“Genres form a system of groups or families of texts defined by sets of conventions, which guide both the writing and reading of texts.


A genre is a useful if fuzzy model of a text, which is distinguished by differences from other genres of its time, but which also changes over time.”

– Meyer, Michael. English and American Literatures. UTB GmbH, 2011.

What exactly does this mean now?

Genres are like groups or families of texts, each with its own set of rules for how it should be written and read. It suggests that a genre acts as a sort of model for a text, providing a structure that makes it different from other types of writing at the same time. The key point is that these genres aren’t fixed; they can change over time, showing that they’re not strict categories but rather flexible models that have the ability to evolve.

What are the most important genres to know about?

What is drama?

Drama is a genre that deals with emotional conflicts and relationships of characters. It explores the complexities of human experiences by presenting us with situations that evoke strong emotional responses and prompt reflection on the intricacies of life. Whether through tragedy, comedy, or a blend of both, drama ultimately aims to captivate its audience by offering a profound glimpse into the diversity of humanity.


“On the stage of our social lives, we are constantly performing roles. You will find directors, actors, and spectators among children playing mother and child, in families organizing weddings, and in companies designing sales strategies.”


– Meyer, Michael. English and American Literatures. UTB GmbH, 2011.


Subgenres of Drama


  • Comedy

In comedy, you often see regular folks from different social classes behaving in predictable ways, kind of like a mirror reflecting society for fun or learning. People watching might connect with the clever characters and find humor in the not-so-smart ones. The funny characters goof up, break rules, and face setbacks, but it’s not as serious as what you get to see in tragedies.



William Shakespeare → A Midsummer Dream

William Shakespeare → As You Like It

Richard Brisley Sheridan → The School For Scandal


  • Tragedy

Aristotle believed that tragedies are like real-life stories acted out on stage. They involve serious and heroic actions where the main character messes up and things go from good to bad. This usually leads to the loss of lives. Tragedies make us scared because they show something terrible that could happen to anyone, and at the same time, we feel sorry for the main character going through all the suffering.



William Shakespeare → King Lear

William Shakespeare → Romeo and Juliet

Arthur Miller → Death of a Salesman


  • Melodrama

“Melodrama, however one might understand the term, always has the ability to provoke strong emotions in audiences, from tears of sorrow to identification, to derisive laughter.”

– Mercer, John und Martin Shingler. Melodrama: Genre, Style and Sensibility. Columbia UP, 2013.



Victor Hugo →  Les Misérables

Harriet Beecher Stowe → Uncle Tom

Wilkie Collins →  The Woman in White

Elizabeth Braddon → Lady Audley’s Secret

What is Fiction?

From a historical perspective, the options of how to tell stories have expanded. Non-realistic narratives (myths, parables, tales, etc.) have existed since the immemorial.


“Since the 18th century, realistic narratives have created the illusion of a probable world by imitating external reality.”

– Meyer, Michael. English and American Literatures. UTB GmbH, 2011.


Okay let us backtrack a little and make this more easier to understand:


Looking back in history, there are various ways stories have been told. There have always been imaginative and not-so-real stories like myths and tales. But from the 18th century onwards, there was a new style. Stories started to sound more like they could happen in the real world. They imitate what we see around us, creating the illusion of a world that could really exist.

We sure love a fiction book that helps us escape the real world, even if only for a little while 😊


Subgenres of Fiction



Fantasy is the realm of dreams and impossibilities in the world of fiction. It’s like stepping through a hidden doorway into a universe where the ordinary rules take a backseat. Imagine encountering magical creatures, casting spells, and wandering through lands untouched by our reality. Kind of reminds you of Narnia or Harry Potter.




In fantasy stories, authors become architects of wonder, constructing worlds that stretch the boundaries of the imaginable. It’s an escape into realms where the everyday is replaced by the extraordinary – where dragons soar, and adventures unfold in uncharted territories.


So, when you crack open a fantasy book, be prepared to venture into the extraordinary, where the only limit is the author’s imagination.



Alex Aster → Lightlark

Frank Herbert → Dune

Rebecca Yarros → Fourth Wing & Iron Flame

Matt Haig → The Midnight Library






Realistic Fiction


Science Fiction


What is NonFiction?


