Topic 37 – Literary language, lit. Genres & literary criticism

Topic 37 – Literary language, lit. Genres & literary criticism



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. Communication and language.

2.2. Language communicative purposes.

2.3. Jakobson’s model: the poetic function.


3.1. The historical origin of literature.

3.2. Literary vs. ordinary language.

3.3. Literary language and Rethoric.

3.4. Text linguistics and discourse analysis.

3.5. Text types: literary texts.


4.1. The context of situation and genre.

4.2. On defining genre and literary genre.

4.3. On classifying genres: main criteria.

4.4. On classifying genres: main types.

4.5. Main characteristics of genre types.


5.1. On defining literary criticism.

5.2. The origins and development of literary criticism.

5.2.1. Ancient times.

5.2.2. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

5.2.3. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

5.2.4. The nineteenth century.

5.2.5. The twentieth and twenty-first century. Structuralism. Russian Formalism. New Criticism. Post-Structuralism. Marxist Literary Theories. Other types of literary criticism.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The main aim of Unit 37 is to present the issue of literary language, literary genres and literary criticism. Our aim is to offer a broad account of what literary texts are and why they are used for in both linguistic, pragmatic and educational terms, that is, how language and textual features are used to achieve the purpose of using the aesthetic element in ordinary language, handling different types of text in everyday life and being able to trace back the history of literature in terms of its main weakness and strengths (criticism). So, we shall divide our study in seven main chapters.

In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for the analysis of literary language (to be examined in next chapter) by reviewing the concept of ‘language’ in relation to the concept of ‘literature’, which prove essential in the understanding of the present study. So, we shall review the origins and nature of (1) communication in relation to language and (2) the main language communicative purposes as a means to establish the basis for (3) Jakobson’s model on language functions. Here this model shall lead us directly to the notion of ‘poetic function’ so as to establish the distinction between ‘ordinary’ language and ‘poetic’ (or literary) language.

Chapter 3 will analyse the issue of literary language by locating (1) the historical origin of literature so as to (2) define ‘literary’ language in opposition to the notion of ‘ordinary’ language. Then, we shall examine the linguistic field where it comes into force, that is, in the late antiquity (3) under the field of Rethoric and currently, under (4) the notion of text linguistics and discourse analysis. Then we shall approach (5) the classification of text types, by means of which we get the concept of literary texts. This review will be the basis on the next two chapters: literary genres and literary criticism.

Chapter 4 will offer then an insightful analysis of literary genres in terms of providing a (1) linguistic framework for genre; (2) a definition of genre and literary genre; (3) an account of the main criteria for the cla ssification of genres; and (4) main types; and finally, (5) main features of genres according to structural features (form, technique and content).

Chapter 5 is developed by (1) defining literary criticism; (2) providing an account of the origins and development of literary criticism throughtout history from (a) ancient times, (b) the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, (c) the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, (d) the nineteenth century and (e) the twentieth and twenty-first century. Within the latter part we shall examine the main ways of criticism such as (i) Structuralism, (ii) Russian Formalism, (iii) New Criticism, (iv) Post- Structuralism, (v) Marxist Literary Theories, (vi) Feminist Literary Criticism, and also (vii) other secondary types of literary criticism.

Chapter 6 will be devoted to present the main educational implications in language teaching regarding literary language and Chapter 7 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study. Finally, Chapter 8 will include all the bibliographical references used in this study.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to literary language regarding its origins is drawn from Crystal, Linguistics (1985) and Goytisolo, Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible he ritage of Humanity (2001). General contributions to literary theory are based on relevant works of Eagleton, Literary Theory. An Introduction (1983); and Jefferson and Robey, Modern Literary Theory. A Comparative Introduction (1986). Classic works regarding the term ‘ literary texts’ and text-types include Crystal and Davy, Investigating English Style (1969); Beaugrande and Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (1988); and Esser, Text-Type as a Linguistic Unit (1991). Other views on literature and discourse modes include Conn, Choosing and Using Literature (1995); Fludernik, Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology (1996); Kinneavy, A Theory of Discourse. The Aims of Discourse (1971).

The background for educational implications regarding literary language is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by Canale, From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy (1983); Hymes, On communicative competence (1972). In addition, the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001); B.O.E. (2002); and the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).


In this section, a relevant background for literary language is to be found at the core of the communication process, which sheds light on the key concepts of ‘language’ and ‘literature’. So, we shall approach the human need of communicating, the way of presenting reality through messages (oral or written) and the main functions of language. An insightful analysis of the latter aspect (language functions) is based on the theory of the Russian linguist Roman Jakobson which will show us how these concepts are interrelated.

So, we shall review the origins and nature of (1) communication in relation to language and (2) the main language communicative purposes as a means to establish the basis for (3) Jakobson’s model on language functions . Here this model shall lead us directly to the notion of ‘poetic function’ so as to establish the distinction between ‘ordinary’ language and ‘poetic’ (or literary) language.

2.1. Communication and language.

There is more to communication than just one person speaking and another one listening. Human communication processes are quite complex since we may differentiate between verbal and non- verbal, oral and written, formal and informal, and intentional and unintentional communication. In addition, there is human and animal communication, and nowadays we may also refer to human- computer communication.

Research in cultural anthropology has shown quite clearly that the origins of communication are to be found in the very early stages of life when there was a need for animals and humans to communicate so as to carry out basic activities of everyday life (i.e. hunting, eating, fighting, establishing social structures). However, even the most primitive cultures had a constant need to express their feelings and ideas by other means than gutural sounds and body movements as animals did. Human beings constant preoccupation was how to turn thoughts into words.

It is worth, at this point, establishin g a distinction between human and animal systems of communication whose features differ in the way they produce and express their intentions. So far, the most important feature of human language is the auditory-vocal channel which, in ancient times, allowed human beings to produce messages and, therefore to help language develop. Among other main features, we may mention the possibility of exchanging messages among individuals; a sense of displacement in an oral interaction in space and time ; the arbitrariness of signs where words and meanings have no a priori connection; and finally, the possibility of a traditional transmission as language is handed down from one generation to another by a process of teaching and learning.

