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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES

Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12

Adventure Story Autobiography


Action is the main
element. Writer's account of his/her own life
Main character usually First-person point of view almost always
goes on journey or mission used (I, me, my, mine, myself)
and faces many challenges Most important events and people are
and choices. described
Suspense is featured prominently in the
plot line. Examples: Helen Keller's "The Story of My
Life"; Narrative of the Life of Frederick
Example: Richard Connell's short story "The Douglas, an American Slave; It's Not About the
Most Dangerous Game," J.R.R. Tolkien's The Bike, Lance Armstrong
Lord of the Rings trilogy

Ballad
Allegory
A work with two levels of meaning - a Narrative poem
literal one and a symbolic one originally meant to
Characters, objects, settings, and be sung or recited
events represent abstract ideas or Tells a story
qualities Has setting, plot,
Personification often used in traditional characters
allegories Usually anonymous or impersonal
Purpose may be to convey truths about narrator
life, to teach religious or moral lessons, Usually written in rhymed 4-line stanzas
or to criticize social institutions that may include a refrain
Folk ballads were composed orally,
Examples: Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of handed down by word or mouth from
the Red Death," John Bunyan's Pilgrim's generation to generation
Progress, George Orwell's Animal Farm
Examples: "Barbara Allan," "Sweet Betsy from
Pike," "Get Up and Bar the Door"
Article
Written in
Biography
newspaper,
magazine, blog,
True account of a person's life written
etc.
by another person
Written in
Third-person point of view almost
journalistic format
always used
to give information only not to give
A "biographer" researches his/her
opinion
subject to present accurate information.
Tells who, what, where, when, why, and
Good biographers strive for honesty and
how.
balance.
Has very little, if any, elaboration (just
the facts)
Examples: Jim Haskins' "Matthew Henson at
the Top of the World," Seabiscuit: An American
Examples: "A World Turned Upside Down: How
Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand; East to the
the Black Death Affected Europe" by Mary
Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart, Susan
Morton Cowan: "Great White Sharks" by Peter
Butler; Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary,
Benchley; "President Dead: Connally Also Hit
Myers, Walter Dean
by Sniper"; "Dog Proves As Smart As Average
Toddler" by Margaret Munro

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12

Blank Verse Examples: The Crucible by Arthur Miller; The


Verse composed in unrhymed iambic Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain; The Diary
pentameter lines of Anne Frank, Frances Goodrich and Albert
Iambic pentameter has 10 syllables -- 5 Hackett
pairs of 2-syllable (unaccented followed
by accented) "feet" (a "foot" is a
metrical unit of poetry; an iamb is a Dramatic Monologue
foot, and 5 iambs, or 5 feet, equal 10 Lyric poem in which speaker addresses
syllables, or iambic pentameter) silent or absent listener in moment of
Example: high intensity or
I never understood his love for cats; deep emotion
He said that dogs were too agreeable. Speaker speaks as if
engaged in private
conversation
Comedy Speaker speaks
Dramatic work without interruption; reader hears just
Light and often humorous one side of conversation and must infer
in tone the reactions of the listener
Usually ends happily From speaker's words, reader learns
Usually has peaceful resolution of the about setting, situation, identity of other
main conflict characters, and personality of speaker
Examples: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Poet focuses on feelings, personality,
Dream and The Tempest motivations of the speaker

Example: T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J.


Alfred Prufrock"
Diary
Daily record of a writer's thoughts,
experiences, feelings
Autobiographical Elegy
writing Poem written in tribute to a person
Journal is another Usually -- but not always -- written in
term for diary tribute to someone who has died
Example: "A Diary from recently
Dixie" by Mary Chestnut; Tone is almost always formal and
"The Diary of a Young Girl," dignified.
Anne Frank
Example: William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis"

Drama
Literature in play form Editorial
Meant to be performed by actors in
front of an audience Essay in newspaper, magazine, blog,
Characters' dialogue and actions tell the etc. that gives the opinion of editor or
story staff member
Written form is called a script Editorial is one persons opinion; it is
Script usually includes dialogue, cast of not absolute fact.
characters, stage directions
Writer is called playwright or dramatist Examples: "Do Professional Athletes Get Paid
Divided into acts, with each act having Too Much?" by Justin Hjelm; "Dangerous
an emotional peak, or climax, of its Threat? No-Loving Pet!" by Lisa Epstein,
own; acts divided into scenes, which "Abolishing the Penny Makes Good Sense," by
depict a single time and place Alan S Blinder

