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Genre (pronounced /(d)ʒɑn.ɹə/) (from French genre, meaning 'kind, sort') is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time.[ citation needed ] Genre is most popularly known as a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.
Genre began as an absolute classification system for ancient Greek literature, as set out in Aristotle's Poetics. For Aristotle, poetry (odes, epics, etc.), prose, and performance each had specific design features that supported appropriate content of each genre. Speech patterns for comedy would not be appropriate for tragedy, for example, and even actors were restricted to their genre under the assumption that a type of person could tell one type of story best.
In later periods[ when? ] genres proliferated and developed in response to changes in audiences and creators. Genre became a dynamic tool to help the public make sense out of unpredictable art. Because art is often a response to a social state, in that people write/paint/sing/dance about what they know about, the use of genre as a tool must be able to adapt to changing meanings. Proponents[ who? ] argue that the genius of an effective genre piece is in the variation, recombination, and evolution of the codes.
Genre suffers from the ills of any classification system. Musician, Ezra LaFleur, argues that discussion of genre should draw from Ludwig Wittgenstein's idea of family resemblance.Genres are helpful labels for communicating but do not necessarily have a single attribute that is the essence of the genre.
The term genre is much used in the history and criticism of visual art, but in art history has meanings that overlap rather confusingly. Genre painting is a term for paintings where the main subject features human figures to whom no specific identity attaches –in other words, figures are not portraits, characters from a story, or allegorical personifications. These are distinguished from staffage: incidental figures in what is primarily a landscape or architectural painting. Genre painting may also be used as a wider term covering genre painting proper, and other specialized types of paintings such as still-life, landscapes, marine paintings and animal paintings.
The concept of the "hierarchy of genres" was a powerful one in artistic theory, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries. It was strongest in France, where it was associated with the Académie française which held a central role in academic art. The genres in hierarchical order are:
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young adult, or children's. They also must not be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.
The most general genres in literature are (in loose chronological order) epic, tragedy,comedy, novel, and short story. They can all be in the genres prose or poetry, which shows best how loosely genres are defined. Additionally, a genre such as satire might appear in any of the above, not only as a subgenre but as a mixture of genres. Finally, they are defined by the general cultural movement of the historical period in which they were composed. In popular fiction, which is especially divided by genres, genre fiction is the more usual term.
In literature, genre has been known as an intangible taxonomy. This taxonomy implies a concept of containment or that an idea will be stable forever. The earliest recorded systems of genre in Western history can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle. Gérard Genette, a French literary theorist and author of The Architext, describes Plato as creating three Imitational genres: dramatic dialogue, pure narrative, and epic (a mixture of dialogue and narrative). Lyric poetry, the fourth and final type of Greek literature, was excluded by Plato as a non-mimetic mode. Aristotle later revised Plato's system by eliminating the pure narrative as a viable mode and distinguishing by two additional criteria: the object to be imitated, as objects could be either superior or inferior, and the medium of presentation such as words, gestures or verse. Essentially, the three categories of mode, object, and medium can be visualized along an XYZ axis.
Excluding the criteria of medium, Aristotle's system distinguished four types of classical genres: tragedy (superior-dramatic dialogue), epic (superior-mixed narrative), comedy (inferior-dramatic dialogue), and parody (inferior-mixed narrative). Genette continues by explaining the later integration of lyric poetry into the classical system during the romantic period, replacing the now removed pure narrative mode. Lyric poetry, once considered non-mimetic, was deemed to imitate feelings, becoming the third leg of a new tripartite system: lyrical, epical, and dramatic dialogue. This system, which came to "dominate all the literary theory of German romanticism (and therefore well beyond)…" (38), has seen numerous attempts at expansion or revision. However, more ambitious efforts to expand the tripartite system resulted in new taxonomic systems of increasing scope and complexity.
Genette reflects upon these various systems, comparing them to the original tripartite arrangement: "its structure is somewhat superior to…those that have come after, fundamentally flawed as they are by their inclusive and hierarchical taxonomy, which each time immediately brings the whole game to a standstill and produces an impasse" (74). Taxonomy allows for a structured classification system of genre, as opposed to a more contemporary rhetorical model of genre.
The basic genres of film can be regarded as drama, in the feature film and most cartoons, and documentary. Most dramatic feature films, especially from Hollywood fall fairly comfortably into one of a long list of film genres such as the Western, war film, horror film, romantic comedy film, musical, crime film, and many others. Many of these genres have a number of subgenres, for example by setting or subject, or a distinctive national style, for example in the Indian Bollywood musical.
