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Literature (from Latin litterae (plural); letter) is the art of written work, and is not confined to published sources (although, under some circumstances, unpublished sources can also be exempt). The word literature literally means “acquaintance with letters” and the pars pro toto term “letters” is sometimes used to signify “literature,” as in the figures of speech “arts and letters” and “man of letters.” The four major classifications of literature are poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction.

Literature may comprise of texts based on factual information (journalistic or non-fiction), as well as on original imagination, such as polemical works as well as autobiography, and reflective essays as well as belles-lettres. Literatures can be divided according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. The concept of genre, which earlier was limited, has now broadened over the centuries. A genre consists of artistic works which fall within a certain central theme, and examples of genre include romance, mystery, crime, fantasy, erotica, and adventure, among others. Important historical periods include the 17th Century Shakespearean and Elizabethan times, Middle English, Old English, 19th Century Victorian, the Renaissance, the 18th Century Restoration, and 20th Century Modernism. Important political movements that have influenced literature include feminism, post-colonialism, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, post-modernism, romanticism and Marxism. Literature is also observed in terms of gender, race and nationality, which include Black writing in America, African writing, Indian writing, Dalit writing, women’s writing, and so on.

Oral literature

The term oral literature refers not to written, but to oral traditions, which includes different types of epic, poetry and drama, folktales, ballads. However the use of this oxymoron is controversial and not generally accepted by the scientific community. Some prefer to avoid the etymological question using “oral narrative tradition”, “oral sacred tradition”, “oral poetry” or directly using epics or poetry (terms that do not necessarily imply writing), others prefer to create neologisms as orature.

Other narrative forms

  • Electronic literature is a literary genre consisting of works which originate in digital environments.
  • Films, videos and broadcast soap operas have carved out a niche which often parallels the functionality of prose fiction.
  • Graphic novels and comic books present stories told in a combination of sequential artwork, dialogue and text.

Literary genres are determined by literary technique, tone, content and by critic definitions of the genres.

Fiction genres

These are genres belonging to the realm of literary fiction. Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.

  • Absurdist fiction
    • Literary nonsense
  • Adventure novel
    • Epic
    • Imaginary voyage
    • Lost World
    • Men’s adventure
    • Milesian tale
    • Picaresque novel (picaresco)
    • Robinsonade
      • Apocalyptic robinsonade
      • Science fiction robinsonade
    • Sea story
  • Brit lit
  • Children’s literature
    • Young-adult fiction
      • Class S
      • Light novel
  • Comic novel
    • Black comedy
    • Parody
    • Romantic comedy
    • Satire
      • Picaresque novel
      • Political satire
  • Educationfiction
    • Campus novel
      • Campus murder mystery
    • School story
    • Varsity novel
  • Experimental fiction
    • Antinovel
    • Ergodic literature
  • Erotic fiction
    • Erotic romance
    • Picaresque novel (picaresco)
    • Women’s erotica
  • Historical fiction
    • Historical romance
      • Metahistorical romance
    • Historical whodunnit
    • Holocaust novel
    • Plantation tradition
    • Prehistoric fiction
    • Regency novel
      • Regency romance
  • Memoir
    • Autobiographical novel
    • Bildungsroman
    • Slave narrative
      • Contemporary slave narrative
      • Neo-slave narrative
  • Metafiction
  • Nonfiction novel
    • Biographical novel
      • Autobiographical novel
        • Semi-autobiographical novel
  • Occupational fiction
    • Hollywood novel
    • Legal thriller
    • Medical fiction
      • Medical romance
    • Musical fiction
    • Lab lit
    • Sports fiction
  • Philosophical fiction
    • Existentialist fiction
    • Novel of ideas
    • Philosophical horror
    • Platonic Dialogues
  • Political fiction
    • Political satire
  • Pulp fiction
  • Religious fiction
    • Christian fiction
      • Christian science fiction
      • Contemporary Christian fiction
      • LDS fiction
    • Luciferian literature
  • Saga
    • Family saga
  • Speculative fiction
    • Science fiction
      • Hard science fiction
      • Soft science fiction
      • Space opera
      • Punk
        • Cyberpunk
          • Dieselpunk
          • Atompunk
          • Nanopunk
          • Postcyberpunk
        • Steampunk
          • Clockpunk
        • Biopunk
      • Alternative universe
      • Scientific romance
    • Horror
      • Gothic fiction
      • Paranormal
      • Southern Gothic
      • Splatterpunk
    • Fantasy
      • by Theme
        • Comic fantasy
        • Dark fantasy
        • Magic realism
        • Mythic
        • Paranormal Fantasy
        • Superhero fantasy
        • Sword and sorcery
      • By setting
        • Epic Fantasy / High fantasy
        • Low fantasy
        • Prehistoric fantasy
        • Historical fantasy
        • Urban fantasy
    • Speculative Cross Genre fiction
      • Science fantasy
        • Sword and planet
    • Weird fiction
  • Suspensefiction
    • Crime fiction
    • Detective fiction
    • Mystery fiction
  • Westerns
  • Women’s Fiction
    • Class S
    • Femslash
    • Matron literature
    • Romance novel
    • Yaoi
    • Yuri
  • Workplace tell-all
  • Tragedy
    • Melodrama
  • Urban fiction
  • Thriller
    • Conspiracy fiction
    • Legal thriller
    • Medical thriller
    • Political thriller
      • Spy fiction
    • Psychological thriller
    • Techno-thriller
  • General Cross Genre
    • Historical romance
    • Juvenile fantasy
    • LGBT Pulp Fiction
      • Gay male pulp fiction
      • Lesbian pulp fiction
      • Lesbian erotica fiction
    • Paranormal romance
    • Romantic fantasy
    • Tragicomedy

Nonfiction genres

These are genres belonging to the realm of literary nonfiction. Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.

  • Biography
    • Autobiography, Memoir
      • Spiritual autobiography
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Diaries and Journals
  • Erotic literature
  • Essay, Treatise
  • Fable, Fairy tale, Folklore
  • History
    • Popular history
    • People’s history
    • Official history
    • Academic history
    • Narrative history
    • Whig history
  • Letter
  • Religious text
    • Apologetics
    • Proverbs
    • Scripture
    • Christian literature
    • Islamic literature
    • Buddhist texts

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