Genre and the Experience of Art and Literature
Like most topics in aesthetics, that of genre is far from simple and for the literary critic has an uninviting air. The questions which arise from its consideration fall under two heads: first, what is a genre? and second, what does it contribute to our understanding of a work of art that we can describe it as belonging to this or that genre? A clear answer to either of these questions is not readily forthcoming: the literary critic who is content to be a critic here very properly hesitates where the philosopher is perhaps inclined to go further. If he does so he will find that the two primary questions about genre have many ramifications, some of which may be suggested by a quotation from René Wellek and Austin Warren’s book, Theory of Literature. They ask one question about genre and then re-phrase it: but as they re-phrase their original question it is quite transformed.
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