Genre Definition

Genre means the type of art, literature or music characterized by a specific form, content and style. For example, literature has four main genres; poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction. All of these genres have particular features and functions that distinguish them from one another. Hence, it is necessary on the part of readers to know which category of genre they are reading in order to understand the message it conveys, as they may have certain expectations prior to the reading concerned.

Types of Genre

There are five types of genres in literature, which include:


Poetry is the first major literary genre. All types of poetry share specific characteristics. In fact, poetry is a form of text that follows a meter and rhythm with each lines and syllables. It is further subdivided into different genres such an epic poem, narrative, romantic, dramatic, and lyric. Dramatic poetry includes melodrama, tragedy and comedy, while other poems includes ode, sonnet, elegy, ballad, song and epics. Popular examples of epic poems are Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer and romantic poem includes, Red Red Rose by Robert Burns etc. All these poetic forms share specific features such as they do not follow paragraphs or sentences; they use stanzas and lines instead. Some forms follow very strict rules of length and number of stanzas and lines such as villanelle, sonnet and haiku etc. while some may be free like a free verse poem “Feelings, Now” by Katherine Foreman that is devoid of any regular meter and rhyme scheme. Besides that, often poetry uses figurative language like metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and alliteration, etc. to create heightened effects.


Drama is a form of text that is performed in front of an audience. It is also called a play. Its written text contains dialogues, and stage directions. This genre has further categories such as comedy, tragedy, tragicomedy etc. William Shakespeare is known as the father of English drama. His well-known plays include Taming of the Shrew, Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet, while Greek playwrights were the pioneers in this field such as Sophocles’ masterpiece is Oedipus Rex and Antigone, while modern dramas include Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller etc.


It is a kind of written text different from poetry in that it has complete sentences organized into paragraphs. Unlike poetry, prose focuses on characters and plot than focusing on sounds. It includes short stories and novels, while fiction and non-fiction are its sub genres. Prose is further categorized into essays, speeches, sermons and interpretations.


Fiction has three categories that are, realistic, non-realistic and semi-fiction. Usually, fiction work is not real and therefore, authors can use complex figurative language to touch readers’ imagination. Unlike poetry, it is more structured, follows proper grammatical pattern and correct mechanics. A fictional work may incorporate fantastical and imaginary ideas from everyday life. It comprises some important elements such as plot, exposition, foreshadowing, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. The popular examples of literary fiction include, James Joyce’s’ novel A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.


Non-fiction is a vast category that also has sub-genres; it could be creative like personal essay, and factual like scientific paper. It may also use figurative language, however, not abundantly like poetry, or fiction has. Sometimes, it may tell a story like autobiography, or sometimes it may convey the information to the readers. Other examples of non-fiction include biographies, diaries, memoirs, journals, fantasies, mysteries and romances. The popular example of non-fiction genre is Michael Pollan’s highly celebrated book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which is an account about eating habits of Americans.

Function of Genre

Depending upon their types, different genres have different roles. For example, fiction and dramatic genres help students and writers learn and improve their communication skills. A poetic genre, on the other hand, enhances imaginative and emotional power of the readers. Non-fictional texts and essays help readers develop analytical and persuasive capabilities. However, the major function of genre is to establish a code of behavior between the writers and audience, and keep the readers informed about the topics discussed or the themes presented.

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