Title of Showcase Submission

Consequences of Classification: Genre, Fantasy, and the Constructed Hierarchy of Literary and Genre Fiction

Student Type

Undergraduate

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Melissa Elmes

Date

4-12-2022

College Affiliation

College of Arts and Humanities

Department

English

Submission Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Speculative fiction is a broad yet hazily defined genre: Some works are classified as literary fiction; others are called fantasy or young adult fiction. But what factors influence these classifications? What distinguishes fantasy from other subgenres? “Consequences of Classification” seeks to explain what trends, particularly those related to the marketing of these texts, determine the categorization of speculative fiction into subgenres like literary fiction, fantasy, and young adult. For this purpose, I conducted a comparative study of speculative fiction novels from each of these classifications, studying the subject matter, writing style, and major themes of Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight in the context of commercial and critical genre trends. Ultimately, I suggest that, while there is a rational basis for differentiating them, the commercial genres assigned to works of fiction reveal misassumptions about literary merit and illustrates a false hierarchy of literary genres that influences their critical and commercial receptions.

Publication Date

2022

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Apr 12th, 12:00 AM

Consequences of Classification: Genre, Fantasy, and the Constructed Hierarchy of Literary and Genre Fiction

Speculative fiction is a broad yet hazily defined genre: Some works are classified as literary fiction; others are called fantasy or young adult fiction. But what factors influence these classifications? What distinguishes fantasy from other subgenres? “Consequences of Classification” seeks to explain what trends, particularly those related to the marketing of these texts, determine the categorization of speculative fiction into subgenres like literary fiction, fantasy, and young adult. For this purpose, I conducted a comparative study of speculative fiction novels from each of these classifications, studying the subject matter, writing style, and major themes of Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight in the context of commercial and critical genre trends. Ultimately, I suggest that, while there is a rational basis for differentiating them, the commercial genres assigned to works of fiction reveal misassumptions about literary merit and illustrates a false hierarchy of literary genres that influences their critical and commercial receptions.