Call for Papers for ELN 48.1 "Genre and Affect" (10/1/09)

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ELN 48.1
Spring/Summer 2010
"Genre and Affect"

This special issue of English Language Notes will explore the ways in which particular genres are associated with particular affective states. It is especially concerned with popular genres that specialize in the representation and solicitation of excessive affect, including melodrama, sentimentalism, the Gothic, horror, and suspense. Historically, critics have disparaged such popular genres for their vulgarity and aesthetic crudeness, and warned against their perceived tendency to dangerously overstimulate and otherwise corrupt their consumers. This special issue will be concerned with the critical reception of popular genres in different periods and amongst different social and national groups. But it will also work to take popular genres seriously in their attempts to arouse strong affective response, and ask, by what strategies (narrative, rhetorical, visual, and so forth) do they accomplish that? And why is the evocation of strong, even violent emotion desirable for the consumer if not the critic of popular genres?

Essays are invited on a genre in general (e.g., the thriller) as well as historically specific
instantiations of the genre (e.g., the late-Victorian sensation novel). Similarly, essays may
address individual texts, or sets of texts, that are exemplary instances of their genre, or that problematize genre categories through parody, homage, or genre hybridization. Other topics might include:

— the solicitation of excessive affect from, and across, the body of the consumer, as when horror film spectators are paralyzed with terror, or readers of sentimental novels are convulsed by sobs
— the ways in which popular genres solicit identification with suffering characters or with emotionally charged scenarios; the ways in which such identification breaks down, rather than solidifies or clarifies, subjective boundaries
— the hypostatization of affect by means of generic conventions (e.g., the melodramatic tableau vivant)
— popular genres' formal experimentation (e.g., the proto-modernist narrative strategies of the Romantic-era Gothic) despite, or even by means of, rigid generic conventions
— the ways in which a genre's manifestation in different media (e.g., stage melodrama vs. the melodramatic novel) allows for different strategies or possibilities; the means (musical accompaniment, textual illustrations) by which particular media can modulate or intensify affect
— the greater critical respectability of certain genres (comedy, lyric poetry) that also encourage affective responsiveness; limitations set on these genres (e.g., Wordsworth's dictum that lyric poetry should describe "emotion recollected in tranquility")
— structures and landscapes designed to be, or perceived as being, emotionally moving (the Holocaust and Vietnam Memorials; the sublime landscape)
— popular genres (e.g., the "chick flick," the "weepie") that target and market themselves for a specific audience
— the irruption of affectivity into genres said to be characterized by objectivity of tone and perspective (e.g., the psychological case study, the philosophical treatise, literary criticism)
— genres ("sob-sister" journalism, photojournalism, the documentary, the sentimental novel, naturalism, the "kitchen sink" drama) which sensationalize or melodramatize social injustice in an attempt to effect political change

Submissions should be no longer than twenty manuscript pages, and we invite shorter notes (individually and in clusters), as well as illustrations and topical book reviews. Please send double-spaced, 12-point font contributions adhering to the Chicago-Style endnote citation format in hard copy and on CD-ROM to the address below:

Special Issue Editor, "Genre and Affect"
English Language Notes
University of Colorado at Boulder
226 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0226

Specific inquiries regarding ELN 48.1 may be addressed to the issue editor, Kelly Hurley at The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2009.