Literary text: what it is, main characteristics and types of literary texts


What is a literary text?

Literary texts are understood as a set of works that are created for aesthetic purposes and that draw attention to a series of poetic forms and varied uses of language, beyond the intention of creating real or objective content in their message or text. That is to say, they are texts that have a greater variety of possible approaches given their subjective character, as well as the freedom of content that it is possible to develop.

In this sense, we speak of a type of text in which the most important feature has to do with the way in which it puts the type of language before the content, without this implying that the content is not of interest or lacks importance. It is recognized as a text type that was present with human beings from very early on, although in many areas it was first linked to oral literature.

What is a literary text

Characteristics of literary texts

Now, we must consider that at the same time, there are many other forms that are developed in each of the literary texts and that explore a great amount of possibilities playing with many elements. However, these elements we can identify and specify them as a fundamental part of this type of texts. Let’s see what they are:

Particular purpose

One of the most important aspects of literary texts has to do with the purpose of the text or function, since it is a purely aesthetic and expressive function if compared to other types of text such as non-literary texts, for example. Thus, its purpose is purely artistic and for this purpose a text is developed with an attractive style that attracts the reader’s attention.

One of the most important scholars in the literary field, Roman Jackobson, defines the literary text precisely by its poetic function, where he points out this point as the purpose of the works, combining key elements such as expressive capacity and creativity in creation.

Subjectivity of texts

Another fundamental feature of literary texts is related to the fact that they stand out for the personal and intimate expression expressed by the author. Therefore, it is not based on objective principles, but the author’s view of the world, the ways in which he relates to it, his feelings, thoughts, among other particular characteristics that are exposed there.

Use of language and style

Both the style and the language used in the development of the literary text must respond to the author’s aesthetic purpose. In this way, the intention leads to the development of a beautiful text that is built by a series of elements and resources that allow it to achieve it according to its content. Thus, also, in the use of these resources, the text will make evident the author’s style.

Playing with fiction

It is considered that every literary text always skirts the boundaries between fiction and reality. However, in a general view, most of these types of texts fall into fictionality despite the fact that for the construction of images or references, they have to deal with aspects of reality that allow them to give continuity to their story or text.

Use of literary resources

Another fundamental element of this type of text is the use of a great variety of literary and expressive resources known as literary figures, rhetoric or tropes. These elements are key to the construction of literary texts since they allow authors to use language according to the discursive intention they want to give to their own texts, whether it is to include moving nuances, to give power to the text, to establish a rhythm, etc.

Types of literary texts

It is time to see what are the types of literary texts that we can identify in the world of literature. Remember that you can go to each of them to know in depth what they are, how they are developed, characteristics, most important works and authors in each of them:

Fiction literature

Although it includes a really broad definition, we can highlight that it refers to all those works in which the situations, characters and environments are the product of the author’s imagination. It differs from other series of works because its content tends to be purely fictional without leaving aside the communication with other categories and genres. It is a product of invention from beginning to end.

Science fiction literature

It is a type of literature that is officially identified in the twentieth century. It is born from fiction literature but is distinguished because it often uses in its development, themes related to science and technology. Thus, we can find texts that create worlds in the distant future, situations that reflect technological progress and how these aspects impact the lives of human beings, among other elements.

Horror literature

Includes all types of literary texts whose main intention is to generate sensations such as fear, anguish, suspense, among other associated processes. These are texts that take place in unfamiliar environments and immerse readers in an unknown world. Among the most frequent themes of horror literature are death, illnesses, including mental illnesses, creatures such as demons, among others.

Costumbrist literature

This term refers to all literary works that aim to become a reflection and at the same time an expression of the customs of a certain society. Its roots are located in one of the most important artistic expressions of the literary field and from there begins a wide production of works that advocate daily life, its language, traditions, environment, among other elements of the society of which it speaks.

Travel literature

They are all those texts whose stories are based on travel experiences that have been made in a symbolic or fictional way in the development of the content. These texts often have elements such as the expression of feelings of those experiences, reflections on various topics, the portrayal of varied scenarios that are traveled through by the characters in the story or through memories, etc.

Erotic literature

Within this type of text we find all those that are developed under themes such as sexuality, eroticism and sex. It is characterized because the way in which it is narrated is fully erotic, this means that it handles an implicit language within the scenarios and situations of the story. It can approach the theme in different ways, either in a direct or indirect way. It often uses a large number of resources or literary figures that facilitate the creation of references.

Types of literary texts

Fantastic literature

We speak of fantastic literature to refer to any type of text that in its development raises supernatural elements or extraordinary phenomena. It is a relatively recent modality in which it is possible to develop a great variety of texts that also advocate the stimulation of the imagination, pose plausible scenarios in other realities, use fantastic characters, among others.

Feminist literature

This is one of the types of literature about which there is still much debate. However, a good approach to this type of literature would be the way in which literary works or texts question and pose a critical view of the author and the reader, in which women are placed in different roles within a given society. In addition to this, it includes a fundamental element given by the experience of women and the way in which there may or may not be different limitations in relation to the male figure, in many cases.

Gothic literature

It is a type of literature that takes many elements from horror literature, although it is distinguished by the permanence of a dark and sometimes gloomy setting. It includes elements that are often related to mystery and that immerse readers in an unknown and gloomy space. It usually takes forms of development such as the narrative text, particularly with the novel, where it finds a better way to give continuity to its aesthetic intentions.

