On Genre Identification

The genre of a text is crucial to its interpretation. If you don’t know the genre, it’s almost certain you will misunderstand the text. And this doesn’t just apply to ancient texts. Take a look at the first three paragraphs of this Charles Hurt piece from The Washington Times.

On the very weekend America paused to remember all those whose sacrifices are the blood fruit of our freedom, rolling in like thunder, clad in black leather, was yet another red-white-and-blue bundle of American sacrifice and patriotism.
Just in time to ensure that no backyard barbecue anywhere in America was without joy, debate, rancor, confusion, fist-fights, something.
Back into our lives rode Sarah of Alaska, Maid of the Bering Sea, devoured, ogled and debated by the masses.

If this isn’t enough for you to get the idea, you can read the whole thing. Yes, Hurt does compare Palin with Joan of Arc and, on at least one count, he seems to find Joan of Arc wanting.
Is this piece irony, parody, or, as Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars suggests, hagiography? Not all evidence for genre is necessarily internal. The fact that this weird piece is in The Washington Times lends considerable weight to Ed’s position.
But would even the most enamored hagiographer claim in seriousness that Saran Palin “submitted to a two hour documentary?” It moggles the bind.
Update: Fixed error. Somehow I said “Washington Post” when I meant “Washington Times.” Thanks Dan for pointing it out.

2 thoughts on “On Genre Identification”

  1. There’s a Washington Times and a Washington Post in my driveway every morning, but the Post is for me and the Times is for my neighbor. Please don’t confuse them.

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