Genre

“Genre” is a keyword used broadly outside academia, a concept that seems so widespread and self-evident as to not require detailed analysis. We all know what we mean when we talk about sitcoms or musicals, Westerns or cartoons, right? But what most people probably imagine when they think about genre—the particular programs, films, books, or more generically “texts” referenced by a genre label—is not actually what makes up a genre. Instead, genres are produced by the very process of categorization itself, making the topic more interesting and sophisticated than it might seem.

What might it mean to think of genres as categories, rather than collections of texts? In the first instance, we should consider a genre as a product of cultural practices, rather than a stable, self-evident term. Genre categories do not simply emerge from the texts that they categorize, but rather are created, debated, refashioned, and dismissed in various …

This essay may be found on page 81 of the printed volume.

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