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sample literary genres

Here, The Muse seeks to clarify the definition of literary genre by way of example. Listed below, in no special order, are names of a few major literary genres. You probably will be able to recognize these genres by their names:

  • Adventure Fiction
  • Autobiography/Biography
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Young Adult Fiction
  • Romance
  • Detective Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Political Fiction
  • Philosophical Fiction
  • Romantic Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Historical Romance
  • Horror
  • Historical Fiction
  • Western Fiction
  • Nautical Fiction
  • Saga
  • Family Saga
  • Spy Fiction
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Tragedy
  • Travel
  • Science
  • Mythology

more about these genres

If descriptive, as are the genres listed above, the name of a genre can carry one a long way toward understanding it. But there's more to a genre than just its name.

To illustrate further, four of the genres in the above list are described in greater detail below. For each genre name in the following list, there is a definition, explanation, and a sample of a literary work that is a member of the named genre.

  • Science Fiction—works whose major ideas deal with science or technology and their effects on society and human behavior.
    • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein tells the story of a political revolution by members of a lunar penal colony. The science ideas and futuristic settings are an integral part of the plot and motivations of the characters.
  • Detective Fiction—fiction in which a detective solves a crime or a series of crimes.
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes the now-famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, to the English moors to solve a mysterious murder.
  • Western Fiction—fiction typically set in the American Old West between the years of 1860 and 1900.
    • Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey is a story of the conflict between cattle ranchers and rustlers set in Utah in the late 1800s.
  • Nautical Fiction—fiction about sailors and the sea.
    • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian is the first in a series of seafaring books set in the time of the Napoleonic wars. The book introduces (soon-to-be Captain) Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin and details their adventures as members of the British Navy.


more Literary Genres

Explore literary terms like genre further in The Muse Of Literature's Glossary Of Literary Terms: click here.

lists, lists, lists

The literary canon contains perhaps hundreds of thousands of works on all sorts of themes and subjects, all of which fall into one or another genre. Experts have been using genre to analyze literary works since the time of Aristotle. With so much time and so many works to classify, far more genres have been devised than can be described here.

The Muse suggests that you investigate and become familiar with a few genre lists devised by other sources. There are hundreds of them on the internet. Use them to find more and different genres and to explore how greatly genres names, definitions, and classification schemes differ among list makers, even when the same works are involved. Note how much genres and lists of genres can differ, even when they list the same works.

  • See the Wikipedia list of literary genres at the page called Category: Literary Genre. Click the name of a genre to learn more about its definition, varieties, history, samples of works, and other aspects: click here.
  • See the Wikipedia list of literary genres at the page called Genre. Click the name of a genre to learn more about its definition, varities, history, samples of works, and other aspects—even software a writer can use to construct a work: click here.
  • Explore a brave attempt at formulating a comprehensive list of literary genres, an almost-impossible task. Visit the Wikipedia page called Category; Literary Genres where you'll find an alphabetical list of scores of literary genres and subgenres. Click their names to learn more about them: click here.
  • See a list of literary genres at the GCMS Elementary School Library web site, one typical of its kind. Compare with with the other lists: click here.


about these kinds of lists

As you explore the subject of literary genre, keep in mind that genres and lists of genres are matters of judgment. Ways of classifying and dividing works into genres vary from list-to-list and list-maker to list-maker; so do genre names, definitions, and arrangements of lists into genres and subgenres. Expect to run into new or different genres names and definitions as you and encounter each new list maker.

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