1. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Genre - The new 4-letter word in Academia

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MsMyth71, Mar 9, 2010.

    Maybe I just need to vent.

    I'm really getting irritated with academia taking this high-brow, holier-than-though attitude about literary fiction VS genre fiction.

    In class tonight the instructor gave the class (of graduate students) an hour long lecture that included the following gems:

    1. Literary fiction has lyrical language. Genre does not.
    2. Literary fiction pays attention to character. Genre does not.
    3. Literary fiction does not have to explain the fantastic. Genre does.
    4. Literary fiction is capable of invoking human emotion. Genre is incapable.
    5. Literary fiction is "good writing." Genre is not.
    6. Literary fiction does not solely rely on plot/narrative. Genre does.


    It went on and on. For. An. Hour.

    This is pretty much how the entire English department feels (save for a few upstart adjuncts). At the graduate level, we (apparently) aren't smart enough to know when writing is GOOD, regardless of its genre, sub-genre, label, etc. This instructor, admittedly, hasn't read a lot of genre, but that's what he believes. Period. No holds barred.

    I get that writers must learn the basic elements of craft, that a young painter has to study Picasso and DaVinci in order to create their own works of art. I get it.

    I get a LOT of genre has conventions. But . . . so does literary fiction. All fiction has some form of convention.

    What I think it all boils down to is the fact that many folks in academia think that they cannot workshop a genre story. They "don't know these conventions." Well, how about this: do the characters work? Is my dialogue believable? Is the narrative sound? Is there good conflict?

    Why is this so hard? I'm really baffled and highly frustrated with this all.

    Would love some thoughts and feedback on this one. :)
     
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  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I'm kind of with the academics on this one, though nowhere near as vehemently as your lecturer seems to be. I should preface this by saying I haven't read that much genre fiction, but I work in a bookstore and as such have sampled a pretty big number (reading a couple of pages, chapter samplers, things like that (to get product knowledge, not because I'm genuinely interested)). And I've read enough to know that while there are a few exceptions, as there are to any rule, his observations are more or less on the mark. And, while it seems like a reason to take arms against academics, it really isn't surprising, or bad for genre fiction.

    Literary fiction, as those who read it will know, cannot be "lumped together" in the same way that genre fiction can--it's easy to distinguish between a fantasy and non-fantasy, a romance and a non-romance. Literary fiction refers to the intent and the approach behind the work rather than any particular quality of the completed work. This approach is generally marked by a profound interest in style, aesthetics, deeper themes and concerns and the desire to explore some aspect of the human condition as well as a formal interest in how stories are told, how writing works and why.

    So, your professor highlights some of the main differences. What he (I think ineptly) calls "lyrical language" refers to the interest in style, in wordplay, in the mechanics of language. This isn't to say that genre fiction never shares this interest, but rather that this is a much lower priority for genre authors. Literary fiction invests very deeply in realistic psychological portrayals of its characters, which I believe is what he was thinking in his second point. Genre fiction obviously has consistent characters too, but the focus isn't necessarily as concerned with the exploration of what that character reveals about human nature. Philip K Dick is a good example of a genre author to whom that description definitely doesn't apply--he uses scifi as a means to an end specifically to explore the human condition (for instance in Do Androids Dream...? there is the constant search for what it is to be human). His next comment is less a defining factor and more a convention. Fantasy and scifi are concerned with creating fantastic things and convincing the reader they are real, while with fantastic Literary fiction, there is no desire on the part of the author to explain fantastic concepts and devices in the same way. Magic realism is a sub-genre that contains both literary fiction and genre fiction and subverts this notion. As for evoking emotion, that is entirely subjective, but I think what he probably meant was that psychological and emotional manipulation of the reader is a considered and deliberate part of literary fiction, while with genre fiction, that emotional contact is incidental, it's simply a result of the story. I won't even acknowledge his next statement, and as a professor he should know better, but that doesn't contradict what I've already said with regards to language and style. And I'm actually entirely in agreement with his final point. In literary fiction, the story is often little more than a means to an end, whereas in genre fiction, the story, the idea for the world or people or conflict, is the whole point of writing in the first place.

