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Notions of Genre

Notions of Genre
Writings on Popular Film Before Genre Theory

With articles by such luminaries as Susan Sontag, Dwight Macdonald, Siegfried Kracauer, James Agee, André Bazin, Robert Warshow, and Claude Chabrol, this anthology is the only single-volume source for important early writing on genre films.

November 2016
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304 pages | 6 x 9 | Hardcover has a printed case, no dust jacket | 57 b&w photos |

Much of the writing in film studies published today can be understood as genre criticism, broadly speaking. And even before film studies emerged as an academic discipline in the 1970s, cultural observers within and beyond the academy were writing about genre films and making fascinating attempts to understand their conventions and how they speak to, for, and about the culture that produces them. While this early writing on genre film was often unsystematic, impressionistic, journalistic, and judgmental, it nonetheless produced insights that remain relevant and valuable today.

Notions of Genre gathers the most important early writing on film genre and genre films published between 1945 and 1969. It includes articles by such notable critics as Susan Sontag, Dwight Macdonald, Siegfried Kracauer, James Agee, André Bazin, Robert Warshow, and Claude Chabrol, as well as essays by scholars in academic disciplines such as history, sociology, and theater. Their writings address major issues in genre studies, including definition, representation, ideology, audiences, and industry practices, across genres ranging from comedy and westerns to horror, science fiction, fantasy, gangster films, and thrillers. The only single-volume source for this early writing on genre films, Notions of Genre will be an invaluable resource for scholars and students of film genre, film history, film theory, cultural studies, and popular culture.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Barry Keith Grant and Malisa Kurtz)
  • Part I. Comedy
    • 1. Comedy’s Greatest Era (James Agee)
    • 2. Silent Film Comedy (Siegfried Kracauer)
    • 3. Uncle Sam’s Funny Bone (Allen Eyles)
    • 4. Whatever Happened to Hollywood Comedy? (Dwight Macdonald)
    • 5. The Evolution of the Chase in the Silent Screen Comedy (Donald W. McCaffrey)
    • 6. From Kops to Robbers: Transformation of Archetypal Figures in the American Cinema of the 1920s and '30s (Carolyn and Harry Geduld)
  • Part II. The Western
    • 7. The Psychological Appeal of the Hollywood Western (Frederick Elkin)
    • 8. The Western, or the American Film Par Excellence (André Bazin)
    • 9. The Olympian Cowboy (Harry Schein)
    • 10. The Changing Cowboy: From Dime Novel to Dollar Film (George Bluestone)
    • 11. Sociological Symbolism of the "Adult Western" (Martin Nussbaum)
    • 12. Puritanism Revisited: An Analysis of the Contemporary Screen-Image Western (Peter Homans)
  • Part III. The Fantastic
    • 13. Supernaturalism in the Movies (Parker Tyler)
    • 14. Reflections on Horror Movies (Robert Brustein)
    • 15. A Brief, Tragical History of the Science Fiction Film (Richard Hodgens)
    • 16. The Imagination of Disaster (Susan Sontag)
    • 17. Extrapolative Cinema (Ivor A. Rogers)
    • 18. Even a Man Who Is Pure at Heart: Poetry and Danger in the Horror Film (R. H. W. Dillard)
  • Part IV. Crime and Punishment
    • 19. The Gangster as Tragic Hero (Robert Warshow)
    • 20. Evolution of the Thriller (Claude Chabrol)
    • 21. Toward a Definition of Film Noir (Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton)
    • 22. Paint It Black: The Family Tree of the Film Noir (Raymond Durgnat)
    • 23. Introduction to The Gangster Film (John Baxter)
  • Index

St. Catharines, Ontario, CanadaGrant is a professor in the Department of Communications, Popular Culture, and Film at Brock University.

St. Catharines, Ontario, CanadaKurtz received her PhD from Brock University in Interdisciplinary Humanities.


“Original and important. This anthology demonstrates that our immediate predecessors were often highly perceptive and indeed, in some cases, were making a clear case that movies and popular culture of all sorts deserved to be taken seriously. The selection of essays is outstanding.”
Rick Worland, Southern Methodist University, author of The Horror Film: An Introduction

“By bringing together the major critics writing on film in the pre-theory era, this anthology helps to advance the study of cinema genres and also to acquaint new readers to this older tradition of excellent critical commentary.”
Stephen Prince, Virginia Tech, author of Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film and coeditor of An Introduction to Film Genres


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