The human curiosity concerning language is no modern phenomenon. Language has been examined by linguists and philosophers for several millennia. Therefore, we can look back on a respectable stock of literature on the topic originating from the times of Ancient Greece until the present day. The result is a compendium of linguistic disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, neurology, and even computer science more recently.

2.2. Language communicative purposes.

The concept of language has been approached by many linguists, but the most outstanding definition comes from Halliday (1973) who defines it as an instrument of social interaction with a clear communicative purpose. Following Crystal (1985), one of the main characteristics of language is that it is an essential tool of communication. Hence the importance of studying ways and means of improving communication techniques through history with a highly elaborated signaling system, both spoken and written, which has had an immense impact on our everyday life. Thus, instances of verbal communication by means of language are everyday situations: writing a letter, having a conversation, watching a play, or reading a magazine.

For our purposes in this study, we shall approach the main features of the communication process (a form of social interaction, unpredictable, creative, uncertain on behalf of the participants and verbal and non- verbal) among which we shall focus on the main purpose of language , that is, to communicate in a successful way by means of linguistic, extralinguistic or paralinguistic devices. One of the most productive schematic models of a communication system emerged from the

clip_image001speculations of the Russian linguist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) 1 .

1 Jakobson’s model of language functions is not the only one. We may find other linguists’ models such as Bühler’s tripartite system and Bronislaw Malinowski’s theory.

2.3. Jakobson’s model: the poetic function.

Following Jakobson (1960), his model can be used for a number of different purposes in the study of language and communication and, in fact, it proves essential in the study of literary language so as to establish a typology of literary genres. Jakobson states that all acts of communication, be the y written or oral, are based on six constituent elements which every use of language must have (sender, receiver, message, context, code and channel) , and which are primarily associated with one of the six functions of language he proposed, thus, emotive, conative, poetic, referential, metalingual and phatic, respectively. But what does this model have to do with literary language?

The key answer is to be drawn from Jakobson’s proposition on the six components, that is, a user and a receiver of language, and between them four channels of communication: code, channel, context and message. The relationship between them shows that the code is the language used (Spanish, English); the contact is the physical channel of communication (speech or writing); the context is the world of ideas, or discourse, in which the communication takes place (politics, business, sport, chemistry); and the message is the exact form in which the communication occurs (its wording in literature for example).

In fact, Jakobson states (1960) that in literature, because of its interest in style, the primary emphasis is on the message, which deals with the wording or lexical choice. Therefore, we shall focus on the main language function linked to the message: the poetic one (showing the exact form of the message in the communication process). He explains that in poetry the wording of the language itself can have a predominance beyond what it has in other uses of language.

It is relevant to say that all six components of language use are present in poetry as in any other area of language but concern for the wording (with style) has more dominance than usual. Therefore we come to a distinction between the use of vocabulary in poetic diction and the usage of vocabulary in ordinary speech. At this point, once we have analysed the main features of language regarding communication, we are ready to approach the distinction between ‘ordinary’ language and ‘literary’ language.


On approaching the issue of literary langua ge, we shall start by locating (1) the historical origin of literature so as to (2) define ‘literary’ language in opposition to the notion of ‘ordinary’ language. Then, we shall examine the linguistic field where it comes into force, that is, in the late antiquity (3) under the field of Rethoric and currently, under (4) the notion of text linguistics and discourse analysis. Then we shall approach (5) the classification of text types, by means of which we get the concept of literary texts. This review will be the basis on the next two chapters: literary genres and literary criticism.

3.1. The historical origin of literature.

We may say that literature holds timeless universal human truths which can be read or listened to without regard to historical context of its production, and without regard to particular historical moment in which we read, listen and make meaning of it. As seen before, we may differenciate between literary and ordinary language, but when did this distinction come into force? The answer lies at the core of the use of ordinary language from ancient times up to the present and behind a definition of literature, so let us examine both aspects.

For Malinowsky, a relevant anthropology figure, language had only two main purposes: pragmatic and ritual. The former refers to the practical use of language, either active (by means of speech) or narrative (by means of written texts) and the latter is concerned with the use of language associated to ceremonies, and also referred to as magic. As seen, we can already mark a distinction here between ordinary and literary language since both had different purposes.

As we may perceive, language pervades social life since it is the principal vehicle for the transmission of cultural knowledge, and the primary means by which we gain access to the contents of others’ minds. Hence language is involved in most of the phenomena that lie at the core of social psychology (i.e. attitude change, social perception, personal identity, social interaction, stereotyping) as well as at the core of social life which constitute an intrinsic part or the way language is used.

Linguists regard language as an abstract structure that exists independently of specific instances of usage. However, any communicative exchange is situated in a social context that constrains the linguistic forms participants use. How these participants define the social situation, their perceptions of what others know, think and believe, and the claims they make about their own and others’ identities will affect the form and content or their acts of speaking. So, this means that social behaviour determines the language function and therefore, the way they use language.

As Juan Goytisolo (2001) stated in his speech at the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity, we must first examine our historical knowledge of both oral and written cultures so as to provide ourselves a cultural identity in society. Since ancient times, tribal chiefs, chamans, bards and story-tellers have been in charge of preserving and memorising for the future the narratives of the past and Goytisolo mentions a growing disequilibrium when observing that only seventy-eight of the three thousand languages now spoken in the world possess a living literature based on one of the hundred and six alphabets created throughout history. In other words, hundreds and hundreds of languages used today on our planet have no written form and their communication is exclusively oral.

Goytisolo further points out that acquiring knowledge of this primary orality is an anthropological task in the field of literature and oral narrative. If all cultures are based on language, that is, a combination of spoken and heard sounds, this oral communication which involves numerous kinetic and corporal elements, has undergone over the centuries a series of changes as the existence of writing and awareness of the latter have gradually changed the mentality of bards, chamans, tribal chiefs and narrators.The usual forms of popular and tradit ional expression were oral literature, music, dance , games, mythology, rituals, marketplaces, festivals and even architecture.