A music genre is a conventional category that identifies pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. [ citation needed ] There are numerous genres in Western classical music and popular music, as well as musical theatre and the music of non-Western cultures. The term is now perhaps over-used to describe relatively small differences in musical style in modern rock music, that also may reflect sociological differences in their audiences.[ citation needed ] Timothy Laurie suggests that in the context of rock and pop music studies, the "appeal of genre criticism is that it makes narratives out of musical worlds that often seem to lack them".It is to be distinguished from musical form and musical style, although in practice these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Music can be divided into different genres in several ways. The artistic nature of music means that these classifications are often arbitrary and controversial, and some genres may overlap. There are several academic approaches to genres. In his book Form in Tonal Music, Douglass M. Green lists madrigal, motet, canzona, ricercar, and dance as examples of genres from the Renaissance period. According to Green, "Beethoven's Op. 61 and Mendelssohn's Op. 64 are identical in genre – both are violin concertos – but different in form. However, Mozart's Rondo for Piano, K. 511, and the Agnus Dei from his Mass, K. 317 are quite different in genre but happen to be similar in form." Some, like Peter van der Merwe, treat the terms genre and style as the same, saying that genre should be defined as pieces of music that share a certain style or "basic musical language".
Others, such as Allan F. Moore, state that genre and style are two separate terms, and that secondary characteristics such as subject matter can also differentiate between genres.A music genre or subgenre may be defined by the musical techniques, the styles, the context, and content and spirit of the themes. Geographical origin is sometimes used to identify a music genre, though a single geographical category will often include a wide variety of subgenres.
Several music scholars have criticised the priority accorded to genre-based communities and listening practices. For example, Laurie argues that "music genres do not belong to isolated, self-sufficient communities. People constantly move between environments where diverse forms of music are heard, advertised and accessorised with distinctive iconographies, narratives and celebrity identities that also touch on non-musical worlds."
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The concept of genre is often applied, sometimes rather loosely, to other media with an artistic element, such as video game genres. Genre, and numerous minutely divided subgenres, affect popular culture very significantly, not least as they are used to classify it for publicity purposes. The vastly increased output of popular culture in the age of electronic media encourages dividing cultural products by genre to simplify the search for products by consumers, a trend the Internet has only intensified.
In philosophy of language, genre figures prominently in the works of philosopher and literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin's basic observations were of "speech genres" (the idea of heteroglossia), modes of speaking or writing that people learn to mimic, weave together, and manipulate (such as "formal letter" and "grocery list", or "university lecture" and "personal anecdote"). In this sense, genres are socially specified: recognized and defined (often informally) by a particular culture or community. The work of Georg Lukács also touches on the nature of literary genres, appearing separately but around the same time (1920s–1930s) as Bakhtin. Norman Fairclough has a similar concept of genre that emphasizes the social context of the text: Genres are "different ways of (inter)acting discoursally" (Fairclough, 2003: 26).
A text's genre may be determined by its:
In the field of rhetoric, genre theorists usually understand genres as types of actions rather than types or forms of texts. 151) are properly understood as genres.On this perspective, texts are channels through which genres are enacted. Carolyn Miller's work has been especially important for this perspective. Drawing on Lloyd Bitzer's concept of rhetorical situation, Miller reasons that recurring rhetorical problems tend to elicit recurring responses; drawing on Alfred Schütz, she reasons that these recurring responses become "typified" – that is, socially constructed as recognizable types. Miller argues that these "typified rhetorical actions" (p.
Building off of Miller, Charles Bazerman and Clay Spinuzzi have argued that genres understood as actions derive their meaning from other genres – that is, other actions. Bazerman therefore proposes that we analyze genres in terms of "genre systems",while Spinuzzi prefers the closely related concept of "genre ecologies".
This tradition has had implications for the teaching of writing in American colleges and universities. Combining rhetorical genre theory with activity theory, David Russell has proposed that standard English composition courses are ill-suited to teach the genres that students will write in other contexts across the university and beyond.Elizabeth Wardle contends that standard composition courses do teach genres, but that these are inauthentic "mutt genres" that are often of little use outside of composition courses.
This concept of genre originated from the classification systems created by Plato. Plato divided literature into the three classic genres accepted in Ancient Greece: poetry, drama, and prose. Poetry is further subdivided into epic, lyric, and drama. The divisions are recognized as being set by Aristotle and Plato; however, they were not the only ones. Many genre theorists added to these accepted forms of poetry.
