Literary texts characteristics types and examples

Literary texts

The literary texts are written material with the intent to express ideas and emotions, represent situations or tell stories from a subjective viewpoint, with an open language to multiple interpretations. The texts included in genres such as poetry, narrative, theater, and essay are literary. In this article we will provide you the Characteristics of literary texts.

Writings originally belonging to religious tradition, mythology, philosophy, or history, and which continue to be read or revisited, due to their aesthetic values and their new connotations, can also be seen as such, such as the “Book of Job”, from Old Testament, the Mayan text Popol VuhThe Banquet, by Plato or The Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius.

The main purpose of the literary text is the aesthetic pleasure derived from reading, and therefore the authors, in their own and diverse styles, seek the innovation of the language and the impact on the reader, beyond the actual content.

The classic example of a literary text, which is also the founding text of Western literature, would be the first lines of Homer’s epic poem the Iliad (8th century BC):

“Sing, oh goddess, the wrath of Pélida Achilles, a fatal wrath that caused infinite evils to the Achaeans and precipitated many brave souls of heroes to Hades, whom it made a prey of dogs and pasture of birds – the will of Zeus was fulfilled – since they separated, disputing the Atrida, king of men, and the divine Achilles ”.

Features of literary texts


Generally, the literary text is written or narrated from a personal point of view that may be the author’s, from the point of view of one of the characters or of several that occur throughout the story.

2-They do not serve a practical function

Although there may be an educational or moralizing intention, literary texts are primarily intended to provide pleasure through language.

3-Aesthetic intention

The form is as important as the content in literary texts. Although there is transmission of information, it is more important how it is said than what is said, which is why a very elaborate language is generally present and different from that used in other fields and in everyday life.

4-They express the vision of the world of the authors and of their time

Through literary texts it is possible to reconstruct how human beings were and looked from very ancient times to the present day; That is why we speak of Homer’s Greece, Cervantes’s Spain or Shakespeare’s England, Rulfo’s Mexico, Petronius’s Rome, etc.


In the case of narrative and theater, a fictitious space is generated, although it may be based on real or historical events in which the author and the reader participate. The author lies and the reader participates in the lie knowingly.

For example, the emperor from Memoirs of Hadrian , by Marguerite Yourcenar, is not the historical character, but that does not make the novel less valuable.

For these fictional worlds to work, they must be plausible, that is, credible, even if the reader knows that they are not real. This implies, even in fantastic texts, the existence and respect of an internal logic followed by the author.

Types of literary texts (examples)

For study by linguistics and literary criticism, literary texts have been classified into four genres: lyrical, narrative, dramatic and didactic.

1-Lyrical texts

They are those texts that express emotions, feelings and various states of mind of an author, and whose main vehicle is the poem.

The poetic text has been around since ancient times and although love poetry has dominated, it currently encompasses different aspects of human events. Here are two examples:

Definition of love”, Francisco de Quevedo

“It is scorching ice, it is frozen fire, it
is a wound that hurts and cannot be felt, it
is a dream of good, a bad present, it
is a very tired short rest.”

“Black stone on a white stone”, César Vallejo

“I will die in Paris with a downpour,
a day of which I already have the memory.”

2-Narrative texts

It ranges from the epic and the fable to the contemporary novel, generally in prose, although its origins date back to epic poetry. The narrative texts relate mainly to fictitious stories and situations, even starting from historical or real events.

It comprises several subgenres, among which the novel and the short story currently stand out. A story can be just one line long, like a famous text by Augusto Monterroso; and there are novels of great length, like those of Marcel Proust or Robert Musil, in several volumes. Here are some examples:

“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.” Short story “The dinosaur”, Augusto Monterroso.

“Would he find La Maga? So many times it had been enough for me to look out, coming from the rue de Seine, to the arch that overlooks the Quai de Conti, and as soon as the light of ash and olive tree that floats on the river allowed me to distinguish the forms, and its slim silhouette was inscribed in Pont des Arts ”. Hopscotch , Julio Cortázar.

3-Theatrical or dramatic texts

They are the texts written to be represented in theater, and can be subdivided into comedy, drama, tragedy, melodrama and tragicomedy. Example of a theatrical text:

Fragment of Don Juan Tenorio , by José Zorrilla.


DON LUIS: Oh! And your list is complete.

DON JUAN: From a royal princess

to the daughter of a fisherman,

Oh, my love has traveled

the entire social scale.

Do you have something to cross out?

DON LUIS: Only one is missing in justice.

DON JUAN: Can you point it out to me?

DON LUIS: Yes, by the way: a novice

that is to profess ”.

4-Didactic or essay texts

Didactic or essay texts differ from others by departing from fiction as such, although they maintain a subjective perspective, as in the case of the essay, the chronicle, the biography, the diaries, or the memoirs.

In turn, a subgenre of the essay is the aphorism, of which we present the following example:

” To say much in few words means no first and then write an essay short sentences, but rather reflect first on the subject and what thought, then say the best so that the judicious reader warns that one has discarded. In reality it means to imply, with the least number of words, that one has thought a lot ”.

Aphorisms , Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

Differences between literary and non-literary texts

1-Use of language

The main differences between literary and non-literary texts are found around language: the former is connotative, that is, with more than one interpretation or meaning, while the latter use a denotative language, with the most precise meaning possible. .

Although not always, the literary text tends to use a poetic language, away from the one we use daily, while the non-literary text tries to be practical and direct.

2-Fictional world vs reality

On the other hand, the literary text often works with the imagination, with fictional worlds (especially in the case of narrative and dramaturgy), while non-literary texts remain, or try to remain, close to the real world.

Non-literary texts are based on real events and situations, while for literary texts it is enough to be credible, that is, that what is told can be believed, be consistent with themselves, even if it is a fantastic text.

3-Subjectivity vs objectivity

Another factor that serves to differentiate an essay from a non-literary monograph is the use of a subjective perspective to address the issues.

In other words, a literary text will always reflect the position of its author, while in the non-literary one a neutral position is sought: there are no opinions or comments.

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