Just before the course started we was given a pre term task. The task required us to Read the extract provided (a review of two books): Fredric Jameson’s “Towards a New Awareness of Genre” from Science Fiction Studies, Volume 9 (1982).

    1. What are the key points Jameson makes in this article?
    2. What does he say about genre and its problems?
    3. What is his answer to this?
    4. Why are Asimov’s stages theory (of American SF) “attractive”, do you think?
    5. Do you think genre has changed since the 1980s and if so, how and why?
  1. We recommend that you read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder – (any edition will do) e.g. (1995) London; Phoenix House. It is essentially a novel, but it takes you through all the great philosophies in an approachable and enjoyable way which will help tremendously with the “bigger ideas” we are discussing this year.

Here is my response;

What are the key points Jameson makes in this article?

Maturation in recent years of Science Fiction has evolutionary leaped from the pulps to “high culture”.

The most appropriate review of such a volume will naturally enough be an indication of its limits and its omissions – something that is all the more embarrassing since the critical anthology systematically corrects a good many of these last in advance: thus Parrinder’s deliberate avoidance of any history of the genre.

Single exemplifications of genres do not exist, genre needs to be recreated not removed.

SF in particular should be seen as practical recipes rather than put into categories.

He has always been attracted to stages Asimov’s stages theory of SF.

SF: Its Criticism and Teaching is not the book to consult for historical information about the development of SF; but such interests will in any case be more intelligent and production after the study of a book like this.

SF: A Critical Guide remedy this deflect as well: Raymond William’s powerful account of the revival of the utopian impulse and of the utopian literature gives us a very significant historical marker.

What does he say about genre and its problems?

Princeton UP 1971 was perhaps the first powerful expression of this newer generic awareness – that pure textual exemplifications of a single genre do not exist; and this, not merely because pure textual exemplifications of anything are rare, but well beyond that, because texts always come to been at the intersection of several genres and emerge from the tensions in the latter’s multiple force fields.

What is his answer to this?

This discovery does not mean the collapse of genre criticism but rather its renewal: we need specifications of the individual “genres” today more than ever, not in order to drop specimens into the box bearing those labels, but rather to map our own coordinates on the basis of those fixed stars and to triangulate this specific given textual movement.

Why are Asimov’s stages of theory “ attractive” do you think?

I think that Asimov’s stages of theory are attractive because they work, anything that has grown or changed through time usually shows you a clear time line of events. For example through his theory we can see that SF itself had its own ideals at each period in time. Things are always going to change and for something we create it is always attractive to see how it changes.

Do you think genre has changed since the 1980’s and if so, how and why?

I do think that genre has changed as all things do over time but I don’t think it has changed much. I think there has been more categories (genres) created to allow us to be more specific with our choosing of novels. When so many stories can be placed in more than one genre a new specific one has to be created. I think this has allowed many more genres to be created.

I have started to read the book but I haven’t quite finished it yet.


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