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Introduction to Literature Literary Genres

Introduction to Literature Literary Genres

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Introduction to Literature Literary Genres

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  1. Introduction to Literature Literary Genres

  2. Hodges Figgis foundedin 1768, is a bookshop located in 58 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. It is given a passing mention in James Joyce’s novelUlsysses (1922), chapter 3.

  3. Waterstones is a Britishbook retailer that operates 283 shops, mainly in the UK. Itwas established in 1982 by Tim Waterstone.

  4. Chris Baldick: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp 104-105) Genre - The French term for a type, species, or class of composition. A literary genre is a recognizable and established categoryof written work employing such common CONVENTIONS as will preventreaders or audiences from mistaking it for another kind. Much of theconfusion surrounding the term arises from the fact that it isusedsimultaneously for the most basic modes of literary art(LYRIC, NARRATIVE, DRAMATIC); for the broadestcategories of composition(poetry, prose fiction),

  5. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, cont. and formore specialized sub-categories, which are definedaccording to several different criteria including formalstructure(SONNET, PICARESQUE NOVEL), length(NOVELLA, EPIGRAM), intention(SATIRE), effect(COMEDY), origin (FOLKTALE), and subject matter(PASTORAL, SCIENCE FICTION). While somegenres,such as the pastoralELEGY or the MELODRAMA, havenumerous conventions governing subject, style, and form,others—like the NOVEL—have no agreed rules,althoughthey may include several more limited SUBGENRES.

  6. Genre(Source: Ways of Reading, pp 41-47) “In its most general sense, ‘genre’ simply means a sort, or type, oftext: thriller, horror movie, musical, autobiography, tragedy, etc.” “The word comes from the Latin word ‘genus’, meaning ‘kind’ or‘type’ of anything, not just literary or artistic works.” “(‘Genus’, infact, is still used to describe a technical sense of type,in theclassification of species; and ‘generic’ is sometimes used tomean‘broad’ or ‘with the properties of a whole type or class’.)”

  7. Martin Montgomery, Alan Durant,Nigel Fabb, TomFurniss and Sara Mills: Ways ofReading. 3rd Edition.London and New York: Routledge, 2007

  8. Ways of Reading, cont. “There is an obvious convenience in being able to label texts. We can fit any given text into a class that offers a convenient shorthand in which to describe what it is like: it resembles others that people already know.” “The notion is useful when applied not only to literary works but also to non-literary discourse, distinguishing the typical features of, say, a shopping list from those of food labeling, a menu or a recipe.”

  9. Ways of Reading, cont.Difficulties "For all its convenience, however, the notion of genre presents difficulties. Is there a fixed number of sorts of text? If so, when and how was this decided, and on what basis? And who will decide for still evolving types, such as emergent styles in popular music, texting or multimedia? A more theoretical question also arises: whether genre is a prescriptive category – grouping features to be incorporated into writing or production of a given type – or whether it is descriptive, generalizing on the basis of agreement among language users."

  10. Ways of Reading, cont. Classification on the basis of formal arrangement "One basis for classifying texts is their formal properties. Sonnets, for instance, have fourteen linesand followdistinctive stanzaic and rhyme patterns. Atthe same time, sonnets are a type of poetry,which inturn exists within a conventional three-waydistinctionbetween poetry,drama and fiction – a classificationderived historically from Aristotle’s distinction betweenlyric, epic or narrative, and drama."

  11. Aristotle : On the Art of Poetry Translated by Ingram BywaterOxford: Clarendon Press, 1920 “Our subject being Poetry, I propose to speak not only of the art in general but also of its species and their respective capacities; of the structure of plot required for a good poem; of the number and nature of the constituent parts of a poem; and likewise of any other matters in the same line of inquiry.” Note: Aristotle’s work is better known under the title“Poetics” but the translation quoted above is alsorelevant and reliable.

  12. Aristotle cont. “Epic poetry and Tragedy, as also Comedy, Dithyrambicpoetry, and mostflute-playing and lyre-playing, are all,viewed as a whole, modesof imitation. But at the sametime they differfrom oneanother in threeways, eitherby a differenceof kind intheir means, or by differencesin theobjects,or in the manner of their imitations.”

  13. Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1483–1520)

  14. Aristotle cont.Classification according to the difference in themanner in which eachkind of object is represented: “Given both the same means and the samekind of object for imitation, one may either • speak at onemoment in narrative and at another inan assumedcharacter, as Homer does; or (2)one may remain thesame throughout, without anysuch change; or (3) theimitators may represent the whole story dramatically,as though theywere actually doing the thingsdescribed.”

  15. The Tripartite Division Aristotle in the first passages of his work argues thatdifferent arts can be separated on the basis of thekinds of means they employ. However, you won’t findthe so-called Aristotelian tripartite classification in hispoetics. There is a division between dramatic poetry(theatre as direct imitation of persons) and epic poetrywhich is the narrative portrayal of human actions.There is no clear-cut recognition of lyric poetry. Directexpression of personal feelings and thoughts wasadded after a long process by the 16th century.

