Genre (/ˈʒɒ̃rə, ˈʒɒn-, ˈdʒɒn-/; from French genre, meaning
'kind' or 'sort') is any form or type of communication in any mode
(written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed upon
conventions developed over time.
Genre is most popularly known as a
category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment,
whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of
stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical,
communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change
over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old
ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and
recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of
communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of
these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions.
Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while
others may show great flexibility.
Genre began as an absolute classification system for ancient Greek
Poetry (odes, epics, etc), prose, and
performance each had a specific and calculated style that related to
the theme of the story. Speech patterns for comedy would not be
appropriate for tragedy, and even actors were restricted to their
genre under the assumption that a type of person could tell one type
of story best.
In later periods[when?] genres proliferated and developed in response
to changes in audiences and creators.
Genre became a dynamic tool to
help the public make sense out of unpredictable art. Because art is
often a response to a social state, in that people
write/paint/sing/dance about what they know about, the use of genre as
a tool must be able to adapt to changing meanings.
Genre suffers from the ills of any classification system.
Genre is to
be reassessed and scrutinized and to weigh works on their unique
merit. It has been suggested[by whom?] that genres
resonate with people because of the familiarity, the shorthand
communication, as well as because of the tendency of genres to shift
with public mores and to reflect the zeitgeist. While the genre of
storytelling has been relegated[by whom?] as lesser form of art
because of the heavily borrowed nature of the conventions, admiration
has grown. Proponents[who?] argue that the genius of an effective
genre piece is in the variation, recombination, and evolution of the
1 Visual arts
5 Popular culture and other media
8.1 Classical and Romance genre theory
13 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
A genre painting (Peasant Dance, c. 1568, by Pieter Brueghel the
The term genre is much used in the history and criticism of visual
art, but in art history has meanings that overlap rather confusingly.
Genre painting is a term for paintings where the main subject features
human figures to whom no specific identity attaches – in other
words, figures are not portraits, characters from a story, or
allegorical personifications. These are distinguished from staffage:
incidental figures in what is primarily a landscape or architectural
Genre painting may also be used as a wider term covering
genre painting proper, and other specialized types of paintings such
as still-life, landscapes, marine paintings and animal paintings.
The concept of the "hierarchy of genres" was a powerful one in
artistic theory, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries. It
was strongest in France, where it was associated with the Académie
française which held a central role in academic art. The genres in
hierarchical order are:
History painting, including narrative religious mythological and
Genre painting or scenes of everyday life
Landscape (landscapists were the "common footmen in the Army of Art"
according to the Dutch theorist Samuel van Hoogstraten) and cityscape
History and lists
Glossary of terms
Theory (critical theory)
Literary genre and List of literary genres
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be
determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even (as in the
case of fiction) length.
Genre should not be confused with age
category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young
adult, or children's. They also must not be confused with format, such
as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and
categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.
The most general genres in literature are (in loose chronological
order) epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, and short story. They can all
be in the genres prose or poetry, which shows best how loosely genres
are defined. Additionally, a genre such as satire might appear in any
of the above, not only as a subgenre but as a mixture of genres.
Finally, they are defined by the general cultural movement of the
historical period in which they were composed. In popular fiction,
which is especially divided by genres, genre fiction is the more usual
In literature, genre has been known as an intangible taxonomy. This
taxonomy implies a concept of containment or that an idea will be
stable forever.The earliest recorded systems of genre in Western
history can be traced back to
Plato and Aristotle. Gérard Genette, a
French literary theorist and author of The Architext, describes Plato
as creating three Imitational genres: dramatic dialogue, pure
narrative, and epic (a mixture of dialogue and narrative). Lyric
poetry, the fourth and final type of Greek literature, was excluded by
Plato as a non-mimetic mode.
Aristotle later revised Plato's system by
eliminating the pure narrative as a viable mode and distinguishing by
two additional criteria: the object to be imitated, as objects could
be either superior or inferior, and the medium of presentation such as
words, gestures or verse. Essentially, the three categories of mode,
object, and medium can be visualized along an XYZ axis.
Excluding the criteria of medium, Aristotle's system distinguished
four types of classical genres: tragedy (superior-dramatic dialogue),
epic (superior-mixed narrative), comedy (inferior-dramatic dialogue),
and parody (inferior-mixed narrative). Genette continues by explaining
the later integration of lyric poetry into the classical system during
the romantic period, replacing the now removed pure narrative mode.
Lyric poetry, once considered non-mimetic, was deemed to imitate
feelings, becoming the third leg of a new tripartite system: lyrical,
epical, and dramatic dialogue. This system, which came to "dominate
all the literary theory of
German romanticism (and therefore well
beyond)…" (38), has seen numerous attempts at expansion or revision.
However, more ambitious efforts to expand the tripartite system
resulted in new taxonomic systems of increasing scope and complexity.
