[LMB] genres and Miles

Natali Vilic natali.vilic at gmail.com
Sun Jan 30 22:18:12 GMT 2011

On Sunday, January 30, 2011 10:00 PM John Lennard wrote:
> Interesting points, assortedly, and the categorisation of genres by
> attention to place, plot, and purpose works pretty well.
> Professionally speaking, though, as a teacher of literature, the really
> critical thing is to understand genre in a way that does not make
> genres
> mutually exclusive. So many people seem to imagine them as pigeonholes,
> little boxes into which works can be satisfactorily popped--and this
> leads
> to the exclusion of anything variant, as well as ripe confusions all
> round.
> In truth, genres (and the literary use of the term is pretty recent--
> late
> C19) are dynamic and contingent, a shorthand names for sets of
> expectations
> about what will happen in narratives, and those expectations can be
> fulfilled or defeated or played with or ignored ; and of course
> differing
> sets of expectations can be combined, and are, very frequently indeed.
> Which doesn't of course stop the assorted folks who insist on this or
> that
> restriction. In formal theory, the most recent real influence was
> probably
> Darko Suvin, who wanted to exclude from SF the irrational--no
> telepathic
> dragons, no ghosts, no fairy-tale creatures &c.--and whose work is
> still
> cited by those engaging with the genre. To be fair he did have a very
> useful
> phrase about cognitive estrangement--recognising a book's world as -
> not- our
> world--but the anti-fantasy baggage that comes with it is a bore.
> Lois calls a genre a group of books in conversation with one another,
> which
> is a lovely idea, and congruent with her refusal to separate SF and F
> the
> way that some theorists, some readers, and some publishers do. See her
> intro. to *Love and Rockets* for her most recent comments on genre
> (there
> was a free sample up, but it seems to have vanished).

Hence the placement of the books in libraries can become very 
confusing for both librarians and users.

I personally find it very irritating, the way some
SF readers/critics are elitists in favour of SF against
Fantasy, the same way as "serious literature" readers/critics
are elitists in favour of "serious literature" as they
define it, against both SF and Fantasy, as well as Mystery, 
Romance, Westerns and such. Mr. Suvin defended SF against 
such elitism, that much I know (I have but superficial knowledge
about his work), but according to the above, he was also
a kind of elitist. IMHO, there is no justification for not
extending his argument (95% of published poetry is bad and 
yet no one refuses to analyze poetry) on other popular genres.


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