Literary Fiction Genres
Genres Tr - Ve
Fiction Genre Definitions
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(Definitions and Examples)
Why the overall genre list thins as the alphabet climbs is unknown, however that does seems to be the case. The "lower" letters, from A up to around M have many named genres, and from M through S fewer, and beyond S almost none. This is likely a coincidence, however if anyone has discovered otherwise, please do let us know.
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Tragedy (revenge, romance, tragicomedy)
Tragedy fiction is meant to strike the reader deeply, and to evoke strong (if mixed) feelings. These stories can be based upon real history, and familiar-type events; or something unusual, even unprecedented. Also, they can be narrowly personal in focus, or less often, nearly apocalyptic in scale. The classical Greeks specialized in tragic plays, as did Shakespeare. Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter is an early example of personal tragedy in American literature, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles a British one. (Scholars disagree on how soon it's appropriate to fictionalize actual tragic events.)
Revenge tragedy is imbued with potent emotional forces, as the protagonist deals destruction in payment for some previous wrong, whether real or imagined. This subgenre is often mentioned in the context of Elizabethan England. A very early example was Thomas Kyd's 1592 play The Spanish Tragedy. A modern example, which overlaps with the 'crime' genre, is Minette Waters' novel The Shape of Snakes. Many Hollywood movies incorporate this basic premise, usually with an upbeat ending. Bruce Beresford's movie Double Jeopardy is an excellent example.
Romance tragedy is a bittersweet genre, with a wide variety of situations and outcomes. John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars is a moving example, featuring a terminal cancer patient. This genre is a Hollywood favorite, with James Cameron's movie Titanic a famous example.
Tragicomedies are often stage plays, and they leaven tragic personal events with humor, and often many bad turns are redeemed with a happy ending. Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker is a fine example. Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita is often mentioned.
Transrealism is a small and narrowly-defined genre, which combines 'science fiction' with the philosophy and style of Realism. The name was coined in 1983 by author Rudy Rucker, and its fantastic elements are said to be tempered by a strong personal focus. Philip K Dick's novel A Scanner Darkly is perhaps the founding example. The work of David Foster Wallace fits this genre well. (A few scholars hail this as a fresh literary movement, while others lump it in with 'magic realism,' and still others are skeptical.)
Travelogue fiction is similar to the 'Americana, road trip' subgenre, however it's usually more about the protagonist's personal development, and often overlaps with 'romance' and nonfiction 'memoirs.' Most of these stories are set in exotic locales, if with familiar activities and encounters. Elizabeth Gilbert's novel-style memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun are great examples. The wholly fictional novel Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart, has 'humorous' elements.
Urban or Hip-hop Lit, sometimes shortened to 'lit-hop,' is a popular, trendy genre. These stories portray the harsher aspects of modern urban life, and most are written by, and feature, Black people. A founding example is Omar Tyree's novel Flyy Girl. Maryam Sullivan's pioneering novel The Size of a Mustard Seed includes Islamic elements. (A few scholars include classics such as Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, which broadens its scope.) This genre, perhaps uniquely, is largely centered upon musical lyrics (such as rap/hip-hop music), along with printed literature.
Upmarket fiction is a descriptive and functional new genre, which involves the marketing of appropriate novels. It's said to combine the easily-described familiarity of 'genre' fiction with the quality wordsmithing of 'literary' novels, for the widest possible appeal. As such, it can overlap with every major genre. Water for Elephants: A Novel, by Sara Gruen, is a specific example. The works of Anna Quindlan are often mentioned.
Verse Novel is a broad descriptive genre, composed of book-length, narrative-style, poems. As such, it overlaps with a wide range of other genres. This genre includes ancient 'epics,' such as Gilgamesh, while Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate is a popular modern example. Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech, is another.
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Literary Fiction Genres