Branches of Literature

What are the branches of literature? How is literature broken down into categories of study? If your students need to assign a genre label to a piece of literature, it will help them to understand how the branches of literature are designated and divided.

Broad Types of Literature Branches
All literature is divided into two main categories: fiction and nonfiction. Fiction is any writing that is invented, or fictitious, meaning untrue. Most fiction relies on some truthful facts, places, cultural norms or real-life influences, but the characters and plotlines are fictitious. Non-fiction is writing reflecting a true story or providing an accurate report of real facts or events that happened.

Each of these two categories can be broken down into smaller, more specific groupings.

Nonfiction Types of Literature
Nonfiction branches out into memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, guide books, how-to books, travel guides, historical books, news reports and articles. All nonfiction writings deal with real events, people or facts. When your students are reading nonfiction, remind them that they're only getting part of the story, particularly where history is concerned. Nonfiction books are limited by their authors' ability to research facts and interview people. The discovery of new documents or new revelations by people who took part in significant events can sometimes dramatically alter our understanding of historic events.

Fiction Literature
Fiction branches out into literary fiction, commercial fiction, screenplays and folklore. Literary fiction is made up of intellectual, description-dense stories written by the likes of Charles Dickens or Cervantes. Screenplays are pieces of fiction written for production on the stage or on film. Folklore and short stories are short pieces of mythology or creative works that are published in anthologies and literary magazines. Commercial fiction pieces are plot-based books that constitute the majority of what you find on bookstore shelves today: mysteries, romance novels, science fiction, fantasy, chick lit, horror and cultural fiction.

So where would you look if you were seeking a piece of English literature? Take a look in the literary fiction aisle of your local bookstore. Want to read travel literature? Check out the nonfiction section of the bookstore, by the travel guides and maps.

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