  16. Ways of Reading, cont.Difficulties "Aristotle further emphasized one particular, distinguishing aspect of form: who speaks. Lyrics areuttered in the first person; in epic or narrative, thenarrator speaks in the first person, then lets charactersspeak for themselves; in drama, the characters do allthe talking." "Although common ever since Aristotle, genre classification on the basis of formal differences can bedifficult to sustain. What about verse drama? Or narrative poetry (as in ballads)?"

  17. Ways of Reading, cont.Classification on the basis of theme or topic "Sometimes subject matter is the basis for genreclassification. Texts showthematic affinities bytreating thesame or similar topics, often topics orsubjectmatter thatmay be especially important for thesociety in which thetexts circulate (e.g. war, love, independence struggles)."

  18. Ways of Reading, cont.Difficulties "The pastoral, for instance, is concerned with countrylife;crime fiction isabout crime; biography relatesevents in alife, etc.; but in principle it is possible to treatanyof thesetopics following formal conventions of any of the differentkinds listedabove, or in differentmoods that will createdifferent kinds of effect on thereader or viewer."

  19. Ways of Reading, cont.Classification on the basis of mood or anticipated response "What a text is about can overlap with an attitude or emotion conventionally adopted towards that subjectmatter. Pastoral often implies not just concernwith country life, but also a reflective or nostalgicmode. Elegies – although first defined on the basis ofthe metre they used – became primarily concerned with lamenting deaths (and often take the form of pastoral elegies, delivered in the personae of shepherds)."

  20. Ways of Reading, cont.Difficulties "A more complex case is that of tragedy. Classical tragedy combinesconventions about the protagonist(the ‘tragic hero’, who has a character witha crucialflaw) and conventions about the nature of the plot (inwhich the maincharacter typically suffers and dies). Atthe same time, tragedy is also defined(at least inAristotle’s account in Poetics) by its characteristicmode of audience response: what Aristotle called catharsis, or a purging or purification bymeans of feelings of pity and fear aroused in the audience by the dramaticspectacle."

  21. Ways of Reading, cont.Classification on the basis of occasion "Literary forms may now seem specialized kinds of discourse, isolated from therest of society and mainlydiscussed in literature classes, but for most of itshistory literature has not been marked off withinspecified boundaries in thisway. Rather, its involvement in public life, including in various kinds of socialritual, meant that many different texts had theirorigins in composition for orperformance on specifickinds of social occasion."

  22. Ways of Reading, cont. "An epithalamium is apoem written for – and proclaimed at – a public occasion, in celebration of a victorious person (e.g. an athlete or a general). The genre of elegy evolvedduring the seventeenth centuryinto its modern role as a consolatory lamentfor thedeath of a particular person. Ballads began as poemsto be danced to,but evolved into two divergenttraditions: continuing folk ballads in the oraltradition, and urban broadside ballads circulated assingle sheets or chapbooksthat typically containedpopular songs, jests, romantic tales and sensationaltopical stories."

  23. Ways of Reading, cont.Classification on the basis of mode of address "Even when dissociated from specific social occasions orperformance rituals,texts are still in some cases labeledon the basis of how they address theirreaders oraudience. Some texts involve direct address to areader oraudience(e.g. public speeches, letters);others have a specificaddressee named in thetext butare written so as to beoverheard (e.g. odes,dialoguein most stage drama).Sometimes within a singleformthere is variationbetween modes of address."

  24. Genre Classification A few examples of various modes of address

  25. Henry Fielding: The History of Tom JonesBook X. In Which the History Goes Forward aboutTwelve HoursI. Containing Instructions VeryNecessary toBe Perused by Modern Critics READER, it is impossible we should know what sort of person thou wilt be; for, perhaps, thou may’st be as learnedin human nature as Shakespear himself was, and, perhaps,thou may’st be no wiser than some of his editors. Now, lestthis latter should be the case, we think proper, before wego any farther together, to give thee a few wholesomeadmonitions; that thou may’st not as grossly misunderstandand misrepresent us, as some of the said editors havemisunderstood and misrepresented their author.

  26. Image is a frontispiece etching of Henry Fielding (1707-1754) from a 1920 edition of The History of the Life of the Late Mr Jonathan Wild the Great. Original image is from a drawing by William Hogarth (1697-1764)

  27. William Shakespeare: Julius CaesarAct III Scene 1Rome. Before the Capitol; the Senate sitting above. ANTONYO mighty Caesar! dost thou lie so low?Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,Shrunk to this little measure? Fare thee well.I know not, gentlemen, what you intend,Who else must be let blood, who else is rank:If I myself, there is no hour so fitAs Caesar's death hour, nor no instrumentOf half that worth as those your swords, made richWith the most noble blood of all this world.I do beseech ye, if you bear me hard,Now, whilst your purpled hands do reek and smoke,Fulfil your pleasure. Live a thousand years,I shall not find myself so apt to die:No place will please me so, no mean of death,As here by Caesar, and by you cut off,The choice and master spirits of this age.

