This article argues for a cognitive view of genre. Specifically, a cognitive view of categorization helps clarify how texts can participate in multiple genres—by instantiating several different genres more or less equally well and by mixing several genres. I respond to certain recurring assumptions in recent work on genre about the nature of categories and categorization, elaborating on John Frow's incisive critique of misconceptions of genre but correcting his discussion of cognitive poetics. I draw on concept and category research to sketch the three main contemporary approaches to categorization via prototype, exemplar, and knowledge theories. Against this background, I review the many genres that have been attributed to Gravity's Rainbow, then examine three influential generic framings of this text and what the text can tell us about the nature of categories and how people use them. I conclude by discussing the ways this example is particularly revealing about how prototypes, exemplars, and knowledge interact, how experts use categories to understand and experience the very rich and complex realities of their domains of expertise, and how this new understanding of categorization can help clarify Thomas Pynchon's blending of genres.
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Research Article| September 01 2010
Michael Sinding; Framing Monsters: Multiple and Mixed Genres, Cognitive Category Theory, and Gravity's Rainbow. Poetics Today 1 September 2010; 31 (3): 465–505. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2010-003
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