The class we're taking, Literature of Horror, Fanstay & Sci-Fi, for which I created this blog, main purpose (from what I understand) is to discuss genre, it's subcategories and what defines each of them. Although a keen reader, who will gobble up mostly any work of literature put infront of me, I must admit that, before taking this class, I had no idea there was such a distinction as genre vs. literary fiction. From what I gather, after discussing it in class and reading up on it some more, while genre has certain elements that distinguishes one from the other, literary fiction is harder to place, falling in to either several or neither of the genre categories. While genre also focuses more on entertainment, literary fiction tries rather to emphasize meaning. This can be done through evocative language, thematic purpose and dimensional characters. And then of course, there are some works of fiction who falls into both categories.
So the question arises, is one better or more important than the other? To this, my instant response would be no. While understanding the presence of genre, as a way to not confuse the reader (or the writer) too much in what the work is trying to communicate, and by way of more easily finding what you're looking for in the bookstore, they each have something of worth to communicate.
I found it interesting to hear from our teacher that, even as late as by the time Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings came out, genre wasn't really a thing, but is rather something that has arisen after that. And now, all of a sudden, there are people that frown if you can't place your work into a genre, or if you have elements that border between the genres.
Then I wonder, have we always been such snobs when it comes to literature? As long as the work is well written and enjoyed by the reader as well as the writer, what difference does it make weather or not the work can fall into a certain category, really? Personally I find that works of literature that are more free and playful in it's expression; books that does not worry so much about what category they fall into, but rather that is formed in a way that works best for the story it's trying to convey, weather it be genre or literary, are the ones I enjoy reading the most, and are also the ones I learn the most from. Good examples of this are the stories created by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett who doesn't necessarily fall in to any genre, and writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, and Nicolas Sparks, who clearly falls into the distinction of romance and drama; yet they're all writers who are cherished and appreciated across the globe.
I do think it's a good thing genre exists, if nothing else to create that variety by having certain guidelines, but I find it equally important to be able to break from those guidelines without being frowned upon. Because in order to convey a truly great story, how important is categorisation, really?