CFP: Genres in Literature
Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry 6:2 (May 2020)
Discussing the epic and the novel, Mikhail Bakhtin refers to a “historical struggle of genres” that underwrites “the establishment and growth of a generic skeleton of literature.” Literature as a diverse discursive domain consists of various forms and genres that shape and functionalize it. There is a thin line between specific literary forms and genres. Is novel a form or genre? If novel is a form, we can think of particular genres of the novel such as gothic, whodunit, comedy, historical drama and so on. On the other hand, if novel is a genre, there are literary forms such as realism, naturalism, pastiche, parody, etc. Be it the Platonic notion of the ‘genera’ or the literary idea of genre which thrives on particular conventions, codes, or raising and playing with specific readerly expectations, genre is not an exclusively literary concept. Bakhtin, Todorov and others have talked about genres in speech and discourse in general, while the term has seen purchase in life sciences, taxonomy, politics, as well as social studies.
Is genre just a taxonomic category for commercial classification of literature? What about its deeper aesthetic of convention and experiment? Why did pure tragedies and pure comedies disappear after an era and we had the mixed genre of ‘tragi-comedy’ in theatre? How do literary genres historically come to be? Derrida famously comments that a literary text might participate in genres, but a text does not belong in one particular genre. While genre-fiction has always been an important phenomenon for the novel ‘form’, within this form, we continue to see an epochal competition of genres that shifts with socio-economic and political changes. Why do particular genres become more popular than others in particular historical junctures? When Amitav Ghosh recently declared that novel, addressing climate disasters, has to go beyond the apocalyptic and sci-fi genres, his intervention underlined a genre-switch, if not a critique of genre itself, i.e., not reducing climate crisis to one particular genre but widening it across multiple genres like the social and the political novel, for example.
What does capitalism, colonialism, modernity or post-modernity as historical conditions have to do with the use and inmixing of genres? How does genre operate in the realm of poetry in which it remains underexplored? Why does the term ‘genre fiction’ refer only to specific, popular, specialized kinds of literature? What does it tell us about the category of ‘literature’ itself? We will approach these manifold questions around the functioning of literary genre in this issue.
Topics may include but are not limited to:
Genre and Market
Popular Literature and Genre
Genre and Reader
Historicity of Genre
Genre and Form
Genre and Globalization
Genres in Poetry
Canon and Genre
Genre and Culture
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We will get back to you after the peer-review by March 1, 2020. The issue will be published in May 2020.
Dr Sourit Bhattacharya
Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies
University of Glasgow