Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism offers an excellent overview of the importance of genre and the conventions of genre in both the making and the interpreting of a text. I've found it, over the years, a very useful paradigm for approaching any work, including even films or books that are very much treated as "pop culture," as if that somehow implies they are unworthy of more serious attention. I wrote some months back about Hollywood films and how Frye's thought might be applied to a certain trend we see coming from Hollywood these days.
I really love some of the things Frye has to say about the fantastic, and its place in the world of literature and art. His chapter on Romance (summer) has a lot to offer to any reader or writer who wants to approach fantasy and speculative fiction with a critical awareness of genre conventions. His work is one I would highly recommend for its erudite yet accessible approach to genre studies.
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