Genette reflects upon these various systems, comparing them to the
original tripartite arrangement: "its structure is somewhat superior
to…those that have come after, fundamentally flawed as they are by
their inclusive and hierarchical taxonomy, which each time immediately
brings the whole game to a standstill and produces an impasse" (74).
Taxonomy allows for a structured classification system of genre, as
opposed to a more contemporary rhetorical model of genre.
Main article: Film genre
The basic genres of film can be regarded as drama, in the feature film
and most cartoons, and documentary. Most dramatic feature films,
Hollywood fall fairly comfortably into one of a long
list of film genres such as the Western, war film, horror film,
romantic comedy film, musical, crime film, and many others. Many of
these genres have a number of subgenres, for example by setting or
subject, or a distinctive national style, for example in the Indian
A music genre is a conventional category that identifies pieces of
music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. It
is to be distinguished from musical form and musical style, although
in practice these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.[citation
needed] There are numerous genres in Western classical music and
popular music, as well as musical theatre and the music of non-Western
cultures. The term is now perhaps over-used to describe relatively
small differences in musical style in modern rock music, that also may
reflect sociological differences in their audiences.
Timothy Laurie suggests that in the context of rock and pop music
studies, the "appeal of genre criticism is that it makes narratives
out of musical worlds that often seem to lack them".
Music can be divided into different genres in several ways. The
artistic nature of music means that these classifications are often
arbitrary and controversial, and some genres may overlap. There are
several academic approaches to genres. In his book Form in Tonal
Music, Douglass M. Green lists madrigal, motet, canzona, ricercar, and
dance as examples of genres from the Renaissance period. According to
Green, "Beethoven's Op. 61 and Mendelssohn's Op. 64 are identical in
genre – both are violin concertos – but different in
form. However, Mozart's Rondo for Piano, K. 511, and the Agnus Dei
from his Mass, K. 317 are quite different in genre but happen to be
similar in form." Some, like Peter van der Merwe, treat the terms
genre and style as the same, saying that genre should be defined as
pieces of music that share a certain style or "basic musical
Others, such as Allan F. Moore, state that genre and style are two
separate terms, and that secondary characteristics such as subject
matter can also differentiate between genres. A music genre or
subgenre may be defined by the musical techniques, the styles, the
context, and content and spirit of the themes. Geographical origin is
sometimes used to identify a music genre, though a single geographical
category will often include a wide variety of subgenres.
Several music scholars have criticised the priority accorded to
genre-based communities and listening practices. For example, Laurie
argues that "music genres do not belong to isolated, self-sufficient
communities. People constantly move between environments where diverse
forms of music are heard, advertised and accessorised with distinctive
iconographies, narratives and celebrity identities that also touch on
Popular culture and other media
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The concept of genre is often applied, sometimes rather loosely, to
other media with an artistic element, such as video game genres.
Genre, and numerous minutely divided subgenres, affect popular culture
very significantly, not least as they are used to classify it for
publicity purposes. The vastly increased output of popular culture in
the age of electronic media encourages dividing cultural products by
genre to simplify the search for products by consumers, a trend the
Internet has only intensified.
In philosophy of language, genre figures prominently in the works of
philosopher and literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin's basic
observations were of "speech genres" (the idea of heteroglossia),
modes of speaking or writing that people learn to mimic, weave
together, and manipulate (such as "formal letter" and "grocery list",
or "university lecture" and "personal anecdote"). In this sense,
genres are socially specified: recognized and defined (often
informally) by a particular culture or community. The work of Georg
Lukács also touches on the nature of literary genres, appearing
separately but around the same time (1920s–1930s) as Bakhtin. Norman
Fairclough has a similar concept of genre that emphasizes the social
context of the text: Genres are "different ways of (inter)acting
discoursally" (Fairclough, 2003: 26).
A text's genre may be determined by its:
Relation of communicative situation to formal and organizational
traits of the text (Charaudeau and Maingueneau, 2002:278–280).
In the field of rhetoric, genre theorists usually understand genres as
types of actions rather than types or forms of texts. On this
perspective, texts are channels through which genres are enacted.
Carolyn Miller's work has been especially important for this
perspective. Drawing on Lloyd Bitzer's concept of rhetorical
situation, Miller reasons that recurring rhetorical problems tend
to elicit recurring responses; drawing on Alfred Schütz, she
reasons that these recurring responses become "typified" – that is,
socially constructed as recognizable types. Miller argues that these
"typified rhetorical actions" (p. 151) are properly understood as
Building off of Miller,
Charles Bazerman and Clay Spinuzzi have argued
that genres understood as actions derive their meaning from other
genres – that is, other actions. Bazerman therefore proposes that we
analyze genres in terms of "genre systems," while Spinuzzi prefers
the closely related concept of "genre ecologies".
