48.1, Spring/Summer 2010
Kelly Hurley, editor
This special issue of ELN explores the ways in which particular genres are associated with particular affective states. It is especially concerned with popular genres that specialize in the representation and solicitation of excessive affect, including melodrama, sentimentalism, the Gothic, horror, and suspense. Historically, critics have disparaged such popular genres for their vulgarity and aesthetic crudeness, and warned against their perceived tendency to dangerously overstimulate and otherwise corrupt their consumers. This special issue is concerned with the critical reception of popular genres in different periods and amongst different social and national groups. But this issue also works to take popular genres seriously in their attempts to arouse strong affective response, and ask, by what strategies (narrative, rhetorical, visual, and so forth) do they accomplish that? And why is the evocation of strong, even violent emotion desirable for the consumer if not the critic of popular genres?