This perform ing in public is to be linked to a considerable body of religious tradition and myth in many cultures concerning the nature and origins of language (Crystal 1985). That transitional period between sounds and speech was to be characterized by a connectio n between divinity and language, which is the first evidence of a different use of ordinary language with magic purposes rather than pragmatic. Therefore, words were regarded as having a separate existence in reality, and as to have embodied the nature of things to be used deliberately to control and influence events. As we can see, it was believed that if words controlled things by saying them over and over again in magic formulae, incantations, rhythmical listing of proper names, and many other rites.

3.2. Literary vs. ordinary language.

As seen before, it was this power of words which leads us to the first attempts of literary language under the form of the language of worship. In fact, the poetic function of language and therefore, the wording of a message in the communication process determines the use of vocabulary in poetic diction (magic power of words) and the usage of vocabulary in ordinary speech. There is no variety of language peculiar to literature, nor any that is prohibited in literature.

Among the arts, literature is unique in that it uses ordinary language to carry out specific purposes of communication (to write a poem, read a novel, write a play script) and still, most of us feel that there is something distinctive about the kind of language which is used. For instance, in ordinary language we may say ‘The sun is shining again this morning’ whereas to make it sound literary we might say ‘the roseate dawn’. Definitely, this might be called for convenience ‘literary language’.

At the start of the twentieth century, under the intellectual movement of Structuralism, there have been more serious attempts to define ‘literary language’ based on the reasons for its use rather than what kind of vocabulary it has. For instance, the most influential definition states that ordinary language disappears once it has been undertood whereas literary language can be defined as language which does not disappear in that way (non-casual vs. casual language).

For instance, for Russian Formalists a sentence like ‘What time is it?’ in ordinary language may be satisfactorily answered ‘4 p.m’ and no further reflection is made after the statement. On the contrary, the use of the same question in Shakespeare (Hamlet: I.iv.3-5) changes within the context: “Hamlet: What hour now? – Horatio: I think it lacks of twelve. – Marcellus: No, it is struck – Horatio: Indeed? I heard it not”. The difference lies in that asking the time in Hamlet has a great literary significance since it is indicating whether or not the ghost is due.

In fact, there is a kind of language that we are more likely to encounter in literature than in ordinary conversation, and to encounter more frequently. Poetry is the most obvious case, imposing upon itself strange constraints such as the need of rhyme, or to have ten syllables in a line. When Jakobson stated the emphasis on the poetic function in literature, he had a conc ern on the wording. We can say that all ordinary language may be literary, but some language uses are more literary than others. We call those places where such uses are dominant ‘literature’. What we mean by literary language is the usage where the wordin g is primary, taking precedence over all other considerations. Jakobson demonstrates with his model that the language of literature is really different, even if it is a rearrangement of the same lexis that all language uses work with.

3.3. Literary language and Rethoric.

Then, this lexis is examined in a wide variety of texts whose analysis is carried out within the field of text linguistics and, in particular, discourse analysis at present and in late antiquity by Rethoric. In fact, the oldest form of preoccupation with texts and the first foundation for the analysis of texts and its articulation is drawn from the notion of text linguistics which has its historical roots in Rethoric , dating from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages up to the present under the name of text linguistics or discourse.

Traditional rethoricians were influenced by their major task of training public orators on the discovery of ideas (invention), the arrangement of ideas (disposition), the discovery of appropriate expressions for ideas (elocution), and memorization prior to delivery on the actual occasion of speaking. In the Middle Ages, rethoric was based on grammar (on the study of formal language patterns in Greek and Latin) and logic (on the construction of arguments and proofs), hence its relevance within our study.

Rethoric still shares several concerns with the kind of text linguistics and, in particular, with literary works since the art of Rethoric (Lat. ars bene dicendi) deals with the use of texts as vehicles of purposeful interaction (oral and written), the expression and arranging of a given configuration of ideas, and its disposition within the discourse which still depends on the effects upon the audience. In late antiquity, early literary texts were considered as ‘communicative discourse acts’ which focused on the message. A rethoric corpus was formed by five elements: inventio, dispositio and elocutio which dealt with the discourse construction and memoria and actio , which dealt with the discourse act in itself.

3.4. Text linguistics and discourse analysis.

Moreover, this lexis is examined nowadays in a wide variety of texts whose analysis is carried out within the field of text linguistics and, in particular, discourse analysis In fact, the notion of text linguistics designates ‘any work in language science devoted to the text as the primary object of inquiry’ (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). Many fields have approached the study of texts: linguistics (from grammar, morphology and phonology), anthropology (different speech acts in different cultures), psychology (speaker and hearer behaviour) and stylistics (correctness, clarity, elegance, appropriateness, style).

The term ‘discourse’ comes into force when we deal with the highest grammatical level of analysis in the rank scale, that is, paragraphs and texts, which are considered to be ‘larger stretches of language higher than the sentence’ (Aarts, 1988). Then we shall deal with a wide range of texts in order to establish relations of social interaction either in spoken or written language in communicative events.

‘Discourse’ then represents ‘the complex picture of the relations between language and action in communicative contexts’ which account for the functions of utterances with underlying textual structures’ (van Dijk, 1981). The origins of the term are to be found within the fields of sociolinguistics and pragmatics, which had a rapid growth in the 1970s: the former confronting with data and problems of actual language use, the latter introducing the notions of speech acts, felicity conditions and context.

3.5. Text types: literary texts.

Theories were developed around the debate of literary language and insisted that the best and, indeed the only, way to study literature was to study the text itself in close detail, and to disregard anything outside the text itself. So, the literary text contains its own meaning within itself. The texts will, then, reveal constants, universal truths, about human nature, because human nature itself is constant and unchanging. It must be borne in mind that the purpose of literature is the enhancement of life and the propagation of human values.

Hence, the word ‘text’ in literature is used to refer to any passage, spoken or written, of whatever length, that does form a unified whole. In addition, two textual devices will give literary texts the distinctive form and style: texture to give the text coherence with respect to its environment and secondly, ties so as to contribute to its total unity by means of cohesive relations. But in fact it is one of the seven standards2 inter textuality that makes a text be literary.

2 Cohesion, coherence, intentionality and acceptability, informativity, situationality and intertextuality (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988).

