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Reflections and Ideas

sterrab's picture

Reflecting on our experience thus far in exploring literary genres, I have come to value the open space that is created for our learning. The seminar “genre” of the classroom allows for multi-way discussions with our professor Anne Dalke, peers, and visitors. The peer-to-peer activities and group blackboard brainstorming channel a collective group effort in breaking down the understanding of the literary genre and provide an open platform for shared ideas. In some sense, the classroom has grown to be a “gift economy” of mutual learning.  Also, the digital platform provided by the Serendip course website is a great way to extend our class discussion outside the three hours of weekly classroom time.  The weekly online reflection has been a useful exercise to participate in  the digital writing movement and to reflect on the past week’s class discussion and readings.

As much as the open learning platform has allowed for constructive discussion on the literary genre and the genre of the classroom (and life, etc.) , it is unclear whether the course should offer a clear definition of what is meant by “genre” or if it remains something that should be progressively reevaluated as we explore different literary types of writing. In its most elemental definition, “genre” translates to any type or category which makes it an easily-transferrable term across topics (literature, classroom, the mind, life, …). However, I am not sure if the goal of the course is to provide a universal understanding of what is meant by the literary genre and how genres comes to be if it will eventually result in an evolving theory of genre as we continue exploring different writing types.

Digital writing and the graphic narrative have been two interesting genres to initially explore and I found the latter to be especially of interest to me. In searching the different genres to be further explored in class, I came across “variable fiction”. Described as “modelized, crossmedia, interactive, and massively cooperative fiction”, it a literary genre that seems to branch out of the digital humanities but is distinguished by evolving across media, digital or not. It focuses on actualizing an informational space according to the user, medium, and situation. The French “3FOLD SPACE” is the first of its kind and has been an ongoing cooperative writing campaign that already includes 1500 texts (1). Looking into this genre might be a repetition to our initial works in digital writing, but I think it would be interesting to refer back to it as a closure/reflection to the course.

In examining the physical frame presented through graphic novels, Anne Dalke brought the genre of the “frame tale” into our class discussion that I believe deserves a little more attention. A frame tale, a literary genre where a story is narrated within a story (within another story), offers an interesting perspective on how storytelling and writing evolves through a tree-structure of storytellers and a translation of one setting to the next. Introduced to excerpts of the Arabian Nights, Boccaccio’s The Decameron, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales at a merely content level, I am interested in further exploring the form of the frame story and how the writing transforms from one narrator and setting (or frame) to another within a story. The genre of the frame tale will provide potentially interesting class discussions as it will allow us to examine how the frame of a story structures the content and style and if it may be parallel to the graphic narrative frame. The frame of a story also transports the reader to a different time and space (and sometimes even across cultures) but remains relative to the storyteller. While the reader converts the graphic frames into a unique dimension of time and space, the series of narrators in a frame tale limit the reader’s capacity to do so. It would therefore be exciting to see how that comes into play.

On the theme of storytelling, the memoir will also be an interesting genre to be explored in class where the writer in this case recounts his or her life story. Reading Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis in class, a memoir in the form of a graphic novel that also serves as an informative text to the sociopolitical aspects in Iran during the Islamic revolution, spurred my interest to explore the memoir genre. I enjoy learning about the remarkable life experiences memoirists have to share and I think it would be interesting to examine the pressure (or freedom) a writer has in telling their story.  It will be beneficial to learn more about this genre in class together as it offers a focus on the transformation of writing through the voice of the writer/storyteller. It will provide a new angle to consider in the evolution of genre and will enable us to analyze the unique structure and content in life storytelling.