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By medium: art genre - film genre - literary genre - music genre

Compare: genre art - genre film - genre fiction

Theory: genre theory and genre studies

Related: audience - category - content - convention - form - format - formula - gender - genre fiction - media - motif - mood - originality - parody - pastiche - periodization - setting - style - subject - trope - theme - topic

Mood: comedy - drama - erotica - fantasy - fantastic - fantastique - horror - melodrama - pornography - romance - tragedy

Setting: science fiction - western

By sensibility: avant-garde - camp - classic - cult - decadent - eccentric - eclectic - erotic - experimental - gay - gothic - grotesque - kitsch - macabre - modern - perverse - postmodern - queer - transgressive - underground

Contrast: originality


This page attempts to describe (rather than prescribe) the concept of genre as categories of artistic creations: literary, musical, cinematic and so forth. Since the advent of mass society, genre can be labeled as a category of criticism and marketing [Jan 2006]


The term genre refers to the traditional divisions of art forms from a single field of activity into various kinds according to criteria particular to that form.

"Genre" is originally a French word meaning "kind", "sort" or "type"; in grammatical terminology, it refers to the artificial concept of masculine or feminine grammatical gender (the noun "genre" itself belongs to the masculine gender in French, for example).

A genre is always a vague term with no fixed boundaries. Many works also cross into multiple genres. In general there are three types of genre:

In arts such as music, painting, and sculpture genre is almost mostly determined by format and style.

While vague, genre is also extremely important. Genre considerations are one of the most important factors in determining what a person will see or read. Many genres have built in audiences, and supporting such as magazines and websites. Books and movies that are hard to plug into a genre are often less successful. --http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Genre [Dec 2004]

Theme [...]

Themes, at least, seem inadequate as a basis for defining genres since, as David Bordwell notes, 'any theme may appear in any genre' (Bordwell 1989, 147). --Daniel Chandler, http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre1.html [Jul 2004]

Genre theory [...]

The problem of definition
A number of perennial doubts plague genre theory. Are genres really 'out there' in the world, or are they merely the constructions of analysts? Is there a finite taxonomy of genres or are they in principle infinite? Are genres timeless Platonic essences or ephemeral, time-bound entities? Are genres culture-bound or transcultural?... Should genre analysis be descriptive or proscriptive? (Robert Stam 2000, 14) via Daniel Chandler, http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre1.html
Grouping by period or country (American films of the 1930s), by director or star or producer or writer or studio, by technical process (CinemaScope films), by cycle (the 'fallen women' films), by series (the 007 movies), by style (German Expressionism), by structure (narrative), by ideology (Reaganite cinema), by venue ('drive-in movies'), by purpose (home movies), by audience ('teenpix'), by subject or theme (family film, paranoid-politics movies). (Bordwell 1989, 148)

While some genres are based on story content (the war film), other are borrowed from literature (comedy, melodrama) or from other media (the musical). Some are performer-based (the Astaire-Rogers films) or budget-based (blockbusters), while others are based on artistic status (the art film), racial identity (Black cinema), locat[ion] (the Western) or sexual orientation (Queer cinema). (Robert Stam 2000, 14).


As in a "work of art that is original, that defies classification, defies categorization."
"I don't believe in categorization," said ChesnuTT. "I do soul music, and any music where people put their soul into it and you can feel it, you can hear it, that's soul music. I look to the songcraft of Motown, The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Elton John and Bernard Taupin. One of my main influences is Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had soul. You can feel it." --Cody ChesnuTT

Auteurism [...]

Like many auteurists, I was raised on skepticism about studying film genres, such as Westerns or crime films as a whole. After all, many auteurists have argued, genres are constructed out of conventions. And what do conventions have to do with art? Nothing! So thinking about genres is inherently trivial, and only brings out unimportant conventions in movies. Or so I once thought. But now, I believe the above paragraph is nonsense based on misconceptions. --http://members.aol.com/MG4273/zgenre.htm

Maligned genres

Some genres are better-regarded than others. For example, disco is commonly ridiculed among music lovers and horror among film lovers.


Is there a more maligned genre than the horror film? Any celluloid grouping more spat upon than the poor self-assuming chiller? I think not. Oh yes, they'll champion the artistry of the western, and heap praise on just about every film noir that ever darkened the heart of man, but mention your affection for the horror film and watch those ingratiating smiles develop into something more insipid, more condescending. "Horror? Pah! Where's the artistry in bloodletting? Show me the quality drama in teenagers getting decapitated left right and centre. Go on: show me"... You might as well tell 'em you love The Sound of Music... It gets worse: there's the argument that horror films are socially and morally irresponsible, even influencing some people to emulate the murderous techniques of the characters depicted on screen. This criticism is wrong; if anything, horror films have the opposite effect on intelligent minds (sick minds will commit atrocities without the aid of horror films - their decisions based on what is churning around in their already sick minds, rather than what they witness on the silver screen). Horror films provide a release for all the pent up emotion caused by modern living (and we're all prone to that). Watching horror films allows us to meet our private fears head on, share them with others in the audience, and purge the dread by confronting it. It might seem like a cliché, but there's no denying the truth of it. --Noel O'Shea

Maligned a verb form (pronounced ma-l?n') an old English word used derogatively sense such as to speak evil or defame or slander. --deleted wikipedia article [Apr 2005]


Although disco was the most prominent form of popular music in the 1970s, disco also mixed with the avant garde, this is what P. Shapiro writes about in The Wire in an article entitled 'Mutant Disco'.
Scorned and ridiculed as feather-lite, escapist pap when it emerged in the mid-seventies, and now reduced to a kitsch scenario of Afro wigs, polyester suits and drunken singalongs at office Christmas parties and bachelor weekends, disco is just about the last place anyone would look for avant garde practice. [...] --Peter Shapiro, The Wire Magazine, Feb 2003.
Steven Harvey writes:

The brief 10 years of disco history have provided popular music with one of its most creative periods - one too often passed over by critics. Even the faddish embrace of things danceable has failed to encourage critics to muster the same seriousness for the synth-anthems of Brooklyn duo D Train, as they do for Soft Cell or Yazoo. While much of this can be ascribed to racism, disco has never cultivated the same personality cult inherent in rock. The concern has been more with good records than concepts. --Steven Harvey, Collision Magazine, 1983 [...]

Peter Braunstein writes:

For nearly two decades, disco has been high on the list of cultural unmentionables, along with Barry Manilow and the leisure suit. But ever since the relaunch of slut gear (i.e., Candies) and the huge success of VH1's "Seven Days of '70s" celebration in 1996, disco has become the latest prize in the scavenger hunt of the Nostalgia '90s. --Peter Braunstein in http://www.villagevoice.com, issue 9826

Musical genres are linguistic placeholders

Labeling something jazz or rock or rap or disco or anything else is a tad arbitrary. It's been a long time since genres of popular music stopped being genres and simply started being linguistic placeholders for similar sounds and styles. That's usually the main way music gets its names in the first place -- through an attempt to put into written language something that is purely an aural experience. The result are words that help us understand what we're hearing. --Shan Fowler for popmatters.com

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