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Definition Essay - Genre

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Definition Essay – Genre


"Genre," in the most generic definition, takes the meaning "kind; sort; style" (OED). Prior to the term's inception, the notion of genre in the study of media emerged in The Poetics, with Aristotle's discussion of the mode or manner of imitation in poetry. Of this Aristotle writes, "the medium being the same, and the objects [of imitation] the same, the poet may imitate by narration - in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged - or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us" (Aristotle, 53). Here lies the distinction between epic, lyric, and drama, a distinction based solely in convention, the usage of the medium, independent of specific content (see also Narrative/Lyric/Drama). Yet Aristotle's genre binary of Tragedy and Comedy rests on some observation of the objects of imitation themselves: "Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life" (Aristotle, 52). Later, in Section IV of The Poetics , Aristotle offers another method of generating this binary, based in historical observation (or some semblance of it). One final consideration, that of a work's purpose, arises in Aristotle's definition of Tragedy as "through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions," (Aristotle, 61). In this way The Poetics sketches out the basic framework of genre; yet this framework remains loose, since Aristotle establishes genre in terms of both convention and historical observation, and defines genre in terms of both convention and purpose.

In Anatomy of Criticism (1957) Northrop Frye wrote, "We discover that the critical theory of genre is stuck precisely where Aristotle left ...


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...ohns Hopkins University Press, 1979.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton University Press: Princeton. 1990.

Lacey, Nick. Narrative and Genre: Key Concepts in Media Studies. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Liddell & Scott. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Middle Liddell). London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

MacLuhan, Marhsall. Understanding Media.

Malmkjær, Kirsten. "Genre Analysis." The Linguistics Encyclopedia. Ed. Kirsten Malmkjær. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Monaco, James. How to Read a Film. Oxford University Press: New York. 1981.

Trowse, Nadeane. "The Exclusionary Potential of Genre: Margery Kempe's Transgressive Search for a Deniable Pulpit." The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre. Cresskill, NJ: Hampston Press Inc., 2002.

Warshow, Robert. The Immediate Experience. Harvard University Press: Cambridge. 2001.


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