What Are the Main Divisions of Literature?

The main literary divisions are usually defined by the two central categories of prose and poetry. Both of these branches may be further broken down or stylized into subdivisions such as dramatic verse, prose drama or speech narratives.

Prose and poetry largely differ in regard to the styles of their respective linguistic rhythms. Poetic forms often maintain structural elements and devices that emphasize the cadence of a particular language when spoken aloud, with examples including the lyrics of a song, the rhyme scheme of a sonnet, or the meter of a limerick. Poetry written in free verse remains more amorphous in structure, as it does not insist upon a poem’s adherence to traditional rhythmic formats.

Prose, by contrast, can withhold of harmonic verse patterns in order to narrate stories through grammatical traditions of spoken language. Prose narratives identify more closely with the audience’s natural processes of thought and speech through direct perspectives in first-, second- or third-person points of view.

Prose poetry blends the two literary divisions in works that feature the illustrative poetic devices of verse while retaining the compositional format of linear prose, and may additionally emphasize creative wordplay through metaphors, puns and repetitive phrases. It is not generally regarded as a third category separate from the two main divisions.