Genre Vs. Form

I hadn’t thought much about the differences between genre and form until class on Thursday when we attempted to define each term.  Both genre and form are methods in which we attempt to categorize works of writing, art, music, film, etc.  Each well defined genre and form has a stereotypical set of characteristics.  In order for us to categorize a work, it must carry at least some of these expected characteristics.

In my opinion form and genre are essentially different, though they tend to overlap.  I think the key difference between genre and form is the role of content.  Within a genre, stereotypical aspects of content are expected to be present.  For example, a work within the mystery genre would be expected to have a mystery, suspects, a detective of some sort, clues, etc.  while work within the romantic comedy genre likely has the protagonist girl, funny best friend, protagonist boy, conflict between protagonists, romantic resolution, etc.  These components are not always present in the strictly stereotypical manner, however in order for us to classify a work in a genre we require at least some of these characteristics.  For this reason, a work can meet the general specifications of multiple genres, such as a comedic mystery.

Form, on the other hand, does not specify content.  For instance a newspaper article is a form of writing that can be about any variety of topics ranging from sports to politics to arts and beyond.  Despite this difference, form and genre do intersect as certain forms of writing are more commonly associated with certain genres.  For instance, a work designated as a Western would most likely be in the form of a novel or short story rather than a poem.  However, some genres lend themselves to a broader range of forms.  Looking at reflective narratives, for example, it would not be uncommon to see a work in this genre in the form of a poem, novel, short story, or film.  Moreover, unlike genre form does not overlap with itself so easily.  A novel would not likely be characterized as a poem or a news article as well.  In a sense, form is used as a subcategory for genre.  Defining form is a simpler, more direct process and leaves less room for interpretation.  Genre is more variant due to the role of content in its definition.

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