Gray literature

Gray literature is understood as all those literary texts that can be seen as unconventional texts, which is why they do not take as a means of dissemination, the traditional channels for commercial publication. Also known as invisible literature, it was born in the 19th century within the framework of the development of different European trends with the intention of reaching the reader by exploring other possible channels.

Humorous literature

Humorous literature, as it is also known, is distinguished from other types of literary texts because its main intention is often to provoke humor in the reader through an entertaining text with a comic character in relation to its literary development. Although we can find humor in different types of texts, as a recurrent or spontaneous element, this type of literature has this purpose from the beginning, considering the subjective component.

Children’s literature

In this field are all those works that have been developed for the consumption or reading of children. Thus, we can identify a large number of literary works that are approached from different formats within the literary genres and are intended for the enjoyment of children. However, despite the focus of their main audience, they are texts that can also be entertaining, moving and fun for other types of audiences such as youth and adults.

Juvenile literature

As the name suggests, these are texts that are created for young audiences. In the literary field, this type of audience often refers to the period of adolescence, given that it usually includes themes typical of this time of life. Thus, we can often find themes such as bullying, social misunderstanding, love, among other important human relationships experienced at that time. They are also texts that are enjoyed by other audiences such as adults.

Crime literature

Within this modality, we find all those literary works in which the plot is directly related to situations such as crimes or offenses. One of the main characteristics has to do with the fact that they usually have detectives as protagonists who are in charge of solving the situation around which the story revolves. It is also usually called under other terms such as detective literature or detective novel, since it is developed fundamentally under the narrative of the novel.

Culturalist novel

It is a type of text that initially carries the term -novella-, since it is usually fully developed on this literary narrative genre. It was born in the 1970s and is characterized by including elements of the historical novel, given that it approaches the description of timeless or present environments, but which are often closely related to literary creation with respect to mythological elements, for example.

Realistic fiction novel

In this type of text we have a set of literary works that although they are the author’s invention, the setting or environment in which they take place is realistic, hence their nomination with the two elements. In this sense, the works that take place in realistic fiction may include real characters, a period of time close to the reader, among other aspects. It is often developed under the format of the novel.

Historical novel

It is a type of text in which the plot is set in a particular historical moment, that is, it is a work that involves fiction in a specific historical space and is easy to reference or remember due to its importance. It arises in the mid-nineteenth century and is characterized mainly by the union it represents for the literary world and history as a joint axis. It can include historical characters in fictional situations or important historical situations with other characters, the possibilities vary.

Intimate novel

In this section we find all those works that delve in an important way in themes related to the self and that had been left aside. It is characterized because it includes a lyrical tone of the authors, bringing to its content aspects related to the existential issue, the search for the meaning of life, among other important issues that reveal part of the intimate vision of the writer and that provoke several of these questions in the reader, sometimes, without trying.

Lyrical novel

It is characterized because it has several elements that we can identify as typical of Romanticism, although it also combines with others according to its emergence. The main objective of this type of text has to do with the renewal of the genre in which it combines the poetic with the novelistic. It is fundamentally based on symbolism for the construction of the plot, it usually includes a lyrical hero and poses a lyrical point of view.

Noir novel

It is also known as black literature, although it has mainly taken the genre of the novel for its creation and hence it is better known by this companion. It includes all those works in which the story revolves around a crime and includes detectives, however, it is distinguished from the detective novel because the protagonist is usually no longer the detective. It generally focuses on marginalized characters and prioritizes actions and situations.

Picaresque novel

This type of novel or text is based fundamentally on prose writings that are mainly part of the development of literature in Spain, although it spread rapidly throughout the continent. It is characterized by including parodies of Renaissance narratives, they are written in the first person and usually tell a kind of false biography, portray the society through which it is criticized, among other key elements.

Polyphonic novel

This type of text gathers all those in which we can observe a plurality of consciences working independently, that is, independent voices that develop in the work. In spite of the little information we have on this type of text, many academics usually refer to works such as Don Quixote de la Mancha, although new references will soon appear that will give life to this recent type of text.

Fantastic literature

Romantic novel

It is also known as the pink novel and is distinguished by including all those texts in which the plot is developed around the theme of love. Many of these texts present views and situations that vary around the main theme, whether they are impossible loves, stories of lovers who overcome obstacles to be together, etc. However, one of their most important features is related to the fact that their protagonists, in this case the lovers, reach a happy ending.

Social novel

This type of text takes place around the decade of the 50’s after different countries, among them Spain, went through a series of situations that produced different changes at social and political level, where the State was looking for a quick recovery, especially at economic level, for its population. Thus, the social novel emerges as a space that takes the narrative to express the changes that were being experienced with a strong critical content.

Social realism

Very close to the previous type of text, social realism is a new form of texts that due to its main elements manages to expand rapidly in different countries facilitating the development from their own contexts. Among these elements we find that it becomes a portrait of social reality according to its area of location, and thus includes not only an aesthetic element as a purpose, but also the reflection of social sense by objectively developing the work, including social content, focus on specific groups, among other key aspects.

And so we end our section of text types in terms of literary texts, which have developed throughout history, motivated in many cases, by the most predominant movements and styles of the time and which in turn, in part have arisen due to social changes, political and cultural determinants. Remember that in our section you can find much more information about other types of text and other fields of the literary world to continue learning.