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Genre Theorists

Date post: 09-Aug-2015
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Genre Theorists
Page 1: Genre Theorists

Genre Theorists

Page 2: Genre Theorists

• Steve Neale argues that pleasure is derived from 'repetition and difference' (Neale 1980); there would be no pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure from observing how the conventions of the genre are manipulated (Abercrombie 1996). We may also enjoy the stretching of a genre in new directions and the consequent shifting of our expectations.

• much of the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “difference in repetition” – i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those elements might be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that unfamiliar elements might be introduced

• Steve Neale (1990) argues that Hollywood’s generic regime performs two inter-related functions: i) to guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset the considerable economic risks of industrial film production by providing cognitive collateral against innovation and difference.


Page 3: Genre Theorists

• Tom Ryall (1978) distinguishes genre criticism from the two approaches dominant at the time of its development: auteurism, and an earlier tradition which saw films as providing social documents. He sees as a central concern of genre criticism the relationship between the art product, its source and its audience. Both auteur and 'social document' approaches use a linear model of this relationship, privileging artist or social reality as the originating source of the art product, which, representing their expression, is then consumed by its audience. In contrast, Ryall suggests, the model offered by genre criticism is triangular, with art product, artist and audience as three equally constituting moments in the production of the text -A view which posits a dynamic and mutually determining relationship between them. The basis of this equality lies in the way the conventions of genre operate.

• They provide a framework of structuring rules, in the shape of patterns/forms/ styles/structures, which act as a form of supervision' over the work of production of film-makers and the work of reading by an audience.

• Thus Ryall places his original triangle - film/artist/audience - in two concentric circles, the first representing the studio, or particular production institution - the film's immediate industrial context - and the second representing the social formation - here American society, western capitalism - of which the film industry and cinematic signification are a part. Whereas the triangular model displaces the notion of a single originating source, the concentric circles displace an earlier Marxist linear model used to account for historical and social determination - in which the base is reflected in the superstructure.

• In this reconceptualization art and society are not opposed to each other as two abstract and discrete entities; rather art is understood as one of the social practices in which society exists. Ryall's model, then, attempts to grasp the range of determinants - historical, economic, social, cinematic, aesthetic, ideological - involved in the production of meaning in the cinema, without foreclosing on the question of which element dominates in any given instance.


Page 4: Genre Theorists

Jonathan Culler (1978) – generic conventions exist to establish a contract between creator and reader so as to make certain expectations

operative, allowing compliance and deviation

from the accepted modes of intelligibility. Acts of

communication are rendered intelligible only within the

context of a shared conventional framework of

expression. Rick Altman argues that genres are usually defined in terms of

media language (SEMANTIC elements) and codes (in the Western, for example: guns,

horses, landscape, characters or even stars, like John Wayne or

Clint Eastwood) or certain ideologies and narratives

(SYNTACTIC elements).

John Fiske defines genres as ‘attempts to structure some order into the wide

range of texts and meanings that circulate in

our culture for the convenience of both

producers and audiences.’