This tradition has had implications for the teaching of writing in
American colleges and universities. Combining rhetorical genre theory
with activity theory, David Russell has proposed that standard English
composition courses are ill-suited to teach the genres that students
will write in other contexts across the university and beyond.
Elizabeth Wardle contends that standard composition courses do teach
genres, but that these are inauthentic "mutt genres" that are often of
little use outside of composition courses.
This concept of genre originated from the classification systems
created by Plato.
Plato divided literature into the three classic
genres accepted in Ancient Greece: poetry, drama, and prose.
further subdivided into epic, lyric, and drama. The divisions are
recognized as being set by
Aristotle and Plato; however, they were not
the only ones. Many genre theorists added to these accepted forms of
Classical and Romance genre theory
The earliest recorded systems of genre in Western history can be
traced back to
Plato and Aristotle.
Gérard Genette explains his
interpretation of the history of genre in "The Architext". He
Plato as the creator of three imitational, mimetic genres
distinguished by mode of imitation rather than content. These three
imitational genres include dramatic dialogue, the drama; pure
narrative, the dithyramb; and a mixture of the two, the epic. Plato
excluded lyric poetry as a non-mimetic, imitational mode. Genette
further discussed how
Aristotle revised Plato's system by first
eliminating the pure narrative as a viable mode. He then uses two
additional criteria to distinguish the system. The first of the
criteria is the object to be imitated, whether superior or inferior.
The second criterion is the medium of presentation: words, gestures,
or verse. Essentially, the three categories of mode, object, and
medium can be visualized along an XYZ axis. Excluding the criteria of
medium, Aristotle's system distinguished four types of classical
genres: tragedy, epic, comedy, and parody.
Genette explained the integration of lyric poetry into the classical
system by replacing the removed pure narrative mode. Lyric poetry,
once considered non-mimetic, was deemed to imitate feelings, becoming
the third "Architext", a term coined by Gennette, of a new
long-enduring tripartite system: lyrical; epical, the mixed narrative;
and dramatic, the dialogue. This new system that came to "dominate all
the literary theory of German romanticism" (Genette 38) has seen
numerous attempts at expansion and revision. Such attempts include
Friedrich Schlegel's triad of subjective form, the lyric; objective
form, the dramatic; and subjective-objective form, the epic. However,
more ambitious efforts to expand the tripartite system resulted in new
taxonomic systems of increasing complexity. Gennette reflected upon
these various systems, comparing them to the original tripartite
arrangement: "its structure is somewhat superior to most of those that
have come after, fundamentally flawed as they are by their inclusive
and hierarchical taxonomy, which each time immediately brings the
whole game to a standstill and produces an impasse".
Genre is embedded in culture but may clash with it at times. There are
occasions in which a cultural group may not be inclined to keep within
the set structures of a genre. Anthony Pare's studied Inuit social
workers in "
Genre and Identity: Individuals, Institutions and
Ideology". In this study, Pare described the conflict between the
genre of Inuit social workers' record keeping forms and the cultural
values that prohibited them from fully being able to fulfill the
expectations of this genre. Amy Devitt further expands on the concept
of culture in her 2004 essay, "A Theory of Genre" by adding "culture
defines what situations and genres are likely or possible" (Devitt
Genre not only coexists with culture but also defines its very
components. Genres abound in daily life and people often work within
them unconsciously; people often take for granted their prominence and
ever present residence in society. Devitt touches on Miller's idea of
situation, but expands on it and adds that the relationship with genre
and situation is reciprocal. Individuals may find themselves shaping
the rhetorical situations, which in turn affect the rhetorical
responses that arise out of the situation. Because the social workers
worked closely with different families, they did not want to disclose
many of the details that are standard in the genre of record keeping
related to this field. Giving out such information would violate close
cultural ties with the members of their community.
Although genres are not always precisely definable, genre
considerations are one of the most important factors in determining
what a person will see or read. The classification properties of genre
can attract or repel potential users depending on the individual's
understanding of a genre.
Genre creates an expectation in that expectation is met or not. Many
genres have built-in audiences and corresponding publications that
support them, such as magazines and websites. Inversely, audiences may
call out for change in an antecedent genre and create an entirely new
The term may be used in categorizing web pages, like "news page" and
"fan page", with both very different layout, audience, and intention
(Rosso, 2008). Some search engines like
Vivísimo try to group found
web pages into automated categories in an attempt to show various
genres the search hits might fit.
A subgenre is a subordinate within a genre. Two stories being
the same genre can still sometimes differ in subgenre. For example, if
a fantasy story has darker and more frightening elements of fantasy,
it would belong in the subgenre of dark fantasy; whereas another
fantasy story that features magic swords and wizards would belong to
the subgenre of sword and sorcery.
Main article: Microgenre
List of genres
^ Bakhtin 1983, p. 3.
