Three Incidents at the Border of Genre

Stian Grøgaard


From a perspective of conceptual economy, rather than the specialized literature on genre, this text discusses what genre divisions can do when applied to cultural artifacts compared to other forms of classification or typology? On which aspect of the artifact is it rewarding for a concept of genre to operate, and what is achieved when extending its use beyond traditional divisions in fine arts, Hollywood movies and popular music? Are there restrictions inherent to the concept of genre itself, explicable in a grammar of the concept? The criteria unfolded by such a grammar seems to be more technical than properly aesthetic, close to the ideal of perfection in traditional normative poetics. With one significant addition, the criteria are always too specific to allow for the perfect example of genre. Perfection belongs to the law of the genre, not to the artifact enforcing the law. Imperfection may indeed explain the resilience of the genre form. What remains is a vertical structure, a model for which even the model example is a fall from grace.


applied aesthetics; genre; restrictive economy; genre sublation; art versus genre; Edvard Munch; Clint Eastwood; Bob Dylan

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