The Importance Of Popular Literature

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Perhaps the main debate adjoining popular fiction is the significance and meaning of genre. Literary generic categories, as we understand them in the United States, have existed since the nineteen thirties, although dedicated scholarly attention began only in the nineteen seventies. Frederic Jameson’s article Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre argued that ‘genres are essentially contracts between a writer and his readers; or rather … they are literary institutions … like other agreements or contacts’. This declaration of the nature of literary genre was an addition to a widespread theoretical debate that dates back to Aristotle’s Poetics. In recent decades the finer points of genre and generic difference have become an increasingly bulky…show more content…
These hypothetical debates could be easily applied to the study of popular literature, but are often fully ignored or not overtly referenced. Jameson’s insight into the close connection between readers and writers predated Radway’s ethnographic work, but its ripples took almost a decade to hit the shoreline. Often citing Jameson, critics since the late nineteen eighties have understood genres as relational and historical categories that change over time in response to political and social conditions, such as technological developments, corporate ownership, publishing, and the random tastes of readers themselves. Some have questioned how genres have been formed and represented by the canonization of specific works, an argument which echoed the canon-making debates in schools and universities in the United States in the nineteen eighties. Writers such as Kathleen Gregory Klein have claimed that since canonical authors are generally male, conservative critics have misunderstood whole genres through their biased choices of representative…show more content…
For instance, the collection Political Mythology and Popular Fiction, written fully by political scientists, identifies ‘middle-class fiction’, the historical novel, the small-town American novel, the sports novel, and America-at-war fiction. Such a shift would require an even greater alertness of readers, but the study of reception has undergone a great deal of recent appreciation. First, critics say, reception often reduces a complex solid network of cultural practices and relationships to interpretations that depend on one or two determining factors like race or gender. Second, the question of supremacy and resistance, scholars tend to romanticize readers’ responses as proof of independent creativity or resistance. Third, audience research makes falsely trustworthy claims and is also often treated as a scientific ‘slice of reality.’ Because researchers’ certainty bring biases to their work, attempts to uncover readers’ understandings and conceptions of individual texts amount to second-order interpretation. These arguments are convincing, but they should be regarded as cautionary reminders. One might call forth once again the words of Stephen Knight, who admitted that although his Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction would be more influential with more attention to
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