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Genres as Guidelines

Molly's picture

When reading Wai Chee Dimock's article "Introduction: Genres as Fields of Knowledge," I found myself agreeing with the author's theorization that the concept of genre in literature is meant to be seen as a general guideline to categorize things rather than a way to, as Dimock said, "put things into a pigeonhole."  Branching off that same idea, Dimock also expressed the idea that genre should not limit a work of literature.  Just because it's categorized as epic or lyric doesn't mean that the work has to entirely fit a certain format, and there is room for change in all genres that inevitably comes with time and the gathering of new knowledge.

Many ideas expressed in Stephen Owen's "Genres in Motion" seemed to overlap with ideas of Dimock's in that Owen expressed his opinion that genre is meant to be seen as something general rather than suffocatingly specific.  Owen provided some background information on the classification of genres, naming the three core genres (epic, lyric, and dramatic).  Owen also talked about genre in culture and history, as Dimock did, comparing genre to a family tree in the way it travels and changes.

All in all, I felt that both authors made important points about the role of genre in literature and how it is best viewed as a guideline rather than a constraint.  While something may fit into a category, that doesn't mean that it has to be just like everything else in that category, which is important in the study of genre in literature.  Both authors expressed this idea well.


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