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12

Epic poem Fairy Tales


Long narrative poem Created for enjoyment and to inspire
About adventures of a hero hope
Hero's actions reflect ideals Common beginnings and
and value s of a nation or endings (Once upon a
group of people timeand they lived
Examples: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; John happily ever after.)
Milton's Paradise Lost; Beowulf Flat, stereotypical characters (only very
good or very bad)
Magic spells
Groups of 3s and 7s
Essay
Good triumphs over evil
Short work of nonfiction
Deals with single subject
Examples: "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Hansel
Expository informs an audience or
and Gretel"
explains a subject
Narrative tells a story; what
Fantasy
happened, what would happen if,
Type of fiction that is
etc.
highly imaginative
Persuasive attempts to convince reader
May contain some
to adopt a certain viewpoint
elements never found in
Descriptive tries to tell the reader what
real life
something is like; describes something
Similar to science fiction but more
Critical evaluates situation or work of
fanciful; less emphasis on technology
art
and more emphasis on life forms
Reflective (personal) reflects writer's
Portrays events, settings, or characters
experiences, feelings, and personality;
that are unrealistic; animals frequently
usually tells about something the writer
talk, for example
has experienced and how s/he has
Plot might involve magic, the
changed as a result
supernatural, or mythical beings;
frequently it is children or other
Examples: "Should Wild Animals Be Kept as
innocent characters who are able to use
Pets?" by The Humane Society; "Doing Nothing
the magic
Is Something" by Anna Quindlen; "Revisiting
Setting might be nonexistent world;
Sacred Ground" by Scott N. Momaday
often it is modeled after a medieval
universe
Characters might use superhuman
Fable
powers; imagination might be used to
Very brief tale told to illustrate a moral
control time, for example.
or teach a lesson
Usually only one or two characters
Examples: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.
Characters usually, but not always,
Lewis; the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling;
animals
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by
Moral frequently appears in a distinct
J.R.R. Tolkien
and memorable statement near the
beginning or end of fable.
Farce
Oral tradition, handed down by word of
Exaggerated comedy
mouth from generation to
that features an
generation
absurd plot;
Example: "Race Between Toad
ridiculous, far-fetched
and Donkey" and Aesop's fables
situations; humorous
such as "The Wolf and the House
dialogue
Dog" and "Ant and Grasshopper"

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12
Purpose is to keep audience laughing;
humor is physical and slapstick (pie-in- Examples: "Coyote and the Buffalo,"
the-face) (Okanogan folk tale; "The People Could Fly,"
Characters usually stereotypes, or Virginia Hamilton; Little Red Riding Hood
simplified examples of different traits or
qualities
Comic devices typically used include Frame Story
mistaken identity, deception, wordplay A story within a story - a character or
(puns, double meanings) and characters within a story begin telling a
exaggeration story of their own
Examples: "The Importance of Being Earnest," Two stories are taking place at the same
Oscar Wilde; Marx Brothers comedies, time
Saturday Night Live Examples: One Thousand and One Arabian
Nights, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury
Tales
Fiction
Prose writing that tells an imaginary
story
All events might be invented, or some
parts of the story might be based on
real events.
Basic elements of fiction are plot, Free Verse
character, setting, theme. Poetry without regular patterns of
Types of fiction include realistic fiction, rhyme and rhythm
historical fiction, science fiction, and Retains other poetic elements such as
fantasy. figurative language, imagery,
Fiction includes novels, short stories, symbolism
and poetry.

Folklore Gothic Literature (sometimes called "Horror")


Folklore is the "umbrella" term for Grotesque characters, bizarre situations,
legends, folk tales, myths, fables, and and violent events
trickster tales. Originated in Europe; popular in U.S.
All folklore is fiction that was handed during 19th century
down in the oral tradition from
generation to generation within Example: William Faulkner's "A
cultural/ethnic groups. Rose for Emily"; Poe's "The Fall
Folklore deals with magic, heroes, and of the House of Usher" and
adventure. "The Cask of Amontillado"

Folk Tale Haiku


Japanese poetry
Story that has been passed down from
Seventeen syllables arranged in 3 lines
generation to generation by word of
mouth of 5, 7, and 5 syllables
Poet must create clear picture that
May be set in the distant
evokes a strong emotional response in
past
May involve supernatural the reader
events Nature is a particularly important source
Characters may be animals, people, or of inspiration for Japanese haiku poets.
superhuman beings.
Example: "Haiku" by Matsuo Basho

