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Defining Genre in Film, Literature and Other Arts
Toronto, May 2002


The Canadian Semiotic Association will be having its annual conference in
Toronto May 26-27-28 2002.

Defining genres

Genres offer ways of categorizing forms of experience - be it the
production or reception of works of art. Since all thinking involves a
process of "sorting out" and synthesis, genres could be considered the
result of a "natural phenomenon." Whether prescriptive or descriptive,
genre requires selecting certain features that works of art "possess" :
modes of address and aspects of plot (as in Aristotle's Poetics),
iconographic characteristics (in film and painting), certain intended
responses (e.g., the horror film, the melodrama, comedy, pornography,
etc). In each case a selection must be made, since one cannot describe a
genre by considering all aspects of works of art. Initial questions
concern the basis of this selection : What are the traits considered
pertinent for the generic classification of works of art (i.e., what are
the boundaries of genre)? On what basis ? How have these traits changed
over historical periods (in cinema, for instance, several genres from the
early silent days are said to have disappeared: have they really ? or has
our understanding of film - and of what constitutes a pertinent generic
trait - changed ?) What is the degree of generality of such traits ? A
second set of questions concerns the ontological and metaphysical status
of genre : are genres "real" or are they "mere" words by which we
arbitrarily designate discursive objects ? Should they be considered as a
"language game" (Wittgenstein) ? These are just a few of the question this
panel seeks to discuss as it attempts to engage with artistic genres in
film, literature, and all of the other arts.

150-300 words paper proposals should be sent (e-mail or snail mail) by
Friday March 15 2002 to the attention of :

Dr. Martin Lefebvre
Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Concordia University
FB 319
1455 de Maisonneuve, West
Montreal (Quebec), Canada
H3G 1M8