In the article I juxtapose two models of thinking and writing about literary genres: classical and romantic. The first one originates from antiquity, Italian renaissance and French classicism. Genre is considered here as a prescriptive textual structure. The other emerges from works of German philosophers and writers at the turn of 18th and 19th century and reflects human attitude towards reality, and becomes a specific cognitive category. I try to prove that Stefania Skwarczyńska’s theory of literary genres has its roots mainly in the second tradition.