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12

Historical Fiction Journal


Short story or novel set in Record of writer's thoughts, feelings
the past around a May be used to record ideas for more
historical situation further exploration at a later date
Includes real places and May be considered to be the
real events of historical same as a diary or may be
importance considered to be more
Author has researched the details of the thoughtful vs. a diary's
historical time period. being more of a record of daily activities
Real people and places give authenticity
to the story. Examples: Over the Top of the World by Will
Steger, Civil War Journal by Louisa May Alcott,
Example: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Historical Narrative Legends


Account of real-life historical experience Stories about the past
Written by a person who either Usually have some basis in historical
experienced the events or researched fact, but can be fictional
and studied the events Many legendary heroes are folk heroes
who are included in folk
Example: William Bradford's Of Plymouth tales
Plantation; "The Johnstown Flood," by David Fantastic details and
McCullough hyperbole
Incredible feats of
strength, wit, and
Horror Fiction intelligence
Supernatural events that create Supernatural beings
suspense and terror Animals can sometimes talk
Strange, mysterious plot twists keep the
reader on the edge of his/her seat Examples: Damon and Pythias: A Drama, a
Reader constantly fears the characters Greek legend dramatized by Fran Kissen; The
will meet with a mysterious and/or Once and Future King by T.H. White
horrible death
Letter
Examples: Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe Can be of historical value
May be from or to a famous historical or
literary figure
Informational Text May be a good example of the style of
Any reading material written to explain, writing of the day
give information, or
instruct Examples: "Letter to His Son," Robert E. Lee;
Frequently has maps, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin
photos, tables, Luther King, Jr.; "Letter to Miss Keller,"
spreadsheets, diagrams, Franklin D. Roosevelt; "Letter to Harriet
illustrations, or charts Tubman," Frederic Douglass
Textbooks, workbooks, syllabus pages
Newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. Limerick
Reference materials such as Humorous, rhyming 5-line poem
encyclopedias, the Internet, Specific meter and rhyme pattern
dictionaries, thesauruses, almanacs, (aabba)
atlases, etc. Example: Usually starts, "There once was a __
Instruction manuals, schedules, __ from __ ___ ..."
brochures, catalogs, etc.