Intertextuality concerns the factors which make the use of one text dependent upon knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts, that is, the ways in which the production and reception of a given text depends upon the participants knowledge of other texts. The usual mediation is achieved by means of the development and use of text types , being classes of texts expected to have certain traits for certain purposes: to narrate , describe , argue, expose and instruct (conversational). So where are literary texts to be located?

Since text linguists had to develop generic distinctions (from classical lyric, epic and drama) in non- literary corpora, Kinneavy (1971) distinguishes four aims of discourse modelled on Jakobson’s communicative functions, thus the expressive, the referential, the persuasive and the literary text type. Among those categories, the ‘literary aims of discourse’ focus on Jakobson’s poetic function and include text types such as the joke, the film, the TV show besides drama, ballads, the lyric, the short story, and the like3 . We must bear in mind that the relationship between text types and genres is not straightforward since genres reflect differences in external format and text types may be defined on the basis of cognitive categories (Smith 1985). But what are the main criteria to classify texts and get to the notion of literary texts?

3.6. On classifying literary texts: main criteria.

For 2,400 years there have been two traditions of classifying texts. The first one, deriving from Aristotle’s Rethoric , where the term rethoric refers to the uses of language. More specific, it refers to modes of discourse realized through text types (narration, description, exposition, argumentation and dialogic) and to communicative function as rethorical strategies in functional lines (narrative, descriptive, expository and so on).

By means of this typology, Kinneavy (1971) attempts to establish a number of textual categories with a common purpose, despite its obvious merits fails to see that most texts of a given ‘genre’ are referential as well as persuasive or expressive. Hence we realize that the category of literary texts is not a clear-cut one and that, narration, description, exposition, argumentation and dialogic types may be present in literary discourse modes.

3 Kinneavy (1971) splits the expressive category into two types: individual (conversation, journals, prayers) and social (manifestos, contracts, myths, religious credos); the referential aim of discourse encompasses exploratory texts (seminars, dialogues), scientific texts (proving a point by arguing from accepted premises, by generalizing from particular) and since text linguistics, unlike literary scholarship, does not focus primarily on literary texts, linguists have had to develop a certain number of concepts (fictional vs. non-fictional, factual vs. imaginative, literary vs. instrumental language, general vs. specific , polysemic vs. monosemic ) to account for variety in language use (instrumental language) or for the usage of language in specific situations (literary language ). Then it is relevant to mention those basic principles (or main criteria) by which all text types are interrelated as literary productions (Esser, 1991):

1. External level.

Here we find informative vs. imaginative writing, where the intention of the participant is essential to distinguish text types. On the one hand, informative texts include the field of sciences, arts, commerce and finance, belief and thought, leisure, antural and pure science, social science and world affairs. On the other hand, imaginative writing refers to literary and creative works. These types are further categorised according to other criteria, such as medium, date of publication, topic and so on. We must point out, though, that the category ‘factual’ is far wide r thatn ‘informative’ but often the two seem to be merged. The distinction between fact and fiction is relevant, but it is a distinction that cuts across others, and concerns the relation of the utterances to objective reality, and not in the first instance to their purposes.

2. Internal level.

Since language varies with situation (context), we can identify particular specialised texts through the specification of certain internal linguistic criteria, that is, the frequency of lexico-grammatical features (Halliday & Martin, 1993). Often, this classification begins with external criteria and subsequently focuses on internal linguistic criteria. For instance, scientific texts are associated with passive structures, short sentences in form of commands and nominalisations of –ing forms among other features.

In addition, specific scientific and technical vocabulary also determines a kind of text namely through the distinction polysemic vs. monosemic, that is to say, by admitting more than one meaning (literary language) or carrying a single meaning (instrumental language). Literary texts are formed from constituents that are not always immediately recognizable, such as specific conditions of production, informative texts (news, articles, textbooks). Finally, the persuasive category includes religious sermons, editorials, and political or legal oratory.

contradictory cultural discourses, and intercultural processes. For such reasons, literary texts may be polysemous, having a range of interpretive possibilities. However, there are some basic principles of literature which have common characteristics that make it possible for them to be classified into genres or sub- types.

Therefore, this classification of texts into genres is purely based on both internal and external criteria (linguistic and non- linguistic criteria, respectively) by giving prominence to the sociological environment of the text. Actually, Atkins et al. (1992) believe that ‘a corpus selected entirely on internal criteria would yield no information about the relation between language and its context of situation’. Then, let us examine what literary genres are and their main features.


Chapter 4 will offer then an insightful analysis of literary genres in terms of providing a (1) linguistic framework for genre; (2) a definition of genre and literary genre; (3) an account of the main criteria for the classification of genres; and (4) main types; and finally, (5) main features of genres according to structural features (form, technique and content).

4.1. The context of situation and genre .

As seen above, the terms context and situation are closely related to that of language and literary texts and therefore, to genre. On the one hand, context means literally ‘accompanying text’ and it is defined as ‘the state of affairs of a communicative situation in which communicative events take place’ (van Dijk, 1981). A context must have a linguistically relevant set of characteristics for the formulation, conditions and rules for the adequate use of utterances, for instance, it must be ‘appropriate’ and‘satisfactory’ for the given utterance in a literary text. Moreover, the notion of context is rather static when it is merely used to refer to a state of affairs. Hence we may introduce the term ‘communicative’ so that an event may be successful if a given context changes into a specific new context (i.e. speaking face to face vs. speaking on the phone).

On the other hand, the term situation means the ‘context of situation’ in which a text is embedded, refers to all those extra-linguistic factors which have some bearing on the text itself. These external factors affect the linguistic choices that the speaker or the writer makes on the basis of the nature of the audience, the medium, the purpose of the communication and so on. The concept of ‘context of situation’ was formulated by Malinowski in 1923 4 and further on, Hymes (1969) categorized the speech situation in terms of eight components: form and content of text, setting, participants, ends (intent and effect), key, medium, interactional norms and genre. So, this is the linguistic context where the concept of ‘genre’ is located and now, we may follow on defining it.

