Genre theory
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Genre Theory. A way to examine and navigate texts. Ways of Looking at Genres. Genre- a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content Old Way: Examine form Superficial Traits Structure Features

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Genre Theory

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Genre theory

Genre Theory

A way to examine and navigate texts

Ways of looking at genres

Ways of Looking at Genres

  • Genre-a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content

  • Old Way: Examine form

    • Superficial Traits

      • Structure

    • Features

      • Wedding at the end, Invocation to the Muse, death of the hero?

  • New Way: Examine content

    • “Dimension of the soul”

      • What part of the human experience is the story exploring?



The tragic abyss

The Tragic Abyss

  • Hero’s suffering and loss (and society’s) as he moves from ignorance to self-knowledge

  • Moment of crossing a threshold into the tragic realm: “marked by the sudden catastrophe of the loss of a garden state”

  • Expands the boundaries of society’s vision or “ordinary awareness”

The tragic abyss1

The Tragic Abyss

  • Tragedy is “less an analogy of anything that happens in life than an unconcealing of the substratum of human existence”

    • It’s what at the root of existence that we are afraid to face

The tragic abyss2

The Tragic Abyss

  • Tragedy “dredges something up from the bottomless pit”

    • “something essentially metaphysical”

  • Descent into tragedy is transformative for hero, society, and READER

Tragedy terms

Tragedy Terms

  • Tragic Hero: highly placed member of society

  • Hamartia: Hero’s weakness (tragic flaw/ mistake) which leads to others suffering

Tragedy terms1

Tragedy Terms

  • Peripeteia: the moment of reversal in a tragedy

  • Anagnorisis: recognition of hero’s or another’s “true identity,” sometimes a recognition of his part in causing the suffering, often an epiphany

Tragedy terms2

Tragedy Terms

  • Hubris: pride in self that violates the prerogative of the gods; produces incomprehensible nameless suffering

  • Telos: the end towards which a community or individual wishes to go; teleological questions ask “what do we wish to become or accomplish in the end?”

Tragedy terms3

Tragedy Terms

  • Eudaimonia: the deep happiness that comes from living virtuously and moving toward one’s telos throughout life;

    • happiness that comes from accumulated momentum or responsible excellence that one has built through living one’s life

    • richest happiness possible for a human, attaining quantities of internal, external, and narrative goods

  • Hedononia: immediate pleasure and satisfaction (the word is related to hedonism)

Time in tragedy

Time in Tragedy

  • There is no time left in tragedy

  • Consequences of previous actions now have their unforeseen consequences

  • Things have already been decided as the action of the play is occurring.

  • Choice has been narrowed down (usually to those with unwanted or painful consequences)

Tragedy vs comedy

Tragedy vs. Comedy

  • Ennobling of mankind in the struggle

  • Displays limits on human behavior and capabilities

  • Tragic motion reveals things as they are not the way they appear or thought to be

  • Tragic hero is forced to alter, painfully

  • Man is a fool

  • Subject to whims, fancies, lusts, etc.

  • Acceptance and survival within limits

  • Comic protagonist accepts way things are and alters as he has no fixed ideas

  • “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

  • “Man is a giddy thing.”

Genre theory


The comic terrain

The Comic Terrain

  • Humor vs. comedy

  • Humor:

    • Subversion of expectations (and expectations)/ variations of patterns

    • Emotional distance

    • Laughter

  • Comedy:

    • Not necessarily “funny”

    • Komos: revel or Kome: the village

The comic terrain1

The Comic Terrain

  • Comedy “endures and perseveres in a fallen world … making its way by mutual helpfulness toward a community of love within the larger order of society”

The comic terrain2

The Comic Terrain

  • Comic protagonist is a survivor

    • never quite takes himself seriously enough to erect a rigid world of his own making, as does the tragic hero.

    • Not tragic agony but the fearful mystery of joy.

The comic terrain3

The Comic Terrain

  • Low or base characters

    • insignificant aims

    • some accomplishment of aims

      • either lightens the initial baseness

      • reveals the insignificance of the aims.

The comic terrain4

The Comic Terrain

  • Moral punishment?

  • Often ends “happily”

    • Reinforcement of community (a wedding or dance)

Time in comedy

Time in Comedy

  • Consequences don’t “stick”—or are minimized

  • Unlike tragedy, time remains, giving opportunities to try solutions or avoid consequence

  • Solutions or choices remain open

Comedy vs tragedy

Comedy vs. Tragedy

  • Tragedy is a whirlwind

  • Comedy is a wave

  • Football time is tragic

  • Baseball time is comic

Genre theory


The epic cosmos

The Epic Cosmos

  • “Epic is both more frequent and more diverse than the recognized canon tends to indicate. Characteristics intrinsic to its nature include its sense of totality and its consciousness of mission.”

The epic cosmos1

The Epic Cosmos


  • penetration of the veil separating material and immaterial existence, allowing an intimate relation between gods and men

  • an eschatological expansion of time

The epic cosmos2

The Epic Cosmos


  • restoration of equilibrium between masculine and feminine forces

  • a sense of motion, linking human action to a divine destiny, toward which epic senses history moves

The epic cosmos3

The Epic Cosmos

  • Creates a full picture of the world (culture)that is struggling in transition.

    • Recognition of Loss

    • Hope?

    • New Order

The epic cosmos4

The Epic Cosmos

  • Hero of an epic is excessive

    • A superabundance of human abilities or traits

    • Often causes his problem

    • Sometimes pulls back, allowing others “the stage” so that his abilities will be even more impressive

The epic cosmos5

The Epic Cosmos

  • Hero may or may not die—explaining why he isn’t around any more, and allowing for the founding for which he struggles



The prospect of lyric

The Prospect of Lyric

  • The speaker relates to a “beloved object” by

    • Hoping for it,

    • Consummating his love for it, or

    • Lamenting its passing

The prospect of lyric1

The Prospect of Lyric

  • The “beloved object”

    • It is the object (the receiver) of the speaker’s desire or praise

    • Is not necessarily an object—it could be a person, a time, an idea, or a thing

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