Non-fiction is like a literary explorer, digging into the real world instead of creating imaginary ones. It’s all about facts, real people, and actual events – no made-up stuff allowed in this field.

Imagine reading a book that is like a guide to the universe or a sneak peek into someone’s incredible life. That’s non-fiction. It’s the storyteller using words to share truths and real experiences. Whether it’s about animals, history, or the mysteries of space, non-fiction takes you on a journey to discover fascinating bits of our world.


So, when you pick up a non-fiction book, get ready for a ride into reality. It’s like having a conversation with the truth, and you might just end up learning something new and exciting. 😊


Subgenres of NonFiction







What is Poetry?


“Poetry is often regarded as the most difficult genre, and in some ways it is. A novel or a play tells a story, often in a fairly straightforward way, and even if we do not get a sense of the story at the beginning, things will usually become clearer once we have made our way into the book.”

– Middeke, Martin. English and American Studies: Theory and Practice. J.B. Metzler, 2012.


You can imagine poetry as some sort of language party where words dress in fancy costumes and dance in unique patterns. It’s not just about rhymes. It is a full roller coaster of emotions that paint vivid pictures in your mind.


Subgenres of Poetry



Lyric poetry is like a short, musical poem that spills out the speaker’s feelings. It was first meant to be sung with instruments, but now it’s a big family of non-story poems. Imagine it as a mixtape with different emotions – sad elegies, happy odes, and thoughtful sonnets are all part of this poetic crew.



William Shakespeare → Sonnet 18

Edmund Waller → Go, Lovely Rose

James DeFord → Italian Sonnet



Narrative poetry can be imagined as a poetry storytime. It’s not just words on a page: it’s a poem that tells you a tale with characters, a plot, and a special place. Imagine it’s a poetic adventure where the words play tricks with rhymes and rhythms, sharing a series of events, conversations, and actions. Usually, there’s one storyteller – the narrator – who tells us the story.



Annie Carson → The Glass Essay

Edgar Allan Poe →  The Raven

Ernest Lawrance → Cassey at the Bat




When I think of dramatic poetry I think of a script for a live performance, written in verses to be spoken out loud or acted. It’s not just words on paper; it’s meant to be shared with an audience.


Picture it like characters in a play having big, expressive conversations, sometimes with others or even talking to themselves out loud. When it’s a chat with someone else, it’s called a dramatic monologue, and when it’s thinking out loud, it’s a soliloquy. Dramatic poetry also dances to a beat, a pattern of strong and soft syllables, making it different from regular writing and perfect for performing or singing.



Dante → Inferno

John Milton → Paradise Lost

William Blake → Songs of Innocence and Experience: The Tiger


Why is this even relevant?

Learning something about literary genres is like finding a treasure chest and exploring all different kinds of stories and experiences hidden within. Imagine you have a favorite ice cream – maybe it’s chocolate, or maybe it’s something wild and unimaginable at first like mango jalapeño. Literary genres are exactly like flavors to your brain.


Here’s the scoop:

Each genre is like a distinct flavor that can offer unique tastes and textures. For example, if you are in the mood for thrilling adventures and heart-pounding excitement, you might automatically dive into the world of action and adventure genres. Like Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, right?


If you, however, prefer stories that make you ponder the big questions of life then I guess philosophical or existential genres are more your cup of tea at the moment.


Understanding genres helps you pick the right book or movie for your mood. It’s like choosing the perfect ice cream flavor for the perfect summer day on your walk in a park – maybe you want something sweet and romantic, so you reach for a love story in the romance genre. Or maybe not. You get to choose.


I imagine genres as something like a road sign. They guide you through the literary landscape. If you see a sign that says science fiction, you know you are in for futuristic technology, space adventures, and maybe some mind-blowing concepts. It makes sense, doesn’t it?


But that is not it.


You can also learn about genres with the goal of connecting yourself to a broader conversation that spans time and culture. It’s like being part of a global book club with people from different eras and backgrounds. You can discuss how certain themes, styles, or ideas have evolved over the years. That is what Literary and Cultural Studies is about at university.


So, literary genres are not just about books, despite what everyone may say. I believe that it is about expanding your palate for storytelling, navigating the vast world of literature, and joining a conversation that has been happening for centuries.


This is your passport to an endless adventure, deep thoughts, and a richer understanding of the human experience.


Have fun 😉

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