^ Samson, Jim. "Genre". In Grove
Music Online. Oxford
Accessed March 4, 2012.
^ a b Laurie, Timothy (2014). "
Genre As Method". Cultural
Studies Review. 20 (2), pp. 283-292.
^ Green, Douglass M. (1965). Form in Tonal Music. Holt, Rinehart, and
Winston, Inc. p. 1. ISBN 0-03-020286-8.
^ van der Merwe, Peter (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The
Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon
Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-19-316121-4.
^ Moore, Allan F. "Categorical Conventions in
Music Discourse: Style
Music & Letters, Vol. 82, No. 3 (Aug. 2001), pp.
^ Bawarshi, A. S., & Mary Jo Reiff. (2010). Genre: An Introduction
to History, Theory, Research, and Pedagogy. chs. 5 and 6
^ Miller, C. R. (1984).
Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of
Speech, 70(2), 151–167.
^ Bitzer, L. F. (1968). The Rhetorical Situation. Philosophy and
Rhetoric, 1(1), 1–14.
^ Schutz, A., & Luckmann, T. (1973). The Structures of the
Life-World. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
^ Bazerman, C. (1994). Systems of
Genre and the Enactment of Social
Genre and the New
Rhetoric (pp. 79–101).
London/Bristol: Taylor & Francis.
^ Spinuzzi, C., & Zachry, M. (2000).
Genre Ecologies : An
Open-System Approach to Understanding and Constructing Documentation.
ACM Journal of Computer Documentation, 24(3), 169–181.
^ Russell, D. R. (1995).
Activity theory and its implications for
writing instruction. In J. Petraglia (Ed.), Reconceiving writing,
rethinking writing instruction (pp. 51–78). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
^ Wardle, E. (2009). "Mutt Genres" and the Goal of FYC: Can we Help
Students Write the Genres of the University? College Composition and
Communication, 60(4), 765–789.
^ "subgenre". dictionary.com.
^ "Subgenre". The Free Dictionary. Farlex.
Bakhtin, Mikhail M. (1983). "Epic and Novel". In Holquist, Michael.
The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas
Press. ISBN 0-292-71527-7.
Charaudeau, P.; Maingueneau, D. and Adam, J. Dictionnaire d'analyse du
discours Seuil, 2002.
Devitt, Amy J. "A Theory of Genre". Writing Genres. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. 1–32.
Fairclough, Norman. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social
Research Routledge, 2003.
Genette, Gérard. The Architext: An Introduction. 1979. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1992.
Jamieson, Kathleen M. "Antecedent
Genre as Rhetorical Constraint".
Quarterly Journal of Speech 61 (1975): 406–415.
Killoran, John B. "The Gnome In The Front Yard and Other Public
Figurations: Genres of Self-Presentation on Personal Home Pages".
Biography 26.1 (2003): 66–83.
Коробова А.Г. Теория жанров в
музыкальной науке: история и
современность. Москва: Московская гос.
LaCapra, Dominick. "History and Genre: Comment". New Literary History
17.2 (1986): 219–221.
Miller, Carolyn. "
Genre as Social Action". Quarterly Journal of
Speech. 70 (1984): 151–67.
Rosso, Mark. "User-based Identification of Web Genres". Journal of the
American Society for Information Science and Technology 59 (2008):
Pare, Anthony. "
Genre and Identity". The
Rhetoric and Ideology of
Genre: Strategies for Stability and Change. Eds. Richard M. Coe,
Lorelei Lingard, and Tatiana Teslenko. Creskill, N.J. Hampton Press,
Sullivan, Ceri (2007) "Disposable elements? Indications of genre in
early modern titles", Modern Language Review 102.3, pp. 641–53
Look up genre in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikidata has the property: genre (P136) (see talk; uses)
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Genres of film at the Internet Movie Database
Helping Children Understand Literary Genres
Museum of Broadcast Communications
Hong Kong action
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Mo lei tau
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Exploitation film template
New French Extremity
New French Extremity
Cinema of Transgression
New French Extremity
Food and drink
Girls with guns
Mouth of Garbage
Rape and revenge
Commedia sexy all'italiana
Mexican sex comedy
Slice of life
Sword and sorcery
Australian New Wave
British New Wave
Kitchen sink realism
Cinéma du look
Cinema of Transgression
Documentary Film Movement
European art cinema
French New Wave
German underground horror
Nigerian Golden Age
Grupo Cine Liberación
Hollywood on the Tiber
Hong Kong New Wave
Iranian New Wave
Japanese New Wave
New French Extremity
Nuevo Cine Mexicano
Polish Film School
Praška filmska škola
Pure Film Movement
Romanian New Wave
Kitchen sink realism
Yugoslav Black Wave
Film à clef
Lists of music genres and styles
Cultural and regional
Classical and art music traditions