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By Hannah Bergqvist

What is genre?

The word genre comes from the Latin word genus, which means ‘sort’ or ‘type’.

Based on a set of stylistic criteria, genre is used to categorise a work of art (literature, music, or film), and it describes what sort of style a text, a song, or a film is.

Genres may change over time as new genres are invented.
Often, one work of art may fit into many different genres because it overlaps and combines stylistic elements.

In order to define a certain genre as precisely as possible, genres are often divided into subgenres. In music, for instance, ‘heavy metal’ is a subgenre of ‘rock music’, just as in the movies, a 'spaghetti’ is a subgenre of ‘a western’.

In literature, texts are divided into genres according to their form and content.

  • The form helps the reader identify what type of text it is. This is based on the formal layout only. For example, almost everyone would recognise a letter because of the characteristic formalities such as the Dear Mom-beginning or the Yours sincerely-ending, etc. 
  • As for the content of a text, there are two kinds of writing to consider:
    literary fiction and fact-based non-fiction.

Click on the GenreUniverse to the right to learn more about the different fictional and non-fictional genres.