Our friends at the Guardian are in the middle of a very interesting series on literary definitions, and recently Elizabeth Edmondson has taken issue with the distinction between literary and genre fiction:
“Genre fiction” is a nasty phrase – when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature – and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing.
Jane Austen, she says, “never for a moment imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity decided that – not her, not John Murray, not even her contemporary readership. She wrote fiction, to entertain and to make money.”
Nine-tenths of me agrees with her. No, more like 99/100 of me agrees with her – there’s just a tiny little Angry Nerd somewhere inside me who’s jumping up and down, stomping her tiny foot in rage and yelling at the lit-fic crowd to get off my lawn. Anyhow, it’s a thoughtful, well-argued read, and you can see the rest of it here.