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12
Monologue
Lyric Poetry A long speech by a single character
Mystery
Presents personal thoughts and feelings Presents a puzzle or a
of a single speaker problem to be solved
Most poems, other than narrative Presents a crime or a
poems, are lyric poems. conflict that is strange
Can be in a variety of forms or hard to understand
Can cover many subjects from love and Plot slowly unravels and reveals clues
death to everyday experiences that lead to the solution of the problem
Relevant clues often shrouded with
Examples: "Mi Madre," Pat Mora; "Canyon de information to distract the reader
Chelly," Simon J. Ortiz; "The Earth Is a Living Character frequently is involved in
Thing," Lucille Clifton investigating wrongdoing
Character may be employed to obtain
secret information
Magical Realism
Includes exaggeration, unusual humor, Examples: Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in
magical and bizarre events, dreams that the Rue Morgue" and "The Gold Bug"; Arthur
come true, superstitions that prove Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries:
warranted "The Red-Headed League" and "The Adventure
Different from of the Speckled Band"
pure fantasy in Myths
that it combines fantastic elements with Fictional tales of deeds of ancient gods,
realistic elements such as recognizable goddesses, and heroes
characters, believable dialogue, true-to- Classical mythology today was the
life setting, matter-of-fact tone, and plot religion of ancient Greeks and Romans
that sometimes contains historic events Gods and goddesses immortal; possess
super powers
Examples: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Interaction between gods and mortals
Gabriel Garca Mrquez, Beloved by Toni Attempt to explain earths processes
Morrison, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (seasons, night and day)
Attempt to explain human
nature and social
Memoir customs
Attempt to explain
Autobiographical writing; writer shares origins of the world
personal experiences and observations and mysteries of nature
of important events or people Examples: Arachne; Apollo's Tree: The Story of
Usually structured as narratives using Apollo and Daphne; The Story of Ceres and
first-person point of view Proserpina
Although some names may be changed Narrative
to protect privacy, memoirs are true A story
accounts of actual events. Events may be real or imagined.
Often informal in tone Autobiographies and biographies are
Memoirs usually give readers narratives that deal with real people and
information about the impact of events.
historical events on people's lives Autobiographies and biographies are
called nonfiction narratives because
Example: N. Scott Momaday's The Way to they are not fiction, but they are
Rainy Mountain; Gary Soto's "The Jacket," stories.
Gary Paulsen's "Dirk the Protector," Elie Fictional narratives include short stories,
Wiesel's Night, Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes fables, myths, and fiction novels.
A poem may also be in the form of a
narrative.
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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12
Examples: "The Snow Goose," Paul Gallico;
"Fish Cheeks," Amy Tan; "Exploring the Novel
Titanic," Robert D. Ballard; Out of the Dust, Long work of fiction
Karen Hesse Elements of fiction - Plot, setting,
characters, theme etc.
Rising action, conflict, turning point
Narrative Nonfiction (climax) and resolution
Umbrella term that includes Product of writer's imagination
autobiography, biography, and memoir Examples: Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting,
Characters, setting, and plot are real Lois Lowry's The Giver
rather than imaginary
Reads like a fiction story but the events
and people are real Novella
Examples: Dreams from My Father by Barack Longer than short story but shorter than
Obama, The Mysterious Mr. Lincoln by Russell novel
Freedman, John Glenn: A Memoir, by John Plot is less complex than plot in a novel
Glenn Usually has fewer characters than a
novel has
Narrative Poetry Examples: The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest
Narrative poetry that tells a story in Hemingway; The Little Prince, by Antoine de
verse form Saint-Exupry; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll
Narrative poetry contains characters, and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson;
setting, plot Anthem, by Ayn Rand; Heart of Darkness, by
It is like a little short story but in verse Joseph Conrad; The Metamorphosis, by Franz
form. Kafka
May have rhyme, rhythm - or may not
Like all poetry, narrative poetry usually
has figurative language and imagery
Examples: "Barbara Frietchie," John Greenleaf
Ode
Whittier; "John Henry," Traditional Narrative
Complex lyric poem that deals with
Poem; "Casey at the Bat," Ernest Lawrence
serious themes such as truth, justice,
Thayer; "Paul Revere's Ride," Henry
love, or beauty
Wadsworth Longfellow; "The Highwayman,"
Appeals to both the
Alfred Noyes
imagination and the intellect
Many odes commemorate
Nonfiction
events, praise people, or
Tells about real people, places, events
praise elements of nature
Written to convey factual information
Odes are dignified forms of
Newspaper articles, political cartoons,
poetry, usually written in a lofty style.
magazine articles, blog
Examples: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John
entries, web news
Keats, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" by
reports, public service
William Wordsworth
announcements movie
reviews, advertising
Letters, speeches, essays,
literary criticism, interviews Parable
True-life adventure stories Brief story meant to teach a lesson or
Autobiographies, biographies illustrate a moral truth
Each detail corresponds to some aspect
Examples: "All Nine Pulled Alive from Mine," of the problem or moral dilemma to
web news report from CNN.com; "Nine-year- which it is directed.
old Amber Colvin Rides Out a Killer Flood in Examples: The stories of the "Prodigal Son"
Ohio"; "Who Killed the Iceman?" National and the "Good Samaritan" in the Bible
Geographic

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12
Frequently can be read on more than
Parody one level
Humorous imitation of another's serious Types of poetry include lyric, narrative,
work epic, free verse, haiku, sonnet, ballad,
Can be in the form of a drama, poem, limerick
or prose fiction Examples: Robert Frost's "The Road Not
Example: "The True Story of the Three Little Taken," Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," Emily
Pigs," "What Troubled Poe's Raven" Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop for
Death"

Primary Source
Material written or created by people
Pastoral
who were present at the event
Type of poem that depicts country life in
Letters, diaries, speeches,
idyllic, idealized terms
autobiographies, photographs, etc.
Expresses nostalgia for age or place of
Narrative accounts written by actual
lost innocence
participants or observers
Portrays rural settings not as they are
Examples: "The Plantation Letters" from the
but as simple, beautiful, ideal, innocent
Cameron family papers extracted from the
settings
Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel
In a pastoral, the setting is not just
Hill - a web resource that represents slaves,
incidental; it is essential to the plot.
women, and children's voices from plantation
Examples: Christopher Marlowe's "The
days http://plantationletters.com/
Passionate Shepherd to his Love," Sir Walter
Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"
Prose
Play
All forms of writing that are not in verse
A dramatic performance
form
Usually performed on the stage
Novels, short stories, articles, essays,
The term play is a synonym for drama,
letters, reviews, reports,
when not referring specifically to a
advertisements, textbooks, etc.
comedy or a tragedy.
Example: A brochure explaining the use of an
The term play is frequently a less formal
appliance
description of a performance than is the
term drama.
Example: "Our son's kindergarten class is Realistic Fiction
putting on a Thanksgiving play." (rather than Setting takes place in the real, modern
drama) (contemporary) world
Setting and plot seem real
Characters behave like real
Poetry people and use human
Literary text that is arranged in lines abilities to resolve
May or may not rhyme conflicts
May or may not have a repetitive meter Stories help the reader discover things
(rhythm); poetry without meter is called about him-/herself and the world
free verse Plot often deals with growing up,
Often divided into stanzas making decisions, facing lifes problems,
Fiction that expresses writers idea in a understanding issues
more condensed format than in prose May be about many different cultures,
Words carefully chosen for specific races, religions, traditions
effect May be about sports, families, romance,
Frequently uses figurative language, mystery, etc.
sound devices, imagery to express Can be humorous, tragic, frightening
emotion and ideas
Examples: Young adult fiction novels

