What is a literary genre?

We explain what a literary genre is, the four genres that exist and its history. In addition, what are the lyrical subgenres and narratives.

  1. What is a literary genre?

It is called literary genre to  each specific category in which literary texts can be classified , according to characteristics of its structure, its specific content or the mechanisms used to produce the aesthetic effect it pursues.

The literary genre is a horizon of expectations of the literary work, that is, a label that serves to give us an idea of ​​what a specific book contains : that is why they are used in libraries or libraries as descriptors to organize their material.

These labels are conventional, that is, they are agreed upon and prior to the making of each work, thus indicating to the reader the way in which it should be considered, what to expect from it, what are its fundamental characteristics, etc. Thus, anyone who opens a book of poetry can expect a work of theater .

The literary genres are four:

  • Poetry . The art of using the word to describe the objective or subjective reality of the poet, comparing it with another through similes and metaphors and embellishing it with musical turns of language.
  • Narrative . The art of building narratives told by a narrator, and presenting characters , actions and situations that move or evoke fascination.
  • Dramaturgy . The art of composing theatrical texts, usually intended for live performance on stage. It involves characters and dialogues, but no narrator.
  • Test . The art of free reflection, that is to say, on a specific topic in a moving, convincing or simply beautiful way.

History of literary genres

A first attempt to classify literary works was made by the well-known Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) in his Poetic book   (appeared around 335 BC). There, the following genres were considered, which would become parents of the current ones:

  • Epic . Mother of the narrative, it was an elaboration of legendary or mythological facts of Greek culture, such as the Trojan War (narrated in   Homer’s Iliad ). For this, a narrator was employed, who dealt with the  description , and dialogues were used. Initially it was written in verse , since it is prior to the invention of writing and was sung by heart by rapsodas.
  • The lyric . More or less equivalent to current poetry, it was more similar to singing and song, so it involved the use of accompanying musical instruments. However, the use of rhyme and metrics were similar to modern traditional poetry.
  • The dramatic . It was the writing and theatrical staging, which played an important role in the culture of Ancient Greece, as it was the place of emotional and citizen formation of its inhabitants. It represented myths and episodes of religious-mythological origin, according to two great forms: tragedy and comedy.
  1. Types of literary genre

Literary genres
Modern literary genres are narrative, poetry, dramaturgy and essay.

Usually we speak of modern literary genres, to refer to the current ones: narrative, poetry, dramaturgy and essay ; or to the classical literary genres (or of antiquity), to refer to those that Aristotle described in his  Poetics : epic, dramatic and lyrical.

  1. Lyric Subgenres

There is often talk of lyrical subgenres to refer to forms of verbal expression that employ procedures similar to poetry, and could be considered part of it. These subgenres are:

  • The song . It is usually a description of a story or of a subjectivity through poetic images, accompanied by instrumental music.
  • I chose her . A poetic composition to mourn the death of a loved one or admired.
  • The ode . A poetry composed to pay homage to an elevated or solemn theme.
  • Satire . A poetic composition that seeks to ridicule or degrade someone or something.
  • Egloga . Extensive poems of pastoral nature and bucolic imaginary (country).
  1. Narrative Subgenres

Narrative subgenres are also the forms acquired by the art of literary narration :

  • The story . A brief exploration of a narrative situation closed in itself and told by a narrator.
  • The short  story . A hyperbreve form of story, similar to aphorism or verse.
  • Novel . An extensive and rambling exploration of a more vast and complex narrative, in which many characters often intervene and many events occur.
  • Chronic . A form of mixed narrative that addresses real events, but based on literary composition techniques.
  1. Dramatic subgenres

Literary genres
Tragicomedy is a composition that alternates between drama and comedy.

The dramatic subgenres are those in which the texts of the plays are classified :

  • Drama . The characters fight against a cruel and inexorable destiny and suffer the consequences.
  • Comedy . The characters are represented in a ridiculous or laughable manner and therefore move to laughter.
  • Tragicomedy . A composition that alternates between  drama and comedy.

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