Generic Possibilities: Interrogating the Fusion of Genre Fiction and Literature 


American/Diaspora / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Gavin Hurley (Lasell College)

As elucidated by Tim Lanzendoerfer, et al. within the forthcoming essay collection The Contemporary Novel and the Politics of Genre (Lexington Press, Winter 2015), contemporary writers have been increasingly blending generic tropes (i.e. from horror, fantasy, romance, science fiction, mystery) into literary fiction – and/or blending literary fiction into genre fiction. This technique surfaces in the work of high caliber American authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, Bret Easton Ellis, and Cormac McCarthy – as well as more genre focused writers such as William Gibson, George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Anne Rice, among others.

The upsurge of genre integration warrants close examination from literature scholars. This roundtable provides that close examination. The roundtable revolves around three interdependent operations: (1.) defining genre fiction, (2.) establishing distinctions between contemporary genre fiction and literary fiction, and (3.) evaluating the successes and limitations of the hybridity. In sum, the roundtable will clarify and more fully assess this curious functionality and aesthetic interplay of genre within contemporary fiction. We hope to arrive at clarifications and evaluations that better inform our disciplinary research in literary studies – moreover, we hope to arrive at insights that will assist our instruction of late-20th and 21st century literature to university students – students who are often quite familiar with genre conventions.

This roundtable invites diverse perspectives about the understanding and function of contemporary literature and genre. This diversity includes pedagogical, interdisciplinary, and cultural studies: perspectives that can stimulate multifaceted conversation. Critical engagement with works of genre fiction is certainly welcome as well. Individual presentations will be reasonably short to allow for organic dialogue and robust discussion.

This roundtable invites perspectives about the understanding and function of contemporary American literature and genre. The roundtable investigates the definition of genre fiction and the distinctions between contemporary genre fiction and literary fiction. Moreover, the roundtable seeks to evaluate the trending integration of genre tropes within literary fiction.