A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.
The most general genres in literature are epic, tragedy, comedy, and creative nonfiction. They can all be in the form of prose or poetry. Additionally, a genre such as satire, allegory or pastoral might appear in any of the above, not only as a subgenre, but as a mixture of genres. Finally, they are defined by the general cultural movement of the historical period in which they were composed.
Genre should not be confused with age categories, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young adult, or children's. They are also not the same as format, such as graphic novel or picture book subgenre.
GenresVarious types of literary works exist, which share specific conventions. Genres are often divided into subgenres. Literature is subdivided into the classic three forms of Ancient Greece, poetry, drama, and prose. Poetry may then be subdivided into the genres of lyric, epic, and dramatic. The lyric includes all the shorter forms of poetry, e.g., song, ode, ballad, elegy, sonnet. Dramatic poetry might include comedy, tragedy, melodrama, and mixtures like tragicomedy.
The standard division of drama into tragedy and comedy derives from Greek drama. This parsing into subgenres can continue: comedy has its own subgenres, including, for example, comedy of manners, sentimental comedy, burlesque comedy, and satirical comedy.
Often, the criteria used to divide up works into genres are not consistent, and may change constantly, and be subject of argument, change and challenge by both authors and critics. However, even a very loose term like fiction is not universally applied to all fictitious literature, but instead is typically restricted to the use for novel, short story, and novella, but not fables, and is also usually a prose text.
Semi-fiction spans stories that include a substantial amount of non-fiction. It may be the retelling of a true story with only the names changed. The other way around, semi-fiction may also involve fictional events with a semi-fictional character, such as Jerry Seinfeld.
Genres may easily be confused with literary techniques, but, though only loosely defined, they are not the same; examples are parody, frame story, constrained writing, stream of consciousness.