How has the academic reception of popular genres changed over time?
In previous era’s there has been an observable bias by academics towards what was at the time and occasionally now is referred to as ‘high’ literature. Poetry, prose literature, and stage dramas are classical genres that were often deemed to be superior to modern popular genres. For this reason popular genres were often excluded from academic study, and were not taken seriously in the academic space. Furthermore there existed aspects of popular genres that lead academics to be less favorable towards them. Popular genres often present formulaic narrative outlines that are easy to predict. Many characters in popular genres suffer from being two dimensional and lacking significant growth over the narrative, while also being easily categorised into different character archetypes within that genre. Popular genres as a concept were also new, and many texts came to by way of new technologies and mediums.
As time went on the academic perceptions of popular genres began to change, and popular genres began to to be included in academic literature programs. There are two main reasons for this change, firstly because of a steady increase in popularity for genre fiction, and secondly because of a more favorable reevaluation of popular genres in the academic space. Many popular genre works are accessed via new technologies and mediums, such as TV, film, and the internet, and with televisions still being a normal household item, and many films and series being available online. Popular genres have taken over as the more affordable and accessible means of entertainment. As these new technologies become more normalised and used by more people, this also increases the popularity of popular genres. There are also several factors of popular genres that made them more appealing in the academic space. Popular genres are newer then classical genres, and as a result often better reflect modern society as it is today. Popular genres also have qualities that literary classics lack, such as the implementation of both text and imagery in ways that enhance the work. Lastly there were several ways in which the notion that ‘high literature’ being superior to popular genre fiction was deconstructed. It became apparent that the perception of what was ‘high’ and ‘low’ literature was not only subjective, but were centered around the tastes of privileged and elite groups. Authorial intentions for texts from both classical and popular genres were also often indistinguishable, with the intentions for texts often being more than just for basic entertainment.
What might the value be of studying them?
Popular genre fiction often does not exist within the realm of realism. Locations, languages, creatures, races, items, and technology that do not exist in our reality exist within popular genre texts, and these ideas can have real world practical and cultural applications. Science fiction concepts like hoverboards from back to the future or lightsabers from star wars now have real world prototypes, and popular culture is heavily influenced by popular genre texts making it worthy of studying what other ideas could be implemented in the real world from popular genres. As mentioned above popular genre fiction is often a reflection of the society it was produced from, therefore studying popular genre texts can inform on aspects of societies in different locations and time periods. Popular genres have a larger consumer base then classical genres in modern day, by studying popular genres it could be found out why this is the case.
Mounfort, P (auth). (2020). ENGL602 popular genres. Retrieved from