    In my opinion, the best (read: closest to literary fiction :p) genre fiction is fiction where the conventions of the genre are used as a means to an end. This is true of Dick, of Wells, of Herbert, of Dianna Wynn Jones...the fantastic elements are not important in and of themselves, only in what they reveal about humanity. You could tell any of their stories substituting real, human people/places/ideas for the fantastic and still get the same message.
     
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  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okaaay...
    1. Literary fiction has lyrical language. Genre does not. check
    2. Literary fiction pays attention to character. Genre does not. yes, usually in literary fiction character is more 'in depth'
    3. Literary fiction does not have to explain the fantastic. Genre does. what do you mean by 'fantastic'?
    4. Literary fiction is capable of invoking human emotion. Genre is incapable. check, or not much, at any rate
    5. Literary fiction is "good writing." Genre is not. yes, sadly genre is not always written to a very high standard, but then 'literary fiction' isn't always, either.
    6. Literary fiction does not solely rely on plot/narrative. Genre does. well, classic literary fiction relies on absurd plot devices sometimes, e.g. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but yes, not solely on plot. Doesn't genre generally tend to revolve around plot?

    Imo, what your lecturer says is true of a lot of genre fiction, but I guess there are some exceptions. Why so defensive about this? They are two different things, it's like comparing creme brulee and cupcakes.

    And what Arron said...
     
  4. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    To say that 'literary' (and I'm using the inverted commas for a reason) fiction is almost automatically better than genre fiction is really not on. I'm a big SF reader and an SF writer, and I've read fairly widely in both literary and genre fiction, and I'll say straight away that a book is nothing more and nothing less than what the reader wants to get out of it. A 'literary' book is not necessarily written any better than genre fiction, and that's a myth that needs to get lost as soon as humanly possible.

    I've also noticed that a lot of literary SF is automatically dismissed by academia simply on the premise that it's SF. I recently read Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks and as a study on human despair it's unparalleled by anything I've ever read. It also features at the story's core an examination on American foreign policy in the build-up to the war in Iraq. It's literary, it's also genre, and it's brilliant. The writing is exquisite and the characters perfectly drawn. If we compare it to that checklist for where literary fiction is so far ahead of genre fiction...

    1. Literary fiction has lyrical language. Genre does not.

    The language used by Banks is nothing short of sublime. It's simply exceptional use of the English language as a means to an end, and it genuinely is lyrical at times.

    2. Literary fiction pays attention to character. Genre does not.

    I'd say don't talk bollocks anyway on this one, but assuming the idiom is generally correct, Banks' characters are a finely honed cast again created as a means to an end. The study on despair in particular springs to mind.

    3. Literary fiction does not have to explain the fantastic. Genre does.

    Might have something to do with the fact a lot of genre fiction is fantasy and SF, which is fair enough. And yes, Banks has to explain things, but then it's set in a whole different world, so what do you expect?

    4. Literary fiction is capable of invoking human emotion. Genre is incapable.

    And that really is bollocks. So if a book invokes human emotion it can't be genre fiction? I won't even go into that preposterous statement here.

    5. Literary fiction is "good writing." Genre is not.

    Look To Windward is one of the most exquisite examples of modern English usage I've come across. And that argument doesn't hold water for me; good writing is good writing, whether it's literary or not.

    6. Literary fiction does not solely rely on plot/narrative. Genre does.

    See above.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Academia is really only reporting, not defining. Publishers have created these definitions in order to evaluate the market potential of pieces of writing. Genre and literature pieces each have a target audience, and each has a set of criteria for acceptance based on the preferences of the target markets. These categories and criteria have been developed from decades of sales figures for many thousands of titles, and are continually being refined to track changes in the preferences of the reading public.