  28. Recognizing or deciding what genre a text is inWays of Reading "Criteria for distinguishing different genrestend to worktogether rather than independentlyof one another.Deciding what genre a text is intherefore involvesweighing up a number ofinterlocking considerations.This can make it difficult to judge whether a text fits a category simply by ticking off features in a list of required attributes."

  29. Genre as an expression of conventional agreementWays of Reading "An alternative to thinking of genre as a list of essentialproperties is to startinstead with the idea that genres maybe focused in especially influential textsthat serve asexemplary cases. Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex (c.400 BC) is oftenappealed to as an exemplary tragedy, for example: asort of benchmark, withother texts defined as tragedies tothe extent that they are similar to it. Thisview of genre,where a prototype is taken to exist and where other texts arejudged to be more or less close to the prototype, enables texts to be assignedto genres even when they donot have all the apparently necessary features."

  30. Genre as an expression of conventional agreement, cont.Ways of Reading "It then becomes possible for a text to be a novel even if it has no discernible narrative (as many experimental novels don’t), so long as the text works with or exploits our expectation that it should have." "Even notions of the typical or ‘prototypical’ are not fixed, however. Generic conventions come to us as a historical legacy, shaped and reshaped by the changing production and circulation of texts, as well as by changing attitudes to them."

  31. Functions of genreWays of Reading Genre as a framework for a text’s intelligibility "The main psychological function of genre is to act as a sort of schema, or structured set of assumptions within our tacit knowledge, that we draw on to guidereading, rather like a series of signposts or instructions." Genre as reflecting the nature of human experience "Some critics have suggested connections between specificgenres and fundamental kinds of human experience."

  32. Functions of genre, cont.Ways of Reading Genre as a promotional device "By comparison with the previous two functions, most other functions suggested for genre are concerned more with the social circulation of texts than with cognitive processes involved in interpreting them. Genres allow audiences to predict and plan kinds of experience for themselves. (The problemsolving pleasure of detective fiction, for a story to make you cry, etc.)"

  33. Functions of genre, cont.Ways of Reading Genre as a way of controlling markets and audiences "Genres in this view are part of a process of controlling the production of entertainment and directing culture markets, by actively repeating the formula of whatever has already been successful. (The financing of Hollywood films, with notable exceptions, is often argued to follow this pattern.)"

  34. Literary Kinds or Genres Although the term seems highly flexible (if not vague) it is yet to be used for literary analyses. Literay kinds and genres are hierarchical, like a family tree: Kind or Genre Genre Subgenre Subgenre Sub-subgenre

  35. Literary Kinds or Genres Kind Poetry Drama Fiction Genre (e.g.) Elegy Ode Epistle etc. Tragedy Comedy Novel Short story Morality Miracle etc. Romance etc. Sub-genre (e.g.) Funeral / Revenge / Picaresque / Pastoral Domestic Epistolary / Utopia / Detective

  36. Literary Kinds or Genres Here is a list of literary genres as defined by the California Department of Education ( Although kinds/genres are hierarchical, this list differentiates between two main categories (fiction and nonfiction, i.e. works of imagination and factual information) and, for simplicity’s sake, within these categories provides two lists in alphabetical order.

  37. All Fiction DramaStories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action. Fable Narration demonstrating a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale. Fairy Tale Story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children. Fantasy Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality.

  38. Fiction, cont. Fiction Narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. Fiction in Verse Full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form. Folklore The songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or "folk" as handed down by word of mouth. Historical Fiction Story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting. Horror Fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader.

  39. Fiction, cont. Humour Fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain; but can be contained in all genres. Legend Story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, which has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material. Mystery Fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unravelling of secrets. Mythology Legend or traditional narrative, often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behaviour and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods.

  40. Fiction, cont. Poetry Verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses. Realistic Fiction Story that can actually happen and is true to life. Science Fiction Story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets. Short Story Fiction of such brevity that it supports no subplots. Tall Tale Humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.

  41. All Nonfiction Biography/Autobiography Narrative of a person's life, a true story about a real person. Essay A short literary composition that reflects the author's outlook or point. Narrative Nonfiction Factual information presented in a format which tells a story. Nonfiction Informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. Speech Public address or discourse.

  42. California Department of Education Despite its pragmatic reduction, even this division is debatable. To what extent does a biased biography or an apologetic autobiography distorting facts belong to nonfiction?

  43. Classification, categorization For clarifications, definitions of terms, go for Chris Baldick: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 J. A. Cuddon: Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 4th ed. London: Penguin Books, 1999 Alex Preminger, ed.: Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012