4.2. On defining genre and literary genre.

The term genre means literally ‘kind of’ or ‘sort of’ and comes from the same Latin root as the word ‘genus’. Some other definitions for the term ‘genre’ are (a) a kind of literary or artistic work; (b) a style of expressing yourself in writing; and (c) a class of artistic endeavor having a characteristic from or technique.

Therefore, the concept of literary genre refers to ‘a style of expressing yourself in writing’. So, what do we mean when we talk about literary genres? Literary genres are said to be divisions of literature into categories or classes which group works by different criteria (form, technique and content). Among literary genres we may find writing styles such as biographies, fiction or poetry, essays, drama rather than classifications made by movements such as naturalism, realism, romanticism or by theme as in legends, myths, short-stories and so on.

Discussions on genre probably began in ancient Greece with Aristotle , and the practice of distinguishing kinds of texts from each other on the basis of genres has continued uninterrupted since then. As seen above, dividing literary works into genres is a way of classifying them into particular categories and many specific text genres have been recognized since Aristotle’s day: fiction, essays, newspaper stories, biography, academic writing, advertising and computer writing, among others.

clip_image001[1]In fact, nowadays, the concept of genre has to cope not only with new types of docume nts (Internet, virtual reality, DVD’s) abut also with new ways of searching for, retrieving and conveying

4 It was published in a supplement called ‘The Meaning of Meaning’ which further developed into a paper called ‘Personality and electronic documents. Therefore, the concept of genre is a dynamic issue to help deal with the novel circumstances and with the proliferation of new products and techniques that support them. Hence, we may consider the concept of ‘genre’ as an analytic tool for those new text types not included under the heading of narrative, description, exposition, instruction and conversation.

4.3. On classifying genres: main criteria.

But what are the main criteria for this classification? Following classical guidelines, literary genres are strictly determined by the Aristotelian classical typology of lyric (ode, elegy) , epic (novel, tale) and drama (tragedy, come dy, satire). Still nowadays, this typology establishes the general characterization of the three main literary genres: lyric, narrative and drama and even, the concept of genre has also been extended beyond langua ge-based texts, so that we customarily speak of genres in relation to art, music, dance and other non-verbal methods of human communication.

According to Fludernik (1996), there are three levels on which we may establish a functional approach to genres. First, the level of macro-genre, which is constituted by the functions of communication (it corresponds to the external criteria for text types). Secondly, the level of genre, where traditional genre expectations are operative (it corresponds to the internal criteria for text types on lexico-grammatical features). Finally, she distinguishes a third level where the discourse mode works on the surface level of texts. On this level, the function of a descriptive passage, for instance, enter the schema of the specific genre as a sub-genre (i.e. the genre of art has different sub-genres –painting, drawing, sculpture, engraving- which in turn is divided into further types of genres. For instance, painting has sub-genres such as landscape, portraiture, still life, non- representional works, caricature).

However, the most relevant criteria lies at the diversity of genres which arises from the multiplicity of their contexts of use. At the highest level we classify genres in the same way literature is classified: either fictional or non-fictional types5, but we may add another type: hybrid texts. On the one hand, fiction types refer to things, events and characters which are not true, and which are

clip_image005classified according to three guidelines: on the form of the work, technique and content (or theme);

language in society’ (1950).

5 This initial subdivision of all texts into fiction and non-fiction comes from C.A. Cutter’s Rules for a Dictionary Catalog (1904). According to Cutter, one of the functions of the catalog is to allow the user to choose between ‘literary’ and on the other hand, non-fictional types refer to things, events and characters which are based on facts; and finally, hybrid texts refer to those texts which are a mutation of different kinds (non- fiction novel, prose poem).

4.4. On classifying genres: main types.

In general, we may find among the fiction types drama, fable, fairy tale, fantasy, fiction, fiction in verse, folklore, historical fiction, horror, humor, legend, mystery, mythology, poetry, realistic fiction, science fiction, short story and tall tale, among others. On the other hand, non-fictional types of genres include biography, autobiography, essay, narrative non-fiction, non-fiction and speech, among others. And finally, hybrid types include mixed genres such as non-fiction novel, infomercial, prose poem and docudrama.

Yet, it must be borne in mind that this classification is quite flexible since the concept of genre is a dynamic issue which deals with the novel circumstances and with the proliferation of new products and techniques (letter: love letter, business letter, penfriend letter, e-mail). Actually, the necessity of adding new classes (in particular with hybrid texts) dynamically undermines the stability of the typology and confounds reader expectations for the contents and structures of the genres. For instance, we mayhave a crime or mystery story set in the future (science fiction) or in the past (historical fiction) and still being defined as fantasy.

4.4. Main characteristics of genre types.

Yet, under these premises we shall explore this flexible typology on the basis of main characteristics and uses of genres regarding individual definitions, contexts, and potential


‘topical’ works, that is, between works without topics (i.e. literary works) and works with topics or subjects (i.e. non- literary, non-fiction).

1. Fiction genre. Within this type some genres tell us something about

a. the form of the work:

Poetry, which is defined as verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses in the reader (Wordsworth, Lord Byron).

Drama (or also called plays), is defined as stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical perfomance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action (Shakespeare, Plato).

Prose (also called ordinary writing) may deal with narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.

Fiction in verse, defined as full- length novels with plot, subplot, theme, major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form. Folklore, in which the songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of people or ‘folk’ are handed down by word of mouth.

b. the technique (layout) and style used:

Picture books, which contains words and pictures.

Game books, which require the reader to problem-solve and actively engage in an activity while reading.

Novellas or short novels.

Short story, which is much shorter than a novella.

c. and also we find genres which are classified by content and theme:

Adventure stories, whose main theme presents a story full of dynamic and continuous events around an interesting plot so as to involve the reader in an adventure.

Science fiction, which is a story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets.

Fantasy, which deals with fiction with strange or otherworldy settings or characters. It is a kind of fiction that invites suspensio of reality.

Crime and mystery is a kind of genre in which fiction deals with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey).

Horror genres are a kind of fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader.

Romance types deal with events that evoke peaceful and romantic feelings on the part of the reader and on the part of the characters.

