Notes on Literature, Reading, and Writing: Categorising Fiction 1

When reading fiction and writing about it I instinctively categorise. Doing so helps me articulate to myself the mechanics of the narrative, why certain narrative elements work or don’t work, how and why they come together, the motivations of the characters and why they do what they do and so on. Increasingly, I feel my reading experiences are incomplete without this articulation process. However, I also realised that I have not articulated to myself either the categories into which I place what I read or the fundamental elements of the categorisation process. This is the first part of an attempt to do so.

The categories themselves are not sacrosanct; they evolve and mature as I continue to read and write. The elements of the process underlying the categorisation, however, are grounded in the fundamental conflicts of fiction. The concerns of most fiction are, in my opinion, the resolution or reconciliation of one or more conflicting elements (themes, ideas, choices, convictions, beliefs, genre tropes et cetera). The way these resolutions or reconciliations are brought about or brought together lends itself, I feel, to a natural, layered, and possibly hierarchical categorisation.

This part is just a listing out of what I feel, at this point of time and at this stage in my life as a reader, are the concerns of fiction and the layered categories that they lead to. In a subsequent note I will attempt to elaborate on both and how they map into each other, and also on the layers within the categories.

The Concerns of Fiction

  1. The reconciliation of the cosmic and the fantastic
  2. The reconciliation of the cosmic and the domestic.
  3. The reconciliation of the fantastic and the domestic.
  4. The reconciliation of the artificial and abstract and the human.
  5. The reconciliation of the real and the human or, giving “the mundane its beautiful due.”
  6. The reconciliation of man and woman.

Categories of Fiction

  1. The Cosmic Narrative: Science Fiction, Fiction with Religious or Theological Themes
  2. The Human Narrative: Modern and Classic Literary Fiction
  3. The Fantastic Narrative: Fantastic, Mythological, and Mythologizing Fiction
  4. The Genre Narrative: Modern and Classic Literary Genre Fiction, Popular Fiction
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