In the context of new national educational standards, all students, particularly high school students, will be required to read an increasing amount of non-literary and non-fiction texts. As such, the difference between literary and non-literary texts is an important distinction. The texts included in and categorized by the new standards can be distinguished as literary fiction, literary non-fiction, or non-literary.
The new standards, called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), divide literary fiction texts into the categories of stories, drama, poetry. Literary non-fiction and non-literary texts are bundled in a category called “informational.” This category may include a range of types of non-fiction including speeches, letters, and autobiographies.
Literary non-fiction is also known as creative nonfiction. Literary non-fiction, a.k.a. creative non-fiction, tends to share some similar characteristics with literary fiction. For example, creative non-fiction may use techniques such as setting scenes, a distinctive author’s voice, or dialogue to advance a story, which are common fiction writing techniques. Creative non-fiction relies at least in part on facts and true events, rather than solely on the author’s imagination. According to the CCSS for the 9th-10th grades, “Hope, Despair and Memory” by Elie Wiesel and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou are examples of literary, or creative nonfiction.
In contrast, non-literary informational texts in the CCSS solely transmit information or facts for interpretation or analysis on a particular topic or content area. Examples include maps, charts, graphs, and government documents.