ACLA 2018: "The Return of Generic Criticism"
Recent scholarship in literary studies has witnessed a return to an otherwise perennially unfashionable topic: genre. Also the subject of the 2009 English Institute and subsequent volume The Work of Genre (2011), this proliferation of novel theoretical and historical approaches to genre has taken several forms. Whereas scholars like Wai Chee Dimock have worked to disentangle theories of genre from a rigidly synchronic historicism, other critics—for example, Virginia Jackson with lyric and Elaine Freedgood with the realist novel—have sought to foreground genre as fundamentally historical. The study of genre has also been reinvigorated by the digital humanities, where Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading (2013) and the newly formed, open-access, online journal Cultural Analytics have significantly shifted scales of analysis from individual authors and works to corpora and datasets. Meanwhile, new scholarship on postwar and contemporary literature has emphasized genre’s movement between print and screen—not just with respect to television and cinema, but also new streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Taking its cue from this return to generic criticism, our seminar invites scholars working across subfields, periods, and linguistic and national traditions to take stock of genre theory now and to share new work on the subject.
- How have the so-called “reading wars” within literary criticism contoured our understanding of genre?
- How might the current study of genre help us reflect on foundational texts in the field: for example, Mikhail Bakhtin’s Dialogic Imagination (1975), Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957), Jacques Derrida’s “Law of Genre” (1980), Fredric Jameson’s Political Unconscious (1981), or Alastair Fowler’s Kinds of Literature (1982)?
- How does the discipline of comparative literature transform or reframe theories of genre based on national traditions?
- How do genres move across time, place, language, and medium?
- How is genre related to historicism and/or historical periodization?
- What is the place of genre within the new formalism?
- How does genre diverge from and converge with various notions of typology, structure, morphology, and form?
- What is the relationship between genre and medium or medium-specificity?
- How might the study of genre be inflected by numerous other critical modes—for example, queer theory, ecocriticism, digital humanities, or new materialism?
- What is the future of genre theory?