Paweł Frelik

Migrating Genres and Politics: A Case of Climate Fiction

Many people like to think that genre is something that lives in a text: a detective story is a detective story because it has a detective in it, and so on. On some level it is, of course, true. (Kind of. Sort of. -ish.) On most other levels, it is not. Genres reside not in the text but in our minds. What we call a given novel or film says little about what actually is in this text and a lot about how and why we want to talk about it. In other words, genres are dynamic, fluid, and very unstable and every single cultural text always belongs to multiple genres. I will try to convince you how and why this is true. In doing so, I will use the case study of climate fiction, a relatively new but very fashionable label, and Interstellar, a major Hollywood movie by Christopher Nolan.

Preparation note:

The minimal option (you have some concept of what I am talking about): 1, 3, and 6
The medium option (you’re actually learning): 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
The best option (you’re learning a lot and leaving the room transformed): all items.

Critical Readings (suggested order)

1. Daniel Chandler “An Introduction to Genre Theory” [PDF]
2. Rick Altman “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre” [PDF]
3. Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow “Cli-Fi: Birth of a Genre”
4. Carolyn Kormann “Scenes from a Melting Planet: On the Climate-Change Novel”

5. John Rieder “On Defining SF, or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History” [PDF]

Film (suggested viewing)

6. Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2014)

Fiction (suggested reading)

7. Paolo Bacigalupi The Windup Girl (2009) [PDF]