‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Dirda Asks:

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Michael Dirda asks the following on his blog this week:

This past weekend I attended Readercon, a science fiction and fantasy convention held annually in the Boston area. Over the long weekend of the con a recurrent theme gradually emerged: What is the relationship of genre literature to so-called mainstream literature? Have any of the Reading Roomers ever reflected on this relationship between genre and mainstream? What so-called genre books do you consider major works of art? –Dirda’s Reading Room

I have had many different discussions with a lot of people about what genre essentially boils down to. For me, it is a question of power and authority because those in power and authority place certain books in particular positions and this inevitably influences how we read certain works. The English Literary Canon and I use capital letters because there are certain works that people have attributed with this standardized Canon, is made up of largely upper-class white British men from Great Britain. One has only to go trolling through history to see the apparent incongruity with the numbers of women or people of color who are represented as apart of the Canon.  That has changed recently and scholarship from the past few decades have unearthed a surprising amount of information about the fact that there have been many authors that represent groups not present in the Canon.

For me, it has always been about power and agency/access. Think of the recent rise and popularity of graphic novels and comic books. The Canon is quite fickle as now one is likely to hear or read phrases like: “Greatest Graphic Novel of All Time” or “The Grandfather of Graphic Novels”, etc. This genre is still for the most part looked upon with some suspicion but still now there are entire courses in various Academic institutions whose sole purpose is to engage in this style of reading. Why is this happening, because culture and society has changed, and the value placed on this type of reading, this particular genre has been given a new opportunity, as I said, power and agency/access.

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Written by thebeliever07

July 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

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