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This review is taken from PN Review 176, Volume 33 Number 6, July - August 2007.

GENRE BEYOND THE NOUN JOHN FROW, Genre (Routledge) £11.99

In his interpretation to hexagram 45 'Gathering Together' of the I Ching Wang Bi (226- 249) quotes the Commentary on the Appended Phrases: 'Those with regular tendencies gather according to kind, and things divide up according to group' and expands this with, 'Only when innate tendencies are the same will things gather, and only when material forces are in harmony will things group' (R.J. Lynn's 1994 translation).

The fundamental principles of how genre operates in our daily lives can be said to be encapsulated in those two simple statements (gathering by kind and dividing into groups). But as with all things that appear easy on the surface the implications and ramifications are far reaching. Genre, by John Frow, is a dynamic and lucid exposition on the process of 'how genres actively generate and shape knowledge of the world'.

The book, published in the Routledge series of introductory guides entitled The New Critical Idiom, is not concerned with enforcing or describing any classification of genre upon literary or other discursive media such as film, music, or everyday talk, rather it explores genre as an abstraction: as a powerful force through which we shape, are shaped, and through which we sort out information; gain knowledge; and ultimately extrapolate meaning.

As such, genre turns out to be a two-way process within a cultural milieu that enables us to shift between the various frame or worlds that we co-inhabit. Knowing how ...


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