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12
from other worlds
Romance Uses invented technology such as time
Larger than life story with a hero or traveling, etc.
heroine Examples: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s "Harrison
Hero undertakes a quest and/or goes on Bergeron"; Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of
a journey issues Thunder"
Idealized hero usually succeeds in
his/her quest Short Story
Romance, beauty, innocence, and Fictional work that focuses on a single
goodness usually prevail over evil. idea
Hero often has supernatural powers or Can be read in one sitting
at least near-magical powers One main conflict that involves the
Examples: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the characters
Rings; Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; "Sir Examples: Ray Bradbury's "All Summer in a
Gawain and the Green Knight" Day," Rudyard Kipling's "Rikki-tikki-tavi," Frank
R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger?"
Romantic Novel
Novel with happy ending
Characters engaged in adventures filled Soliloquy
with courageous acts, daring chases, Long speech made by character in a
and exciting escapes play while no other characters are on
Occasionally hero finds love stage
Hero goes on quest to right a wrong Different from monologue in that
Examples: James Fenimore Cooper's The Last speaker appears to be thinking aloud,
of the Mohicans, Indiana Jones stories not addressing a listener.
Example: In Shakespeare's drama Hamlet,
Hamlet's "To be or not to be..." soliloquy
Satire
Type of writing that ridicules the Sonnet
shortcomings of people or institutions in Lyric poem with 14 lines
an attempt to bring about change Written in iambic pentameter (a line of
Can be gentle spoofing or savage poetry that contains 5 iambic feet)
mockery Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet has one
Can point out the absurdity and the octave rhymed abbaabba and a sestet
illogic in a situation with a cdecde rhyme scheme.
Can poke fun at how someone or a English (Shakespearean) sonnet has
group or people act three quatrains rhymed abab, cdcd,
Satire always intensely moral in its efef, and a closing couplet rhymed gg.
purpose Examples: "Holy Sonnet 10", John Donne;
Examples: James Thurber's short story "The "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent," John
Secret Life of Walter Mitty," Mark Twain's essay Milton; Sonnets 18, 29, 116, and 130, William
"The Lowest Animal" Shakespeare

Science Fiction
Plot includes imaginary Speech
events that involve Talk or public address
science or technology Purpose is to entertain, to explain, to
May involve partially true persuade, to inspire, etc.
laws or theories of science Examples: "I Have a Dream" Dr. Martin Luther
Often set in the future or past or in an King, Jr.; "On Civil Disobedience," Mohandas K.
alternate dimensions Gandhi; "I Will Fight No More Forever," Chief
Often set on other planets or in places Joseph
other than the surface of the earth
Characters are frequently creatures

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GENRES AND SUBGENRES: CHARACTERISTICS AND EXAMPLES
Literature Curriculum Objectives: Grades 3-12

Tall Tale
Truth is exaggerated for
humorous effect
(hyperbole)
Setting is usually in the
early history of a country or region
Full of exaggeration of the heros feats
Events are impossible, often involving
supernatural abilities of the hero

Examples: Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Mark


Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of
Calaveras County," Herbert Shippey's "Uncle
Septimus's Beard," "Yeh-shen: A Cinderella
Story from China," Ai-Ling Louie

Tragedy
Dramatic work that presents the
downfall of a character or characters
Character's downfall generally occurs
because of fate, error in judgment, or
personality failure known
as a tragic flaw
Tragic character has
usually gained wisdom at
end of story, in spite of
suffering defeat or even death
Events linked in cause/effect
relationship; lead to disastrous
conclusion - usually death

Examples: Sophocles' Antigone, Shakespeare's


The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and The
Tragedy of Julius Caesar

Villanelle
Nineteen-line poem
Five tercets (three-line stanzas) with
rhyme scheme aba and with final
quatrain (four-line stanza) of abaa.

Example: Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle


into That Good Night"

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