Genre vs. Form

After our conversation in class about the true meaning of genre and how it impacts literature and readers, I realized that I had never really given the word much thought. However, after clarifying what genre truly means, I find making the distinction between genre and form quite easy. As discussed on Thursday, genres are a set of classifications that indicate what content is likely to be present within a piece of writing, a movie, a song, etc. When we go to see the newest action movie, we approach it with a certain expectation of what we are about to experience. We know there will be violence, weapons, bad guys, good guys, typically a strong male lead, most likely romance, and many more signifiers that trigger our recognition that the movie is true to its categorization as an action movie.

While genre is an indicator of content, form on the other hand is an indicator of shape; what shape will the piece of literature, movie, or song take? In literature, the content could manifest itself in the form of an essay, poetry, a short story, novel, etc. As I express my thoughts right now, I am using the outlet of a blog post. And as with genre, this type of form comes with a set of expectations that prepare the audience and provide them with an understanding of what they are about to experience. If the reader is about to begin a novel, they are aware that there will be a fictitious plot line, saturated with a conflict and consequent resolution, it will be book length, contain protagonists and antagonists, etc. Therefore, the fundamental difference between genre and form is that while genre pertains to the contents of the work, form provides the broader framework within which the work will be situated in. However, while these two concepts differ immensely, they also possess similarities in that they both come with expectations.

Comparing these concepts to a house, the form would be the physical structuring of the building. What is the house made out of? How tall is it? What’s the layout on the inside? However, inside the house is where the genre lies. Who is inside the house? How do they interact? What is going on in their lives? Using this analogy, you can understand the key dissimilarity between genre and form, but also understand how they both play a crucial role in informing an audience about what’s to follow.