    It's perhaps unfortunate labelling, because it seems to imply that literary witing is inherently superior, when in fact it is a more limited market. But all the categories are valued by the publishing industry, although individual publishers will favor some over others.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The only problem I have is with the fourth point about invoking emotions. I've read enough sci-fi and fantasy to know that genre fiction is definitely capable of invoking emotion. I'm not sure how your professor got that one.

    And I pretty much agree with the other five points.
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me as though your professor has a bit of a problem. He sounds like a literature snob. While, for the most part, what he says is accurate and, as Cogito pointed out, is more a case of reporting and not defining, it seems as though he has put his own spin on the issue.
    Yes, literary fiction has beautiful, lyrical language. The writing itself tends to be part of the appeal of the work. It is, in fact, a hallmark of literary fiction. But to say literary fiction pays attention to character and genre does not is ludicrous, over-simplification, and just not true. Yes. Perhaps the character is a stronger focal point in literary fiction over genre but, the character and characterization, the ability of the reader to become emotionally involved in the characters, the who and what of the characters can be a vital part of the genre novel as much as any literary novel.
    Now, as someone already pointed out, in much genre fiction, fantasy and scifi particularly, much of the landscape (not strictly geographic) of the story is a creation of the author's own mind. So, yes, some things in genre may have to be explained. But, as much as the fantastic may, at times, need to be explained in genre, this is not necessarily a given. Nor is it a given that literary fiction is exempt from similar explanatory exposition. And to assume literary is capable of invoking human emotion but genre is not is pure, ignorant, bigoted snobbery. 'nuff said. Likewise, "Literary fiction is 'good writing.' Genre is not." About a hundred epithets rolled through my mind on that one! First of all, "good" is a terribly subjective term. It's kind of like identifying the ambient air temperature. It's 45 degrees. Is that hot or cold? That depends, in large part, on things such as whether you are in Quebec in February, Texas in August, Dubai in July, or Nome in May. One's sense of such things is very personal and immediate. Again, there is a certain degree of snobbism surrounding that concept of "good" and "bad" writing.
    Lastly, "Literary fiction does not solely rely on plot/narrative. Genre does." This one's at least half right. Literary fictin does not rely solely on plot/narrative. But, to say plot and narrative are the sole substance of genre fiction is like saying flour is the sole substance of bread. I am presently reading Pat Conroy's latest release, "South of Broad". It is an interesting, though at times, bothersome read. (It tends to jump, arbitrarily, from one point in time to another seemingly with no purpose for the randomness.) But it is, most definitely, Conroy's bread and butter - a literary novel. One is constantly aware of the quality of word crafting and the beautiful language used. However, the narrative of the interrelated stories isas vital to the progress of the story as anything.
    Likewise, I have read some superlative genre fiction that flirts with that bastion of literary fiction, beautiful, artistic prose while leading the reader through a high energy, intricately woven storyline.

    Had a brilliant agent once tell me people are always trying to codify the difference between literary and genre fiction and they generally fail on one or more points, mostly because there are so many ways in which the two can overlap. Your professor's attempt proves that argument. Close but no cigar. The best definition I have ever heard of the difference between literary and genre is simply this.

    In literary fiction, you notice the writing as much as the story.

    Of course, even that is not the whole story. And, btw, it seems to me that, so many here admitting 'there are exceptions', they concede there are errors in your professor's assessment of the differences between the two forms.

    (Now, if your professor could have just stopped at his point number 1, you'd be okay. Wish I'd been in that classroom. I do so love a good debate!)
     
  8. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Thank you, Dante. My thought is that those who believe these points (and I'm not trying to snark at anyone here) are people who simply haven't been exposed to good genre enough.

    It's out there. It's all over the place. I can find at least a dozen novels/stories (genre) that do all the things that literary fiction "supposedly" does and that genre "supposedly" does not.

    It's not about getting defensive, it's about being told in a classroom setting a list of things that I fully and wholly disagree with.