Human relations is a kind of fiction in whic h human stereotypes come into force with a moral message (i.e. Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations).

Historical fiction, which is a story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting.

Fable, which is a narration showing a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans. Also, a legendary and supernatural tale.

A fairy tale, which is a story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children.

Humor, as a fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain. It can be contained in all genres.

A tall tale, which is a humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.

Legend, which is a story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, which as a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material.

Mythology, which is related to legend or traditional narrative, is often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behavior and natural pehnomena by its symbolism. It often pertains to the actions of gods.

Realistic fiction is a story that can actually happen and is true to life.

2. Non-fiction genre. Within this type some genres tell us something about Biography/autobiography, where we find a narrative of a person’s life, a true story about a real person.

Essay, which is a short literary composition that reflects the author’s outlook or point. Non fiction narrrative, where non factual information is presented in a format which tells the story.

Non fiction genres refer to informational texts dealing with an actual, real-life subject objective types: news, reports).

Speech, as the public address form of discourse.

3. Hybrid genres. Finally, this type of genre reflects the instability and slipperiness of genres which change constantly depending on the technological, socia l, political and economic situation. In this type, the ideal of mutual exclusivity is sacrificed in order to ensure joint exhaustivity of the classes. This tension between continuity and change is a common one for information organization and retrieval analysis and systems. So, we may distinguish: non- fiction novel, infomercial, prose poem, docudrama, marketing plans, mission statements and outcome analyses, among others.


Chapter 5 is developed by (1) defining literary criticism; (2) providing an account of the origins and development of literary criticism throughtout history from (a) ancient times, (b) the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, (c) the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, (d) the nineteenth century and (e) the twentieth and twenty-first century. Within the latter part we shall examine the main ways of criticism such as (i) Structuralism, (ii) Russian Formalism, (iii) New Criticism, (iv) Post- Structuralism, (v) Marxist Literary Theories, (vi) Feminist Literary Criticism, and also (vii) other

secondary types of literary criticism.

5.1. On defining literary criticism.

As stated above, aesthetics is concerned with literature from a philosophical point of view, in relation to the general concepts of art, beauty and value. Hence, literary criticism is in charge of the objective analysis, interpretation and evaluation of works so as to states their weaknesses and strengths. One of the main functions of literary criticism is to express the shifts in sensibility that make such analysis possible and bring literary works to the public’s attention. Its relevance has thus been rather limited, although criticism has drawn on literary works from ancient times up to now.

5.2. On the origins and development of literary criticism.

5.2.1. Ancient times.

Thus, this exhaustive analysis of texts traces back to the ancient Greeks, which were keen on discussing literary works that focused on the experience of reading.Hence, literary works were evaluated, described and interpreted according to the meaning and effect they had on the reader.

Examples of this criticism are first found in Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics . On the one

hand, Plato depicted the physical world as an imperfect copy of intrascendent ideas and, therefore, poetry was seen as a mere copy and as “an imitation of an imitation and thus thrice removed from the truth”. On the other hand, Aristotle argued that the poet is motivated by a need to imitate and that such imitation had a civilizing value. He discussed the harmonious disposition of any text under the power of six elements (plot, thought, diction, character, spectacle and song) which, still nowadays, have proved adaptable to present genres. Actually, Plato and Aristotle’s theories of literature were in disagreement although they both maintained that poetry was mimetic and that it had a great influence on language.

Further on, the Roman work of Horace (Ars Poetica) and the rethorical works of Cicero and Quintilian (Institutiones Oratoriae) were reasoned considerations on literary works dealt with every literary textual device (style, author, sources, setting, characters). They are considered to be the earliest contributions to literary criticism since they renewed the Platonic argument against poetry in favour of a theological explanation of the universe. Yet, the first relevant essay on literary criticism was On the Sublime , written by Caius Cassius Longinus, a Greek philosopher and rhetoric author (213-273 B.C) which headed the neoplatonic school and stated the first evaluation and judgement on the art of poetics.

5.2.2. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Later on, another relevant critic was Dante who, in the early fourteenth century, wrote his De Vulgari Eloquentia (1303) regarding the problems of aesthetic , that is, the appropriate language to be used in poetry. In this way, the Renaissance criticism witnessed the recovery of classical texts when the principles of Aristotle’s Poetics were translated into Latin by Giorgio Valla (1498). Aristotle’s tradition then developed into an imposing presence behind literary theory and critics looked to ancient poems and plays so as to keep the laws on art. Other two instances of early criticism were Puttenham’s The Art of English Poesie (1589) and Sidney’s Defence of Poesie (1595).

5.2.3. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Further on, for a nearly hundred years, the major critical works showed a tempered enthusiasm and a sense of propiety and balance since there were attempts to imitate the laws of nature (Pope’s An Essay on Criticism, 1711). Literary criticism throughout the 17th and 18th centuries was dominated by a strict orthodoxy regarding the dramatic unities and genres of Horatian norms. This strict rules were soon to disappear under the increasing interest in literatures from Greece and Rome and there was a surprising decline of Neoclassicism.

A new genre was born in the late eighteenth century, the novel. Most of its readers belonged to a bourgeoisie that had no little use for aristocratic dicta. Emphasis soon shifted from concern, proportion and moderation to the subjective state of the reader and the author himself. The new kind of literature was based on non-Aristotelian factors and followed the spirit of the age where the taste for mysty, sublimit y, graveyard sentiments, medievalism, norse epics and oriental tales aroused in favour of a new movement: Romanticism.

5.2.4. The nineteenth century.

Romantic writers regarded the writing of poetry as a trascendentally important activity which was closely related to the creative perception of meaning in the world. Individual passion and an emphasis on inspiration were key features of this movement that coincided with the emergence of aesthetics as a separate branch of philosophy. Romantic literary theory was characterized by a great coherence and intensity and a defence of aesthetic language, as it is shown by Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1800), Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria (1817), Shelley’s Defence of Poetry (1820) and Poe’s The Poetic Principle (1850), among others.

