Jonathan Lethem's Genre Evolutions

James Peacock


The ideas I expound here proceed from an initial, rather broad observation that all of Jonathan Lethem's novels subvert established fictional genres in some way. For example, The Fortress of Solitudedisrupts a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age narrative with elements of fantasy and comic book super-heroics. As She Climbed Across the Table is billed as a "campus comedy," yet allows science fiction to infiltrate its witty satire on academic life. Girl in Landscape is a western set in space. Now, it can of course be argued that any genre is necessarily an unstable category, a somewhat volatile mixture of repeated, conventional elements and the variations that provide an individual text with a sense of identity. Scholars such as Margaret Cohen, in "Traveling Genre," have argued just this, and I take it as axiomatic throughout.

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