Abstract

Abstract:

This article argues for the privileged position of genre at the middle scale in literary analysis, showing how genre categories locate texts within literary-historical contexts and thus reveal the processes of literary change. Examining two major recent methodological developments in literary studies—the new formalism and the digital humanities—it calls for disentangling the terms "form" and "genre" to recognize the different scales on which they operate. The essay proposes a method of generic reading that focuses on changes both among genres—the emergence of new genres, the implementation of existing ones, or the decline in previously significant ones—and within particular genres. To demonstrate this method, it considers the genre of the epistolary pamphlet and the particular uses to which it was put during the early abolitionist debate of the turn of the nineteenth century. Generic reading incorporating computational analysis shows how this genre helped to establish a news environment that was ongoing, cyclical, dialogic, and ephemeral. More broadly, this method shows how shifting genre categories drive literary change over time.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 261-284
Launched on MUSE
2021-08-12
Open Access
No
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