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Man-made

Jessica Watkins's picture

     When it comes to analyzing literature, genre is a given.  We read books, digest them, and place them into categories, where they lie helplessly until public or cultural opinion scoops them up and plops them down into yet another slot.  As human being we accept genre as something undying and ever-present, something that is the cause of much controversy in the literary world, but it is important to realize that genre is very much man-made.  We have placed this great, categorical burden upon ourselves.

     Genre is nothing if not a reflection of the human race and the people that comprise it.  It is through personal decisions (such as where to place a particular book in a bookstore, as described in Owen's piece) and those decisions swayed by public opinion (such as whether or not to change the genre of a certain piece in order to appeal to readers) that manipulate genre and mold it into the flavor of the week, month or century.  It begs the question of whether or not literary integrity can truly be preserved when classical works and their underlying meaning are tweaked to fulfill certain expectations put in place by individual readers and translators.

     In fact, the only constant observed in the world of genre is its ever-changing structure--"fluidity," as Dimock describes it.  Genres may influence each other; they may even take on human characteristics and "parent" one another or have their "shadows give definition to the one that happened to be in the foreground."  But there is one other constant that is vital to life in the categorical world, and that is human beings. We have invented technology--computers, the internet, blogging--that allows genre to swell and retreat as it may, changing at the whim of whoever may decide to click a button. 

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