The earliest recorded systems of genre in Western history can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle. Gérard Genette explains his interpretation of the history of genre in "The Architext". He described Plato as the creator of three imitational, mimetic genres distinguished by mode of imitation rather than content. These three imitational genres include dramatic dialogue, the drama; pure narrative, the dithyramb; and a mixture of the two, the epic. Plato excluded lyric poetry as a non-mimetic, imitational mode. Genette further discussed how Aristotle revised Plato's system by first eliminating the pure narrative as a viable mode. He then uses two additional criteria to distinguish the system. The first of the criteria is the object to be imitated, whether superior or inferior. The second criterion is the medium of presentation: words, gestures, or verse. Essentially, the three categories of mode, object, and medium can be visualized along an XYZ axis. Excluding the criteria of medium, Aristotle's system distinguished four types of classical genres: tragedy, epic, comedy, and parody.
Genette explained the integration of lyric poetry into the classical system by replacing the removed pure narrative mode. Lyric poetry, once considered non-mimetic, was deemed to imitate feelings, becoming the third "Architext", a term coined by Gennette, of a new long-enduring tripartite system: lyrical; epical, the mixed narrative; and dramatic, the dialogue. This new system that came to "dominate all the literary theory of German romanticism" (Genette 38) has seen numerous attempts at expansion and revision. Such attempts include Friedrich Schlegel's triad of subjective form, the lyric; objective form, the dramatic; and subjective-objective form, the epic. However, more ambitious efforts to expand the tripartite system resulted in new taxonomic systems of increasing complexity. Gennette reflected upon these various systems, comparing them to the original tripartite arrangement: "its structure is somewhat superior to most of those that have come after, fundamentally flawed as they are by their inclusive and hierarchical taxonomy, which each time immediately brings the whole game to a standstill and produces an impasse".
Genre is embedded in culture but may clash with it at times. There are occasions in which a cultural group may not be inclined to keep within the set structures of a genre. Anthony Pare's studied Inuit social workers in "Genre and Identity: Individuals, Institutions and Ideology".In this study, Pare described the conflict between the genre of Inuit social workers' record keeping forms and the cultural values that prohibited them from fully being able to fulfill the expectations of this genre. Amy Devitt further expands on the concept of culture in her 2004 essay, "A Theory of Genre" by adding "culture defines what situations and genres are likely or possible" (Devitt 24).
Genre not only coexists with culture but also defines its very components. Genres abound in daily life and people often work within them unconsciously; people often take for granted their prominence and ever present residence in society. Devitt touches on Miller's idea of situation, but expands on it and adds that the relationship with genre and situation is reciprocal. Individuals may find themselves shaping the rhetorical situations, which in turn affect the rhetorical responses that arise out of the situation. Because the social workers worked closely with different families, they did not want to disclose many of the details that are standard in the genre of record keeping related to this field. Giving out such information would violate close cultural ties with the members of their community.
Although genres are not always precisely definable, genre considerations are one of the most important factors in determining what a person will see or read. The classification properties of genre can attract or repel potential users depending on the individual's understanding of a genre.
Genre creates an expectation in that expectation is met or not. Many genres have built-in audiences and corresponding publications that support them, such as magazines and websites. Inversely, audiences may call out for change in an antecedent genre and create an entirely new genre.
The term may be used in categorizing web pages, like "news page" and "fan page", with both very different layout, audience, and intention (Rosso, 2008). Some search engines like Vivísimo try to group found web pages into automated categories in an attempt to show various genres the search hits might fit.
A subgenre is a subordinate within a genre.Two stories being the same genre can still sometimes differ in subgenre. For example, if a fantasy story has darker and more frightening elements of fantasy, it would belong in the subgenre of dark fantasy; whereas another fantasy story that features magic swords and wizards would belong to the subgenre of sword and sorcery.
A Microgenre is a highly specialized, narrow classification of a cultural practice. The term has come into usage in the 21st century and most commonly refers to music.It is also associated with the hyper-specific categories used in recommendations for television shows and movies on digital streaming platforms such as Netflix, and is sometimes used more broadly by scholars analyzing niche forms in other periods and other media.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic, is one of the three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the capacities of writers or speakers needed to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. Aristotle defines rhetoric as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion" and since mastery of the art was necessary for victory in a case at law; or for passage of proposals in the assembly; or for fame as a speaker in civic ceremonies; he calls it "a combination of the science of logic and of the ethical branch of politics". Rhetoric typically provides heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. The five canons of rhetoric or phases of developing a persuasive speech were first codified in classical Rome: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.
Dialogue is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange. As a narrative, philosophical or didactic device, it is chiefly associated in the West with the Socratic dialogue as developed by Plato, but antecedents are also found in other traditions including Indian literature.