    I think that Cogito is also onto something here. We're a society obsessed with labels. "Genre" must suddenly mean, "sub par."

    Here's the thing. Most of academia I know in the program (who are against genre) are nearing retirement. I think that over time, some folks tend to calcify in their thinking and are incapable of believing that sci-fi (as an example) has more to offer than rocket ships and amazon women on the moon. The younger faculty (which are fewer in number) have made it clear: write what you want, but do it well.

    I get that novice genre writers can rely too much on the conventions. But is this not also true for those who are new at literary fiction?

    I can't tell you the number of times I've read this in a short story in an intro to creative writing class:

    The alarm clock went off at 6am. Bob woke up, stretched, blinked his eyes. I had 7 stories last semester (yup, 7) that began with this sentence or something similar. That's a convention. It's stock. It's cliche.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that genre gets a bad rap and for reasons that I think are highly obtuse. As Cogito wrote (ahh, "to think!") it has something to do with an elitist mentality that some folks have. Maybe they just don't read genre. Maybe they compare all genre to Star Wars or Star Trek. I don't know.

    I find it highly frustrating. The funny thing is this: we've read 4 genre stories over the course of the semester, but because the instructor chose them, they are considered "Magical Realism," and for whatever reason . . . that's ok.

    I think I need to give up trying to understand. :)

    Thanks for the responses so far! Again, I don't mean insult in any comments! I just think that people who actually read a LOT of genre, well, we know there's a LOT of great stuff out there.

    We also know there's a lot of bad stuff.

    And we know that there's a lot of bad literary fiction (cough: I'm looking at you, Nicholas Sparks).
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    I think Arron and Cog and others have done a far better job than I could of describing the purpose and intent of using words like "genre" and "literary," and why "academia" uses (and, yes, sometimes misuses) these and other terms in ways similar to the instructor you find lacking.

    I agree with you and others that every reader is entitled to enjoy or to criticize whatever we read, each from our individual viewpoint. And you're entirely entitled to vent your frustration with someone's maybe genuinely misguided efforts to describe what they think is the best of the best (and to say why that's so). But to lump all those who study and appreciate excellent literature into "academia" would surely be selling short many, many "non-academics" who strive to find, understand and enjoy the very same excellence he speaks of.

    I have to believe you and others who participate in the literary educational process, certainly at the graduate level, are doing so for a reason--probably related to your own aspirations for excellence in whatever you choose to write (and to read). Information about literary qualities in writing (any writing) can only be discussed (or especially taught) using some kind of language to distiniguish what those qualities are, where to find them, how to appreciate them and maybe make use of them.

    Can it possibly come as a surprise to find that "literature" (which has somehow risen to the level of "the best of the best") is less likely to come from popular fiction or stories written to particular audiences than from writing that evolves out of artistic objectives and efforts?

    Does this mean, then, that a reader ought not to enjoy a popular genre novel or that such a novel cannot possibly be well-written? Or that there is no spread of excellence among all kinds of writing? Of course not. It's simply a way of helping students aspiring to excellence to understand where that excellence can be most easily uncovered, understood, and appreciated, so it can be infused into their own skill set in whatever way and to whatever extent their capacities and interests allow.

    When these "academia" versus all-the-rest-of-us discussions arise, I'm often tempted to vent, too, because there's nothing I regret more than not knowing at eighteen I'd one day wish it had been literature I'd studied in college for its practical benefits to me many years later when I struggled to become a good writer. I say ditch the erudite attitude you think your instructors may show and capitalize on their specialized interests in literature (to your own benefit).
     
  10. JZydowicz
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    JZydowicz Member

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    I'm majoring in creative writing, and I see a lot of this too. While I mostly write "literary" fiction, I enjoy using sci-fi/surreal elements. Strict realism is boring to read, in my opinion.
    But really, the main difference is that while "literary" fiction is meant to be read by other academics (to analyze and mine for deeper meaning and the author's intention), genre fiction is meant for enjoyment. Some "literary" fiction is real tough to read. Anyone who says one is better than the other is probably missing the point. They are in two separate realms.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not like students aren't encouraged to criticise literary texts because they are so terrifically 'well-written'. We used to totally dissect them.

