List of Literary Genres

What is Genre in Literature?

It means the type of literature characterized by a specific form, content and style. For example, literature has four main genres: poetry, drama, fiction and non – fiction. Each has its own form to be distinguished from the other. That means genres are sub divisions of literature. 

This part of the post is covered by M.M.D. Fernando who has been a guest writer providing her hard works written in soft copies to be shared with the readers of literature.


A story, poem or a picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning typically a moral or political one. Its use to reveal a hidden massage or a meaning like the moral.

Ex: Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, An Allegory of Time by B.R. Dionysius, Allegory of Clark Kent by Mark Clevenger.


A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

Ex: the parable of blind men and the elephant.


An apologue is a brief fable or allegorical story with pointed or exaggerated details, meant to serve a pleasant vehicle for a moral doctrine or to convey a useful lesson without stating it explicitly. Unlike a fable, the moral is more important than the narrative details here.

Ex: The Belly and its Members by Patrician Agrippa, The Dog and the shadow by Aesop.


A poem or a song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having passed on orally from one generation to the next. They are narrative which means they tell a story

Another definition can be, It’s a slow sentimental or a romantic song. Ballad is also a poem typically arranged in quatrains with the rhyme scheme ABAB.

Ex: Unchained melody by Righteous Brothers, God must have Spent a little more time on you” by Nsync.


A succinct fictional story in prose or verse that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature. These illustrations lead to a particular moral lesson at the end explicitly as a pithy maxim or a saying.

Ex: The Fox and the Grapes, The lion and the mouse.


The word sonnet derived from the Italian word “Soneto” which means small lyric or little song. In poetry a sonnet has 14 lines and is written in Iambic pentameter. Each line has 10 syllables.

Ex: Death be not proud by John Donne, Shall I compare thee to a summers day? By William Shakespeare.

Shakespearean sonnet

Shakespearean sonnets are the poems wrote by William Shakespeare on a variety of themes. As he’s considered as his poems are given a specific place with unique traits.

Ex: Sonnet 18, Sonnet 30.

Petrarchan sonnet

It’s not a sonnet developed by Petrarch himself, but rather by a string of Renaissance poets. Because of the structure of Italian, the rhyme schemes of Petrarch sonnet are more easily fulfilled in that language than in English.

Ex: The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, London by William Wordsworth.


Limerick is a humorous poem with 5 lines. The first, second and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables while rhyming and having the same verbal rhythm. The third and fourth lines should only have five to seven syllables; they too must rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm.

Ex:          Daddy Limerick

There once was a very sad daddy

Whose golf game was going quite badly

He looked left and right

No ball was in sight

I think that he needed a caddy


Lyric poem is a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person. Simply it’s an emotional rhyming poem.

Ex: Go Lovely Rose by Edmund Waller, I’m a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel.


It’s a report of related events presented to listeners or readers or readers, in words arranged in a logical order. A story is taken as a synonym for narrative or story is told by narrator who may be a direct part of that experience, and he or she often shares the experience as a first-person narrator.

Ex: The Raven by Edgar Allan, Paul Revere ride by Henry Wadswarth.


Ode is a form of poetry such as sonnet or elegy. An Ode is lyrical in nature, but not very lengthy. You have often read odes in which poets praise people, natural scenes, ad abstract ideas. Ode is derived from Greek meaning chant or sing.

Ex: ode to the west wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley, The progress of Poesy by Thomas Gray.


A pastoral lifestyle is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasture. It lends its name to a genre of literature, are, and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, typically for urban audiences.

Ex: the passionate Shepard to His Love by Christopher Marlowe, Nymph’s reply to the Shepard by Sir Walter Raleigh.


A parody is an imitation of a writer, artist, subject or genre in such a way as to make fun of or comment on the original work. Parodies are often exaggerated in the way they imitate the original in order to produce a humorous effect

Ex: Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.


Burlesque is a derisive art form that mocks by imitating in other words, it’s an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary dramatic work; a parody

Ex: the rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Hundibras by Samuel Butler.


A harsh discordant mixture of sounds.

Ex: amalgamation of different sounds you hear in a busy city street or a market where you hear sounds of vehicles, people chattering, loudspeakers etc.


A type of lyric resembling a madrigal. Or in other words it’s an Italian or Provencal song or ballad.

Ex: “Voi Che Sapete” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.


This is a work done to exaggerate excessive pride about something or someone also can be defined as an ingenious, or fanciful comparison or metaphor

Ex: some idiomatic expressions are examples for conceit as they are comparing things that not usuallybe compared. Ex: Life is a bowl of cherries, Dead is a doornail.


A poem of serious reflection. Typically, a poem of lament for the dead.

Ex: “Elegy written in a country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray, “O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Waltman.


A long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation.

Ex: Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Indian Mahabharata, Ancient Greek Odyssey.


A phrase or form of words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone. It’s also something by which a person, time, or event which will be remembered.


A major form of Japanese verse written in 17 syllables dividing 3 lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables and employing highly evocated allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons. A poem written in this form is called a Haiku

Ex:          setting sun

a longer shadow

over my haiku by Tim Jamieson


A 3-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to Haiku but treating human nature usually in an ironic or satiric vein. They are very short Unrhymed poem with 17 syllables usually given in 3 lines consisting of 5,7 and 5 syllables in each line respectively.

Ex:       in the gutter,

discarded, a cap collects

swirling leaves by Paul Amphlett

Free verse

Free verse is an open form of poetry which is a modern form arose through the French vers Libre form. It doesn’t use a special meter pattern, rhyme, or any musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.

Ex:                 friendship is wonderful                                 A

Friendship is grand                                        B

When we go through life hand in hand         B

Friendship is trust                                         C

Friendship is a lovely heart                          D

When we go through life never apart           D

Blank verse

Simply it’s a type of poetry written in a regular meter without containing a rhyme. This is a literary device defined as un rhyming verse written in Iambic pentameter. In poetry and prose, it has a consistent meter with 10 syllables in each line (pentameter) where unstressed syllables are followed by stressed ones, five of which are stressed but do not rhyme.

Ex: Tragedy by John Dryden.


A stanza having 4 lines specially one having alternate rhymes

Ex: A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns, Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson, Stopping by woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost.


It was originated in Japan more than 13 centuries ago. In its purest form, Tanka poems are written as expressions of gratitude, love or self-reflection.

Ex: Lake of ice                   Snow covered pine trees

Line the frozen pathway home

But we turn away

The world is a lake of ice

And we have one warm hand each.

Terza Rima

Terza Rima is a rhyming verse stanza for that consists of interlocked 3-line rhyme scheme found by Italian poet Dante Alighieri.

Ex: Commedia (the divine comedy) by Dante Alighieri.


The list of literary genre is a developing one as new forms and divisions of literature are introduced with the course of time. If you find some important ones are missing, comment them below for the reference of the readers. Subscribe to the blog to receive new posts right into your mailbox.

This article was written by Diyoni Fernando who currently studies at St. George International Teacher Training Institute.She has been a guest writer providing her hard works written in soft copies to be shared with the readers of literature.

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