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Minor Characters Have Their DayGenre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace$
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Jeremy Rosen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231177443

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231177443.001.0001

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Genre as Telescopic Method

Genre as Telescopic Method

(p.181) Coda Genre as Telescopic Method
Minor Characters Have Their Day

Jeremy Rosen

Columbia University Press

One of the virtues, indeed the pleasures, of genre study is the fact that it allows for telescoping between levels of analysis. Genre study endeavors like much historicist and sociological literary scholarship to tease out the relations between literary forms and broader social and cultural phenomena. This book has argued for a triple-stranded approach to studying genre, as it sits at the intersection of form, history, and the workings of social institutions. Analyzing the variations on the formula or recipe that constitute a genre aims to elucidate the transformations and adaptability of a literary form. The conventions that appear across a cross-section of a genre communicate a common set of assumptions, a shared social logic that helps explain why a succession of writers gravitate to a generic technique at a particular historical moment. And genres serve institutional and marketplace functions, helping producers target audiences and gain strategic advantages in the market, and providing satisfactions for readers. But because any text that utilizes a genre shares features with a wider corpus of texts while departing from them in other ways, genre study allows scholars to strive for claims about a genre’s greater social significance while remaining sensitive to the innovative or idiosyncratic features of individual texts. Genre, that is, appeals to the scholar who wants to reach for the breadth of social significance without abandoning the nuance of close reading. One can zoom in on a novel such as ...

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