Genre is a French term for "a kind, a literary type or class" (Barnet 120). It is the literary device that tells what category of literature a work falls within. Harmon states that works are most commonly grouped according to three major characteristics--form, technique, or subject matter. Cudden says that the major traditional genres consisted of epic, tragedy, lyric, comedy, and satire. In modern days, the novel and short story were added to this listing. Genres have to allow for some flexibility as some works do not fit clearly into one category or another. Harmon states that many successful works are hybrids of different types of genres. He uses the prose poem, nonfiction novel, and television movies just to name a few.
“Yellow Woman” by Silko and “To Build a Fire” by London are both examples of fictional short stories. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an example of a fictional novel.
Barnet, Sylvan. A Dictionary of Literary, Dramatic, and Cinematic Terms. 2nd ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1971.
Cudden, J.A. A Dictionary of Literary Terms. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1979.
Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996.