RARA-AVIS: Re: The definition of literature

From: Curt Purcell ( curtpurcell@hotmail.com)
Date: 06 Nov 2007

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, JIM DOHERTY <jimdohertyjr@...> wrote:
> The implication of the phrase is that the "genre" is
> something that has to be escaped from, which is
> insulting to the genre and condescending to the
> specific piece.

Oh heck, I guess I might as well jump in here, too. I agree with Jim on this. "Transcending the genre" and all its variants is a phrase I despise for exactly the reasons he gives.

Not sure how this bears on the discussion of literature, but I think I've figured out perhaps *the* crucial distinction between genre fiction and what's called "literary" fiction (which of course doesn't necessarily count as LITERATURE simply by virtue of being literary).

Here's where I explain the distinction:


In a nutshell, it's that the genre/literary distinction corresponds to the primary/secondary process distinction proposed by Freud.

Here's where I explain why that results in genre fiction being looked down upon so often, and why it actually shouldn't:


I'm afraid I've not yet continued the series, in which I intend to explain in detail how things like emphasis on story and "cliche" stock characters derive from primary process, and why it's a mistake to be critically dismissive of them, and what they contribute to fiction that more literary emphases or more original, developed characters often can't.

Bringing this back to the phrase "transcending the genre," I think that phrase is often applied to fiction that bears some of the window-dressing of genre fiction, but that is much more strongly characterized by secondary process.

Anyway, just my two cents on that.

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