The Ontology and Aesthetics of Genre

Philosophy Compass 19 (1):e12958 (2024)
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Genres inform our appreciative practices. What it takes for a work to be a good work of comedy is different than what it takes for a work to be a good work of horror, and a failure to recognize this will lead to a failure to appreciate comedies or works of horror particularly well. Likewise, it is not uncommon to hear people say that a film or novel is a good work, but not a good work of x (where x is the genre of that work). A work can be good all things considered, but genre membership provides us with an additional set of evaluative criteria over and above those of the medium, which colors how we interpret and appreciate the work. Given this importance, it is not surprising that philosophers of art have been interested in providing an account of what, exactly, a genre is. Despite this interest, there is not widespread agreement about what it takes for something to be a genre, nor what kinds of considerations are relevant in determining whether a work is a member of that genre. Beyond this, we might also want to know to what degree we ought to consider genre in evaluating a work of art and why it should matter at all. Here, I explore the variety of recent theories that philosophers have taken up on the topic of genre and why we should ultimately think of genres as artistic practices rather than the alternatives.

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Evan Malone
Lone Star College


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