Yet, by the late nineteenth century, the Romantic movement became weaker due to the opposite, realistic and naturalistic view of literature as an exact record of social truth. Scientific positivism encouraged a neglection of feelings, romanticism and subjectivity towards a criticism based on facts: logical positivism, first formulated in the work of the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who published between 1830 and 1842 a monumental Cours de philosophie positive . The aim of this work was to extend to the ‘arts’ subjects the methods and principles of the natural sciences.

What positivism means in literary scholarship is summed up in its most extreme form in the introductory chapter of the history of English literature by the French scholar Hippolyte Taine, published in 1863, where Taine stated his famous three-term formula ‘la race, le milieu et le moment’ as the causal explanation of texts. “His assumptions guided the greater part of European and American scholarship in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and have been and still are an important influence on the British academic world as well. In its pure form, positivists studied literature alomost exclusively in reltion to its factual causes or genesis: the author’s life, his recorded intentions in writing, his immediate social and cultural environment and his sources” (Jefferson & Robey, 1986).

5.2.5. The twentieth and twenty-first century. Structuralism.

Structuralism is a way of thinking about the world which is predominantly concerned with the perceptions and description of structures. At its simplest, structuralism claims that the nature of every element in any given situation has no significance by itself, and in fact is determined by all the other ele ments involved in that situation. The full significance of any entity cannot be perceived unless and until it is integrated into the structure of which it forms a part. The reason why linguistics had such importance for literary theory is not just a change of direction in the development of the discipline. It is also to be found in the contributions to a theory of language of the Swiss philologist and professor of linguistics Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913).

The implications of this theory are so powerful that the impact of modern linguistics on literary studies has not been limited to the problems of literary language alone, but has produced new theories of the nature and organization of literature as a whole and indeed of all social and cultural life. This theory states that all forms of social and cultural life are seen to be governed by systems of signs which are either linguistic or analogous to those of language.

In his posthumously work Cours de linguistique générale (1911), Saussure proposed that languages are systems, constituted by signs that are arbitrary and differential. A second postulate proposed an essential disjunction between the world of reality and the world of language : the signifier and the signified. He made a crucial distinction be tween ‘langue’ (the language system) and ‘parole’ (the individual act of communication which the system produces and conditions under literary productions. Russian Formalism.

The earliest beginnings of Russian Formalism emerged from the meetings, discussions and publications of two small groups of students (the Opojaz group from Petersburg and the Moscow Linguistic Circle) in 1914 (with the appearance of Viktor Shklovsky’s essay on Futurist poetry, ‘The resurrection of the word’). A firm critique to this formalist movement emerged under a name:

Trotsky and his work ‘Literature and Revolution’ (1923). Then in the 1930s this linguistic movement was finally suppressed by the Soviets and their intellectual endeavour came to an end.

However, the ideas of Russian Formalism survived in the work of some members of the Prague Linguistic Circle: Roman Jakobson, Jan Mukrarovsky, and René Wellek (they all left Moscow for Czechoslovakia). The Prague Linguistic Circle viewed literature as a special class of la nguage, and rested on the assumption that there is a fundamental opposition between literary (or poetical) language and ordinary language.

Formalism views the primary function of ordinary language as communicating a message or information by references to the world existing outside of language. In contrast, it views literary language as self-focused: its function is not to make extrinsic references, but to draw attention to its own formal features among the linguistic signs. Literature is then subjected to critical analysis by the sciences of linguistics but also by a type of linguistics different from that adapted to ordinary discourse because its lawa produce the distinctive features of literariness. An important contribution was made by Victor Schklovsky (of the Leningrad group) who explained how language tends to become ‘smooth, unconscious or transparent’ whereas the work of literature is to defamiliarize language by a process of ‘making strange’ the ordinary language.

5.2.5. 3. New Criticism

The twentieth century also saw the appearance of a new literary movement that started in the late

1920s and 1930s and originated with the work of I.A. Richards (Principles of Literary Criticism,

1924) which had an enormous impact on British criticism. His work, together with that of Eliot, in

reaction to traditional criticism that new critics saw as largely concerned with matters extraneous to the text (with the biography or psychology of the author, the work’s relationship to literary history). In his work (1924), Richards proposed two things that critics did not habitually possess: a theory of communication and a theory of valuation.

Without these criticism lacks rigour and is unable to justify itself adequately in a world in which the personal and social utility of the arts is increasingly called into question. So in The Meaning of Meaning, he pointed out another distinction between two functions of language: the referential and the emotive one. The referential or symbolic function addresses the use of words to talk about the objective world (scientific prose)whereas the emotive function uses words to evoke subjective feelings or attitudes (poetry). Therefore, with this distinction he stressed the difference between poetry and ordinary discourse.

New Criticism proposed that a work of literary art should be regarded as autonomous, and should not be judged by reference to considerations beyond itself. For instance, a poem consists less of a series of referential and verifiable statements about the ‘real’ world beyond it, than of the presentation and sophisticated organization of a set of complex experiences in a verbal form (Jefferson & Robey, 1986). Post-Structuralism.

Post-Structuralism is a reaction to structuralism and works against seeing language as a stable, closed system. It is a shift from seeing the poem or novel as a close entity, equipped with definite meanings which it is the critic’s task to decipher, to seeing literature as irreducibly plural, an endless play or signifiers which can never be finally summed up to its essence and meaning. Jacques Derrida’s paper on ‘ Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ (1966) proved particularly influential in the creation of post-structuralism since he argued against a structure that could organize the differential play of language. His critique of structuralism heralded the advent of deconstruction which also critiques the notion of ‘origin’ since nothing in literature has any real meaning or truth. Marxist Literary Theories.

Marxist approaches to literature occupy a wide field. Marxism is a theory of economics, history, society and revolution before it had much to do with literary theory. Marxism is a living body of thought and a set of real political practices. Despite their diversity, all Marxist theories of literature have a simple premise in common: that literature can only be properly understood within a larger framework of social reality. It treats literature in isolation, divorcing it from society and history.

It is considered to be a sociological approach to literature that viewed works of literature or art as the products of historical forces that can be analyzed by looking at the materrial conditions in which they were formed. In Marxis ideology, what we ofte n classify as a world view (such as the Victorian Age) is actually the articulations of the dominant class. Marxism generally focuses on the clash between the dominant and repressed classes in any given age and also may encourage art to imitate what is often termed an ‘objective’ reality. Feminist Literary Criticism.

