I love to read Literature, and am fascinated by the sociology of writers and writing methodology more broadly. Studying hermeneutics has given me a great appreciation for all texts, be they literary in nature or simply modest recipes. Indeed I tend to overthink textual analyses (if that is possible), and of late have been thinking about literary avant-gardism and criticism with respect to the integrity of established genres. Here are some of my thoughts for your consideration.
What exactly constitutes a genre? This seems to be taken for granted in most Literature courses in which it is a given that Romance is strictly Romance and Science Fiction is strictly Science Fiction, as it were. And of course, the literary expert can critique the works from the outside, drawing attention to themes, symbols, etc. and this all well and good. But what about the writer working within a given genre? How are his or her critiques different from that of an English professor, for example?
Let’s say Bob is a horror novelist who enters the genre and writes relatively straightforward horror novels. Bob, however, notices that there are a lot of worn out tropes and cliches within horror, and decides to critique them in an upcoming story. From what i understand, many (though not all) other established writers in the horror genre will tell him to change genres if he doesn’t like it. Horror has a set way of doing things which makes it horror. Meanwhile, literary theorists may praise his work as “cross-over,” perhaps for blending elements of horror and fantasy/science fiction/romance etc.
And herein rests the problem. How is a writer supposed to pen fresh insights with a critical eye on the worn-out ideas and modus operandi of his genre when it is likely his work will not be read as if it were written in said genre? In other words, in the case of Bob, what if his critique-filled horror novel is not read and regarded as horror precisely because if is critique-filled? Who determines the genre in which a writer works? The writer? Literary publications? Professors of comparative Literature? Who?
I think these are some important questions which get pushed to the margins of the literary world. They raise questions, I think, about the nature of genres as well as the politics of comparative Literature. What are your thoughts on the matter? Should we replace the word ‘genre’ with something more fixed? Fluid? Who decides the genre in which a writer works? The writer himself? Literary intelligentsia? Share your thoughts below.