    I was generalising in my post, but I should say my daughter has a very large collection of fantasy, sc-fi and other genre fiction, so I've read quite a bit.

    It's like literary and genre fiction start at two polar opposites, 'high literary' and 'genre trash', and then they meet by degrees, the standard of writing merging in the middle range. This professor was generalising too much, but what he said is pretty true of run-of-the-mill genre fiction.

    I would love to know any titles that people here class both as genre and as wonderful lyrical writing that lifts the soul and captures the essence of the human spirit.

    Although I can think of some literary masterpieces that do this, (and I'm not just talking classics here) I haven't yet come across a purely genre work in the same league.

    The example that Dante gives, Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks, is certainly very well-written BUT it's irritating as well, with its plot flaws and unresolved conflicts. It's classed as quite a mainstream sci fi, too, I think. I'm open to other suggestions, as long as they are not too obscure as I'll never be able to get hold of them.
     
  12. JZydowicz
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    Basically any famous dystopian work falls into both categories. In the past: 1984 by Orwell. Very literary oriented (as in, has a specific message and meaning, and concentrates on theme) but also has heavy sci-fi elements and an action-rich plot.
    More recently: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Won a Pulitzer Prize and is considered literary, but there's no doubt it is has horror and speculative elements.

    Some of my favorite books are those that blur this distinction.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, it can be difficult to draw a firm line where genre ends and literary/mainstream begins. I mean, Never Let Me Go, the novel by British author Kazuo Ishiguro is set in a dystopian Britain but it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and gets classed as literary not genre.

    My favourite books are weird distortions of normal literary themes, I guess. Lord of the Flies would be another favourite, with its horror and psychlogical twists.

    But then, when people talk of 'genre fiction' they normally mean a kind of 'pop' novel with little depth. So, perhaps the prof wasn't being disparaging about good novels that are given a developed treatment, just the more lightweight stuff?
     
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  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or he just had a narrower frame of reference?
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The thing with both of those novels, the reason why I would hesitate to tie them to genre fiction in any way, is that the speculative elements are secondary, they are a means to an end, something I alluded to in my earlier post. In The Road, McCarthy doesn't know or care what caused the apocalypse, he doesn't give a scientific analysis of the dystopic world, he remains singularly focussed on the story of the father and son crossing America. In 1984, same thing: Orwell invests in this fantasy world only insofar that it serves his political agenda (at least in parts 1 and 2), while in the third part, removing all the speculative elements changes virtually nothing--it is still an examination of the human spirit and what it takes to break it ("Do it to her!" is one of the most profoundly depressing lines I've ever read).

    These examples also make another distinction I alluded to clear. The aim in writing these novels was not to entertain, it was not to tell a fun story, it was not self-gratifying exercise in creativity. The authors were concerned with exploring aspects of the human condition, of culture and of our political systems, and everything else is a means to that end. Compare that to (some, I'm tempted to say most) genre fiction where the story and the speculative aspects are everything, and the concerns of the author appear almost coincidentally later.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm feeling suspicious of the theory that literary fiction has deeper meaning, and especially suspicious of the idea that literary fiction has even a partial monopoly on deeper meaning.

    I'm remembering my mother's problem with _To Kill A Mockingbird_. Mom objected to the fact that the author told her story with a _story_. She felt that the book should grab the reader by the collar and explain the exact lesson that the story was meant to tell - preferably in high-flown over-wrought language. The fact that the meaning was irrevocably wound in with the story and that the author didn't step outside to give a lecture, bothered her.

    And, no, I'm not arguing that anybody here is like my mother, and that you want your morals fed to you in bite-sized pieces. That's not my point.