The words ‘feminist’ or ‘feminism’ are political labels indicating support for the aims of the new women’s movement which emerged in the late 1960s. ‘Feminist Criticism’ then is “a specific kind of political discourse: a critical and theoretical practice committed to the struggle agains patriarchy and sexism, not simply a concern for gender in literature, at least not if the latter is presented as no more than another interesting critical approach on a line with a concern for sea -imagery or metaphors of war in medieval poetry” (Jefferson & Robey, 1986).

Since the 1960s the writings of many women have been rediscovered since early projects in feminist theory included resurrecting wome n’s literature which was never considered or had been erased over time. These writings were then recollected in large anthologies such as The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. However, women’s literature did no ensure its prominence: in order to assess women’s writings the amount of preconceptions inherent in a literary canon dominated by male beliefs and male writers needed to be re-evaluated.

The following works ar just a handful of the many critiques that questioned cultural, sexual, intellectual and/or psychological stereotypes about women: Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique (1963), Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics (1970), Teresa de Lauretis’s Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema (1984), Annette Kolodny’s The Lay of the Land (1975), Judith Fetterly’s The Resisting Reader (1978) or Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own (1977). Other types of literary criticism.

Other types of literary criticism are not considered so relevant as the mentioned above although they are not less important. So, we shall mention some of them. For instance,

Myth Criticism, which views the genres and individual plot patterns of literature, including highly sophisticated and realistic works, as recurrences of certain archetypes and essential mythic formulae.

Psychoanalytic Criticism. This refers to the application of modern psychological principles (particularly those of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan) to the study of literature. Pshychoanalytic criticism may focus on the writer’s psyche, the study of the creative process, the study of psychological types and principles within works of literature, and the effects of literature upon its readers.

Existentialism. This is a philosophy promoted especially by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus that views each person as an isolated being who is cast into an alien universe, and conceives the world as possessing no inherent human truth, value, or meaning. Other major figures include Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir and Karl Jaspers.

Avant-Garde. It means the ‘most forwardly placed troops’. This movement sought to eliminate the distinction between art and life often by introducing elements of mass culture so as to shock the sensibilities of its audience.

Surrealism was initiated by André Breton as a movement with ‘adherence to the imagination, dreams, the fantastic, and the irrational’. It emphasizes absurdity and reflects a spirit of nihilism by celebrating the function of chance.

Finally, genre criticism is the study of different forms or types of literature. Genre studies often focus on the characteristics, structures, and conventions attributed to different forms of literature (novel, short story, poem, drama, film). More recent inquiry in genre criticism centres on the bias often inherent in genre criticism such as its latent (or overt) racism and sexism.


Literary language is one of the most salient aspect of educational activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language , either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary text types is not an end in itself, but a means of achieving the goals of the larger activities that constitute the object of education. Together with talking, writing and reading, participants should master these elements to achieve and develop the goals of the activity in which they are engaged: to write a letter, a short story, a historical account of their city, and so on.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of various modes of literary text types and genres, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching- learning relationship. This means that literary genres are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of the genre analysis techniques. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully all kind of genres, especially the non-fiction ones such as objective reports, language for specific purposes (humanistic studies, scientific, technological, etc).

But how do literary texts tie in with the new curriculum? As we stated above, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of almost any kind of literary writing for future studies. Following van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing (and oral) tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the general public’ when dealing with their future regarding personal and professional life.

Moreover, nowadays new technologies may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significanc e over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies.

Literary language and a wide range of genres prove frequent and relevant within the students environment (i.e. Writing a complaint letter, a report, chatting on the Internet, administrative work in offices, etc).

The success partly lies in the way the language becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals within specific contexts and registers (i.e. write a letter to a friend, office, business enterprise asking for job, etc). Thus, foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional and educational fields.

Literary language and the production of literary genres are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002) and in particular, for students of E.S.O. and Bachillerato about how to produce a literary text (oral or written) : writing a short story, a ghost story, a biography of their favourite singer, etc). Actually, students are asked to use literary textual features (lexical choice between formal and informal syntactic structures) when writing fiction and non- fictional texts.

It is stated that students will make use of this competence in a natural and systematic way in order to achieve the effectiveness of communication through the different communication skills, thus, productive (oral and written communication), receptive (oral and written comprehension within verbal and non-verbal codes), and interactional role of a foreign language as a multilingual and multicultural identity.

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2002). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual, or ecological. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mos tly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.


In this study literary texts, genres and criticism have been approached in terms of main types, main textual features and structure. We may observe that dealing with literary style is not just a linguistic matter to be developed in the classroom setting; on the contrary, defending our personal point of view about a current issue enables us to carry out everyday performances which prove essential in our current society, for instance, from a personal, social, political, professional life, among others.

In present society, establishing interactional exchanges is emphasized by the increasing necessity of learning a foreign language. As we are now members of the European Community, we need to communicate with other countries at oral and written levels and we need to use potential methods of analysis in information contexts as a way to interpret texts, events, ideas, decisions and any human activity in that domain. Written patterns are given an important role when language learners face the monumental task of acquiring not only new vocabulary, syntactic patterns, and phonology, but also discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence, and interactional competence.

To sum up, we may say that literary language is where culture impinges on form and where second language speakers find their confidence threatened through the diversity of registers, genres and text types, in particular, literary texts that make up the first language speaker’s day to day interaction. Language represents the deepest manifestation of a culture, and people’s values systems, including those taken over from the group of which they are part, play a substantial role in the way they use not only their first language but also subsequently acquired ones.

The issues of readers’s expectations, classification and culture raised here overlap with each other and with many other broad literatures (i.e. sociology, linguistics, political science, feminism, racism, psychology). In recognizing the multifaceted characteristics and problems of genres, we need to emphasize the variations in genres because that approach will increase the refinement which we can identify genres. The continuity or discontinuity of patterns will help professionals do their work efficiently and effectively.


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