Genre Editorial Statement

 

            Since it began publication at Chicago Circle in 1968, Genre has been an independent scholarly journal, funded by its subscribers and for most of its history staffed by faculty and graduate students through the institutional support of the University of Oklahoma, where the journal moved in 1975. That arrangement has worked very well, allowing us the freedom to chart our own course through a period of great intellectual ferment and diversification, but the tremendous transformation in scholarly exchange that has come about over the past decade as a result of new electronic and digital media has given Genre the opportunity to join together with its peer publications in order to meet the challenges of this new era in scholarly publication. To that end, we have allied with Duke University Press, one of the most adventurous and esteemed publishers of both books and journals in the humanities and cultural studies, to bring Genre to readers in a new way. The journal will continue to appear in print as it always has, with Duke handling physical production and distribution, but it will now be available online as well, through the eDuke Journals portal. New issues will be the first to become available digitally, but back issues will also be digitized and made available online over the coming years. We hope that this new avenue for access to the scholarship we publish will not only increase the ease with which current readers consult Genre but also expand the range of our readership as well as the range of our contributors.

          On behalf of Genre’s editorial board, I want to assure all our readers that our alliance with Duke University Press will in no way constrain or restrict our editorial independence; our peer-review process will be unaffected and our standards for acceptance will remain rigorous. The new resources that this alliance makes available to us promise to open up opportunities that would have been unthinkable before. We will continue to chart our own course as we have for the past forty-three years, and we encourage you to participate in our project as readers, reviewers, contributors and guest editors according to the terms of our editorial mandate:

 

          While maintaining a longstanding interest in the conventions and discursive histories of generic forms, we at Genre intend to emphasize more fully the intricate relations between genre and its social, institutional, cultural and political contexts.  We aim to stress the broad range of material affiliations that activate generic form in a dynamic field of socio-historical and discursive practices.  This orientation has several components.  To begin with, it signals an interest in nonliterary as well as literary discourses, in visual, musical, filmic or architectural artifacts, as well as written texts.  It encourages explorations of "high" and "low" art forms, including their relation to mass and popular culture.  In broader terms, its goal is to stimulate a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to genre and its social functions.  Our outlook promotes historical perspectives on genre, including efforts to evaluate the merits of previous approaches to genre and compare them with those of more recent formulations.  Finally, it highlights an explicit concern with the theoretical, institutional or political dimensions of discourse, a concern that includes international perspectives on genre.

          We encourage work that studies the relation between discursive forms and cultural formations without taking for granted either of the terms of our subtitle--discourse or culture.   The word discourse encompasses the entire range of possible written, visual and auditory generic forms, while culture registers the suggestive convergence of artistic, social and institutional practices.  But both terms, rather than setting out secured categories or signaling a particular critical perspective, are intended as markers of general terrain whose contours should be reexamined, and whose borders will undoubtedly be disputed and redefined.  Over the last four decades, the study of genre as cultural discourse has been pursued in many individual articles published by Genre, as well as in virtually every special issue we have commissioned, from The Forms of Power and the Power of Forms in the Renaissance (1982) to Narratives and New Media (2008).

          The journal has consistently striven to be responsive to recent critical developments, especially those in the disciplines of literature and language study.  Our perspective is best summarized in the term "cultural studies," provided that the term is understood in its broadest sense.  It draws upon work related to feminist, gender, gay and lesbian, multi-ethnic, post-colonial and globalization studies, as well as the varieties of cultural materialist, Marxist and New Historicist criticism, particularly those that have taken up the challenges to traditional ideas of aesthetic and political representation posed by structuralist, poststructuralist and postmodernist critique.  To a great extent, this diverse body of work has challenged older historical or humanist approaches, but it also shares with its predecessors a general perception of the importance of history.  That emphasis has, in turn, reestablished genre as a crucial category of study, though now the relation between individual texts and larger discursive and social networks has been taken in new conceptual, cultural and international directions.  With that in mind, the journal invites articles that treat genre, conceived as any regularity in discourse or culture, from all theoretical perspectives.

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          The preceding three paragraphs constitute a revised and condensed version of the statement of editorial principles announced in issue XXV:1 of Genre (spring 1992).  Those principles, composed by the editorial collective, are still very much in force, after eighteen years that have seen the widespread adoption of similar principles by a substantial fraction of scholars in the humanities and allied disciplines.  What, then, now sets Genre apart from other forums for critical work?

First, a willingness to push the boundaries of accepted interdisciplinarity further, to construct pathways from literary and cultural artifacts not only to the oft-visited terrains of history, political science, psychology, and philosophy, but also to those more seldom mapped, like music and architecture, and even to those that lie seemingly beyond the fields we know: the physical sciences and mathematics.  If there is a genre of scholarship best suited for the work that Genre seeks to encourage and publish, it is the travelers' tale.   But where traditional travelers' tales are credulous, critical travelers' tales must be skeptical; where traditional travelers' tales are exoticist, taking one culture as a center of reference in order to distance the other, critical travelers' tales must be decentered.  But these important distinctions should not obscure the essential continuity that justifies the metaphor: all travelers' tales, the critical as well as the traditional, are constituted by a voyage out and a voyage in.  Whether we call this structure dialectical or differential, we must acknowledge that, done well, it produces a form of counter-illumination of each terrain by the other and of both by their relation that is the goal of all truly interdisciplinary work.

          Second, Genre sets itself apart through our determination to be a point of passage for debates taking place not only in many disciplines, but in many languages and locales as well.  While Genre's languages of publication will continue to be the varieties of English, the journal will also make space available for translations of important critical and theoretical texts published around the globe.  Since no editorial group, no matter how large and dedicated it may be, can remain current with all debates in all places, we call upon our contributors and readers to supplement the editors' efforts by suggesting relevant texts for translation or, preferably, by submitting translations as well as original articles for review.  Such translations may form the nuclei of special issues or stand on their own in our general issues.

          We hope you will follow the reports of our critical travels, and send us news of your own.

Timothy S. Murphy
General Editor