Category Archives: literary genres

Genres of Literature – School Story


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The school story generally centers on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life in the first half of the twentieth century. Other narratives do exist in other countries, but the most common theme is English boy or girl boarding schools reflecting the single-sex education typical until the 1950s. The focus is on friendship, honor and loyalty between pupils with plots involving sports events, bullies, secrets, rivalry and bravery.

The popularity declined after the Second World War, but remained popular in other forms, changing the focus to state run coeducational schools, and more modern concerns such as racial issues, family life, sexuality and drugs. The genre’s revival was due to the success of the Harry Potter series, with its many plot motifs.

The first boarding school story was The Governess, or The Little Female Academy by Sarah Fielding, published in 1749. A moralistic tale relaying the lives of nine girls in the school established aspects of the boarding school story repeated in later works. Fielding’s approach was imitated and used by both her contemporaries and other writers into the 19th century.

Even though children were not generally targeted until well into the nineteenth century, due to the concern of moral effects of novels on young minds, and so published narratives tended to lean towards moral instruction. The genre’s peak period was between the 1880s and the end of the Second World War, later comics featuring school stories became popular in the 1930s.

School stories do remain popular, with their shifting focus on more contemporary issues such as sexuality, racism, drugs and family difficulties. As we all know the Harry Potter series has revived the genre significantly, despite it’s fantasy conventions.

Do you (or did you) read school story novels/comics?

Have you written one?

Genres of Literature – Pulp Fiction


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The term ‘pulp’ comes from the cheap wood pulp used to print the inexpensive fiction magazines first popularized between 1896 through to the 1950’s. During this time a typical pulp magazine consisted of 128 pages on paper 7 inches wide by 10 inches high with raged, untrimmed edges.

The term pulp fiction became synonymous with run-of-the-mill, low-quality literature. They were the successors of the penny dreadfuls and dime novels, known for their lurid, exploitative and sensational subject matter. Many contained stories of superheroes, such as The Shadow, Flash Gordon and Doc Savage.

Frank Munsey’s Argosy Magazine of 1896 is seen as the first pulp fiction publication with 192 pages and no illustrations, even on the cover. It combined cheap printing, cheap paper and cheap authors in a package that provided affordable entertainment to young working-class people. In six years, Argosy went from a few thousand copies per month to over half a million.

Next on the market was Street and Smith, a dime novel and boy’s weekly publisher with The Popular Magazine in 1903, boosting 194 pages. It’s success was increased when they serialized Ayesha by H. Rider Haggard in 1905. His Lost World genre influenced many key pulp writers including Robert E. Howard, Talbot Mundy and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In 1907, 30 pages were added to each issue, the price increased by 15 cents and a stable of established writers proved successful. The next innovation was introducing specialized genre pulps within each issue. Popular titles were monthly, many were bimonthly and some were quarterly.

The peak of popularity was in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the most successful pulps selling up to one million copies per issue. Although, by that time there were some 150 pulp titles, the most successful were Argosy, Adventure, Blue Book and Short Stories., collectively known as “The Big Four”.

Primarily and American publication there were also a number of British pulp magazines published between the Edwardian era and World War II. These included the Pall Mall Magazine, The Novel Magazine and The Story-Teller.

Pulp magazines began to decline in the 1940’s, due to paper shortages during the Second World War, when smaller and thicker magazine publishers began publishing  paperbacks, comics and digest-sized novels and the heavy competition from comic books, television, and the paperback novel.

When the primary distributor of pulp magazines, American New Company liquidation it was seen as the end of the pulp era. By that time many of the famous pulps were defunct, leaving a few specializing in science fiction or mystery in the digest size format.

Have you read or written ‘pulp’ fiction?

Genres of Literature -Bildungsroman


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The genre is characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features. The term coming-of-age novel is sometimes used interchangeably with Bildungsroman, but its use is usually wider and less technical. It’s meaning encompasses  “education”, and “roman”, meaning “novel”;  “novel of formation, education, culture”; It is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood in which character change is extremely important.

The term was coined in 1819 by Karl Morgenstern, a philologist in his university lectures and later reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimized it in 1870 and popularized it in 1905.

The Bildungsroman genre or term is normally dated to the publication of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang Goethe in 1795–96, or to Christoph Martin Wieland’s  Geschichte des Agathon of 1767.

Although the Bildungsroman genre arose in Germany, it’s extensive influence spread through Europe and then throughout the world. After Goethe’s novel was translated into English in 1824 , many British authors wrote novels inspired by it. Spreading in the 20th century to Germany, Britain, France, and other countries around the globe.

Examples include: Great Expectations, To Kill a Mocking Bird and David Copperfield to name a few.

Do you enjoy the coming of age genre?

Have you written this genre?

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Genres of Literature – Lost World


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A sub-genre of the fantasy or science fiction genres, the lost world involves the discovery of an unknown world out of time, place, or both. It began as a sub-genre of late-Victorian adventure romance and gained  popularity into the 21st century.

Due to the remnants of lost civilizations being discovered around the world, such as the tombs of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the semi-mythical stronghold of Troy, the jungle-shrouded pyramids of the Maya, and the cities and palaces of the empire of Assyria the genre rose in popularity. Between 1871 and the First World War, the number of published lost world narratives, dramatically increased. The genre also has similar themes to “mythical kingdoms”, such as El Dorado.

For example, the now  famous Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1820), has long been hailed at the ultimate lost world novel, however, King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider haggard (1885) was considered the first-world narrative. This book was followed by The Man Who Would be King by Rudyard Kipling (1888) and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (1912). The name Shangri-La was first introduced by James Hilton in his novel, Lost Horizon in 1933, this meme has become synonymous with lost world narratives as the idealization of a lost world.

Topics within these narratives ranged from winged people on an isolated island surrounded by high cliffs, the hollow earth, surviving pockets of prehistoric species, and humans living alongside living dinosaurs. Today with most of the planet explored the narratives are turning to space.

Do you write or read lost world fiction?

Which one is your favorite?

 

Genres of Literature – Musical Fiction


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Musical fiction is a genre of fiction in which music is the main subject matter of the narrative. It can also be through the rhythm and flow of the prose itself.  As a literary sub-genre it engages musical pretexts, as well a relationship to a musical model.

June Skinner stated in her book, The Best of Rock Fiction – “Rock fiction has not received the proper respect it deserves, which is unfortunate given the caliber of writers who have captured its fleeting essence on the written page.”

Novels written with a musical component can be base on the era, a personality or a vehicle to set the ‘mood’ of the narrative.

One of my favorites is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, the movie of the same name starring John Cusack was full of musical references.

Here is a great list of music based novels. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/the-read-down/books-to-read-if-you-love-music