A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional or fictional. Narratives can be presented through a sequence of written or spoken words, still or moving images, or any combination of these. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, which is derived from the adjective gnarus. Along with argumentation, description, and exposition, narration, broadly defined, is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, it is the fiction-writing mode in which the narrator communicates directly to the reader.
Mimesis is a term used in literary criticism and philosophy that carries a wide range of meanings which include imitatio, imitation, nonsensuous similarity, receptivity, representation, mimicry, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self.
Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling that presents an interior view of a world in which:
Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory. In this text Aristotle offers an account of ποιητικῆς, which refers to poetry or more literally "the poetic art," deriving from the term for "poet; author; maker," ποιητής. Aristotle divides the art of poetry into verse drama, lyric poetry, and epic. The genres all share the function of mimesis, or imitation of life, but differ in three ways that Aristotle describes:
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.
The term heteroglossia describes the coexistence of distinct varieties within a single "language". The term translates the Russian разноречие [raznorechie: literally, "varied-speechedness"], which was introduced by the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin in his 1934 paper Слово в романе [Slovo v romane], published in English as "Discourse in the Novel." For Bakhtin, this diversity of "languages" within a single language is not, in essence, a purely linguistic phenomenon: rather, heteroglossia is a reflection in language of varying ways of evaluating, conceptualizing and experiencing the world. It is the convergence in language or speech of "specific points of view on the world, forms for conceptualizing the world in words, specific world views, each characterized by its own objects, meanings and values."
Genre studies is an academic subject which studies genre theory as a branch of general critical theory in several different fields, including art, literature, linguistics, and rhetoric.
Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays is a book by Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye that attempts to formulate an overall view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism derived exclusively from literature. Frye consciously omits all specific and practical criticism, instead offering classically inspired theories of modes, symbols, myths and genres, in what he termed "an interconnected group of suggestions." The literary approach proposed by Frye in Anatomy was highly influential in the decades before deconstructivist criticism and other expressions of postmodernism came to prominence in American academia circa 1980s.
The music of ancient Greece was almost universally present in ancient Greek society, from marriages, funerals, and religious ceremonies to theatre, folk music, and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry. It thus played an integral role in the lives of ancient Greeks. There are significant fragments of actual Greek musical notation as well as many literary references to ancient Greek music, such that some things can be known—or reasonably surmised—about what the music sounded like, the general role of music in society, the economics of music, the importance of a professional caste of musicians, etc. Even archaeological remains reveal an abundance of depictions on ceramics, for example, of music being performed.
Poetry as an art form predates written text. The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, employed as a way of remembering oral history, genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns, and other types of song such as chants. As such poetry is a verbal art. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are recorded prayers, or stories about religious subject matter, but they also include historical accounts, instructions for everyday activities, love songs, and fiction. Many scholars, particularly those researching the Homeric tradition and the oral epics of the Balkans, suggest that early writing shows clear traces of older oral traditions, including the use of repeated phrases as building blocks in larger poetic units. A rhythmic and repetitious form would make a long story easier to remember and retell, before writing was available as a reminder. Thus many ancient works, from the Vedas to the Odyssey, appear to have been composed in poetic form to aid memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient societies. Poetry appears among the earliest records of most literate cultures, with poetic fragments found on early monoliths, runestones and stelae.
Poetics is the theory of literary forms and literary discourse.
Genre criticism, a method within rhetorical criticism, analyzes texts in terms of their genre: the set of generic expectations, conventions, and constraints that guide their production and interpretation. In rhetoric, the theory of genre provides a means to classify and compare artifacts in terms of their formal, substantive and contextual features. By grouping artifacts with others which have similar formal features or rhetorical exigencies, rhetorical critics can shed light on how authors use or flout conventions for their own purposes. Genre criticism has thus become one of the main methodologies within rhetorical criticism.
Epic and Novel: Towards a Methodology for the Study of the Novel [Эпос и роман ] is an essay written by Mikhail Bakhtin in 1941 that compares the novel to the epic; it was one of the major literary theories of the twentieth century.
An Apology for Poetry is a work of literary criticism by Elizabethan poet Philip Sidney. It was written in approximately 1580 and first published in 1595, after his death.
The long poem is a literary genre including all poetry of considerable length. Though the definition of a long poem is vague and broad, the genre includes some of the most important poetry ever written.
In philosophy, lexis is a complete group of words in a language, vocabulary, the total set of all words in a language, and all words that have meaning or a function in grammar.
Literature broadly refers to any collection of written or oral work, but it more commonly and narrowly refers to writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry, in contrast to academic writing and newspapers. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to now include oral literature, much of which has been transcribed.
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