
• Narrative Genres: The narrative genres are distinguished by their peculiarity of describing the more or less complex sequence of events or adventures that allow us to deduce the actions and roles of each of the actors, protagonists and elements of a story. The narrator or narrators are most often distinguished from the author, and several storytelling points of view, as well as several chronological structures, are possible. Very flexible, the narrative genres draw on the writing styles of discourse, description, commentary and poetic expression. The most widespread literary genre, the narrative genre is also determined by the length of its written works and its relation to reality and fiction. All forms of novels, science fiction, fantasy, biography, tale, and testimony are all literary categories that fall under the narrative genre.
• Theatrical Genres: The theatrical genre and its sub-categories are marked by their oral quality and their ephemeral character where the actors are staged and give life to the space of a moment, to a story or a plot imagined by the author. The theatrical genres are distinguished in sub-genres pleasant for comedy or serious for tragedy. Among the styles that fall into the category of the theatrical genre, tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, drama and mystery, are amongst others.
Literature has literally shaped our history for as long as it has been given us the opportunity to write. A study by Google has estimated the number of literary works has more than 130 million different books, scattered among all the genres and sub-genres mentioned here and more. Good reading!