Literary Glossary

stack of books

This glossary has definitions of genres and terms.

Allegory: A metaphorical narrative in prose or verse in which characters and parts of the narrative usually represent moral or spiritual values.

Anansi Tale: A series of folktales of African origin that describe the adventures of Anansi. These tales are popular in Jamaica.

Anecdote: A short, amusing narrative of an entertaining or curious incident that is often biographical.

Autobiography: A biography of a person, written by the person.

Ballad: A narrative poem composed of short verses, intended to be sung or recited.

Beast Tale: A story in which animals play the roles of human beings in human settings.

Biography: A written account of a person's life.

Black Comedy: A story that substitutes morbid, unfunny situations for carefree, funny ones.

Classic: A literary work meriting the highest praise.

Description: A composition that presents graphic detail on a subjective or objective experience.

Dilemma Tale: A story that ends in a problem rather than a solution.

Editorial: A newspaper or periodical article that expresses the views of the author on a matter of current interest.

Epic: A long, narrative poem that is generally about the deeds of an heroic figure.

Essay: A brief composition, usually in prose, that gives the author's views.

Fable: A short tale that teaches a moral. It usually has animals or inanimate objects as characters.

Fairy Tale: A tale of fiction, usually for children, with fanciful characters.

Fantasy: A highly imaginative tale about somewhat believable, but nonexistent, characters, places, and events.

Farce: A light, funny play that usually emphasizes improbable situations rather than characters to make a point.

Feminist Literature: Writings by and about women.

Fiction: Imaginative narrative that is designed to entertain.

Fictionalized Biography: A person's life story based partly on fact and enhanced by the author's imagination.

Folktale: A narrative that has been retold and is well known within a culture.

Haiku: Unrhymed Japanese poetry with three lines that have five, seven, and five syllables, respectively.

Historical Fiction: A story based partly on events from the past.

Idyll: A short prose piece or poem that describes simple times in romantic ways.

Jingle: A short rhyme or verse with catchy sounds or rhymes.

Juvenile Book: A book for children or adolescents.

Legend: A traditional, historical tale, first told orally and later in written form.

Melodrama: A play with exaggerated characters and plot.

Memoir: An account of one person's observations and experiences.

Monograph: A well-documented, detailed study of a limited subject or aspect of a subject.

Monologue: A long speech by one character.

Morality Play: A medieval, allegorical play with the struggle for a character's soul as a theme.

Mystery Play: A medieval, religious play about the scriptures.

Mystery Story: A narrative in which the plot is usually built around a crime.

Myth: An anonymous story designed to explain the mysteries of life. It usually has exaggerated characters.

Narration: A composition in writing or speech that tells a story or gives an account of something.

Narrative: A story told orally or in writing.

Narrative Poem: A poem, usually long, that tells a story.

Nonfiction: A piece designed to explain, argue, or describe a real event.

Nonsense Verse: Verse that defies meaning either by using invented words or misusing meaningful words.

Novel: Extended, fictional prose narrative with full character and plot development.

Novelization: A novel based on a movie.

Novella: Fictional, prose narrative that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

Ode: A formal, elaborate lyrical poem.

Parable: A short story intended to teach a moral lesson.

Parody: An imitation of an author or work for comic effect.

Pastoral: Poetry dealing with idealized, rural life.

Pattern Book: A book with predictable plot and/or text.

Persuasive Writing: A piece that proves something or someone to be true, credible, essential, or worthy.

Picaresque: Spanish fiction that tells of rogues or adventurers.

Picture Book: A book with illustrations that are as important as the text.

Pourquoi Story: A folktale that explains certain events, customs, or behaviors.

Problem Literature: A piece of written work in which the action is focused on difficult choices.

Propaganda: Written or spoken pieces that are intended to influence the reader or listener strongly.

Prose: Written or spoken language that is not verse.

Psychological Novel: A story in which the characters' motivations are of primary importance.

Pun: A play on words that are the same or similar in sound but different in meaning.

Quatrain: A poem of four lines or verses.

Realistic Fiction: A story that portrays characters and events as they are.

Satire: Scorn or ridicule, used humorously in writing to show follies or vices.

Science Fiction: A story based on fictional, scientific possibilities.

Sequel: A complete story that is a continuation of an earlier story.

Serial: A story or play presented in parts.

Short Story: A brief, fictional prose narrative.

Soliloquy: A speech given by a character as if he were alone.

Sonnet: A 14-line poem that usually rhymes in a formal way and is in iambic pentameter.

Story: An imaginative tale that is shorter than a novel, but longer than a short story.

Supernatural Story: A narrative with events and situations that cannot be explained by known causes.

Survival Story: A fiction or nonfiction narrative about characters who overcome great odds.

Technical Writing: A piece intended to give specific information.

Tragedy: A work that presents serious or sad events.

Tragicomedy: A literary work that contains elements of both comedy and tragedy.

Trickster Tale: A story about a mischievous, supernatural being.

Yarn: A long true or imaginary tale of adventure.

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of expertly curated worksheets, activities, and lessons created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus

Highlights

December Calendar of Events
December is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum! Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event. Happy holidays!

Bullying Prevention Resources
Bullying can cause both physical and emotional harm. Put a stop to classroom bullying, with our bullying prevention resources. Learn how to recognize several forms of bullying and teasing, and discover effective techniques for dealing with and preventing bullying in school.

Conflict Resolution
Teach your students to how resolve conflict amongst themselves without resorting to name-calling, fights, and tattling.

Immigration Resources
Studying immigration brings to light the many interesting and diverse cultures in the world.