    My point is that I _want_ the meaning to be in the story, wound up in it so tightly that it can't be extracted as a whole thing. I think that any really good fiction, literary or genre, has that deeper something woven in.

    I'm rather suspicious of a writer that _sets out_ with the goal of expressing that deeper meaning. If the meaning can be expressed whole, extracted whole, planned for as a whole thing, then I think that it's too simple. So for that reason, I'm suspicious of the depth of meaning in something that was consciously written _as_ literary fiction, at least where literary fiction is defined as being about that deeper meaning.

    If the story and the characters themselves don't fascinate and absorb the author, if they're just a means to an end, I'm suspicious of anything else that the author has to say. And if the story and the characters do fascinate the author, and the story has that deeper meaning, but the story happens to fit a genre and sell a whole lot more books, that doesn't, to me reduce the value of the story.
     
  17. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    A very fair point, I have to say. And, for all I said before, a point I agree wholeheartedly with.
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what you're saying, but I literally can't think of a single novel, genre or literary, that didn't have some central theme or concern that could be summed up in a couple of sentences, and in most cases, a couple of words...To Kill a Mockingbird isn't a morally complex novel--it has a very clear message and is very explicitly stated--but that doesn't devalue it, especially considering the political and social context in which it was written. Reading it now, it might seem banal and obvious (not that I think it does), but considered against the backdrop of racism in America in the early 20th century, it seems clear that the moral of that novel needed to be spelt out explicitly and in a form that would appeal to people more than a non-fiction work.

    Being suspicious of authors who use characters and stories as means to an end is your prerogative, and I suppose it must be founded on some experience you have, but a story with depth and strictly functional characters are not mutually exclusive...nor does a character that may be considered 'functional' necessarily have any less depth or importance than a character that fascinates its creator. In fact, I would say your argument flies in the face of common thought and philosophy about art in general. Art that is superficial, a term which I think can be applied to a great deal of genre fiction, is generally considered to be less valuable than art that is "deeper". Authors who set out to simply entertain, to tell a nice story without any greater purpose, without any other agenda, to me, are creating superficial art. It's good writing in the same way that painting the wall of your house is good art. As in, it isn't.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    Yes, I think I expressed myself badly, though I suspect that we'll disagree anyway. :)

    Just to clarify, Mom felt that _To Kill a Mockingbird_ wasn't explicit _enough_. To her, it was too complex and subtle, and the moral wasn't clear enough. I'm not criticizing it for being too direct - I'm not criticizing it at all. She was criticizing it for not being direct enough.

    Maybe using Mom as an example is a bad idea. :) Also, she did grow up in the American South in the thirties and forties, so it's possible that some of what's obvious to me and you isn't obvious to her, because she to some extent lived inside the story's setting. Which, actually, may make it a good example...

    OK, but moving on, I'm not arguing that I want a good yarn without any depth. I'm arguing that I want both. I'm arguing, in fact, that the depth is worthless without the yarn. The meaning doesn't take life without the story.

    Going back to _To Kill a Mockingbird_, sure, you can extract some specific anti-racism and other principles from the story. You can state them, or write them down, or put them on a T-shirt. And they're not going to change anyone's mind.

    But tell a story, tell that story, and that story might very well change someone's mind. Not, I think, as a result of Harper Lee saying, "I want to write a novel against racism and other forms of prejudice. What sort of main character would serve that purpose best?" I don't see that story coming together that way. If you want to throw evidence at me to tell me that that is indeed how she approached the story, well, I'll be wrong. :)

    I don't see Scout (or the other characters) as subordinate to the story, and I don't see the story as subordinate to the message. I see them as all magnificent, and all irrevocably tied together.

    Now, I may very well be arguing a strawman here. I may have misunderstood some statements that sounded, to me, like arguments for the story and even the characters being subordinate to the message. But if anyone _is_ arguing that, I'm just saying that I disagree. The story is what makes fiction, fiction. If the story doesn't have life and energy and reality of its own, outside the message, you might as well write the message into an essay.

    ChickenFreak
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Harper Lee had been writing with an anti-racism agenda since her time in college writing short stories for literary magazines. This is largely owing to her desire to write about her own upbringing and experiences in the South. The characters are semi-autobiographical sketches of real people she knew, with Atticus Finch being based on her own father.

    To me, it seems clear that the moral message was what held this novel together. Her anti-racism position provides a framework for the narrative and characters, which she derived from her own experience. And in this way, narrative is a means to an end. It serves her agenda. That's not to say its not a compelling story, because it obviously is, and that is why the message is communicated so effectively. But it points to the keen self-awareness that characterises literary fiction and not genre fiction. Every element is carefully controlled and utilised because of the function it serves, not arbitrarily as it is in genre works where the narrative is what the work is based on. In general, what I'm trying to get at is that with literary fiction, these deeper concerns--be they moral, social, formal, psychological, whatever--are what form the basis of the work, and so aesthetic choices and formal descisions, things like narrative, structure, characterisation, are considered with those deeper ideas in mind. Taking a more contemporary example, American Psycho was Bret Easton Ellis' attempt to explore the commodity-obsessed culture of Wall St in the 1980s. Everything in that book relates to that initial idea. With genre fiction, where story-telling is the basis of the book, the author's choices are made with regard to the effect they will have on the story--will it make it more entertaining, will it make the story more engaging, will it make this character better. The writing doesn't seem to be as self-conscious, it is focused instead on creating an immersive world for the reader to engage with.
     
  21. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I get a lot out of literature. As I stated, an artist has to study many facets of their chosen art. But, my comments also suggest that this is not all academia--it's those who have refused to budge from what they consider traditional.

    Besides, you also have to take into consideration that while reading is absolutely (without a doubt) essential to a writer's growth, so is the act of writing itself, and that includes exercising your imagination--whether that imagination keeps you rooted firmly in reality or takes you beyond that realm.

    Literature can only take us so far--we have to go the rest of the way ourselves. But, when you're slapped on the wrist every time you breathe the word genre in a classroom setting, it becomes less about art and more about this itty bitty box they're expecting you to conduct your business in. Now, I will say that conventions are necessary, but as to what the rules of those conventions are, well, that should be up to the writer.

    Anyway, I'm getting off track. When an entire class meets during break and says, "whoah, I'm not into fiction, but this guy (instructor) really has a beef with it . . ." something's off in my opinion. There are legitimate complaints about "stock genre" that possess a huge amount of merit. But, there's also a lot of negativity floating around that is completely undeserved in terms of specific genres on a whole.

    Hope that made sense. Bleh! :)
     
  22. MsMyth71
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    That's a good point. I'm also starting to see the whole notion that "literacy fiction" is a genre in and of itself.
     
  23. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Wow, some excellent points in here. And I love the way you described the spectrum deal here. I really need to think on that (before I say I outright agree)! Ha!

    As for examples, the first one that comes to mind is Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Beautifully written, sci-fi (lite) premise. You'll find it in literary fiction, too which is another amusing gripe for another thread. :)

    I also consider Kafka's Metamorphosis to be genre.

    Orson Scott Card has some beautiful short stories (Unaccompanied Sonata comes to the fore) that are absolutely breathtaking. Even Ray Bradbury has some beautiful language (and some still place him on the naughty end of the spectrum).

    George R.R. Martin is a master at characterization (Song of Ice and Fire series--which HBO just picked up as a new series). I actually use some of his chapters when I'm teaching perspective and POV in my intro/creative writing class.
     
  24. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Haha, someone beat me to Ishiguro I see! I love that book. I pray they don't turn it into a pile of suck movie.
     
  25. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    See, I disagree. There are genre novels that do just this. The fantastic elements are secondary. And as a reader of genre (and a snob, I might add), I'm usually more interested in stories where the fantastic is put on the back burner.
     

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