Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace

Hardcover | October 4, 2016

byJeremy Rosen

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How do genres develop? In what ways do they reflect changing political and cultural trends? What do they tell us about the motivations of publishers and readers? Combining close readings and formal analysis with a sociology of literary institutions and markets, Minor Characters Have Their Day offers a compelling new approach to genre study and contemporary fiction. Focusing on the booming genre of books that transform minor characters from canonical literary texts into the protagonists of new works, Jeremy Rosen makes broader claims about the state of contemporary fiction, the strategies of the publishing industry over recent decades, and the function of literary characters.

Rosen traces the recent surge in "minor-character elaboration" to the late 1960s and works such as Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. These early examples often recover the voices of marginalized individuals and groups. As the genre has exploded between the 1980s and the present, with novels about Ahab's wife, Huck Finn's father, and Mr. Dalloway, it has begun to embody the neoliberal commitments of subjective experience, individual expression, and agency. Eventually, large-scale publishers capitalized on the genre as a way to appeal to educated audiences aware of the prestige of the classics and to draw in identity-based niche markets. Rosen's conclusion ties the understudied evolution of minor-character elaboration to the theory of literary character.

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How do genres develop? In what ways do they reflect changing political and cultural trends? What do they tell us about the motivations of publishers and readers? Combining close readings and formal analysis with a sociology of literary institutions and markets, Minor Characters Have Their Day offers a compelling new approach to genre ...

Jeremy Rosen is an assistant professor of English at the University of Utah. His work has been published in New Literary History, Contemporary Literature, and Post45.

other books by Jeremy Rosen

Format:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:October 4, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231177445

ISBN - 13:9780231177443

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Three Axes of Genre Study1. Active Readers and Flexible Forms: The Emergence of Minor-Character Elaboration, 1966-19712. The Real and Imaginary Politics of Minor-Character Elaboration, 1983-20143. "An Insatiable Market" for Minor Characters: Genre in the Contemporary Literary Marketplace4. The Logic of Characters' Virtual LivesCoda: Genre as Telescopic MethodAppendix: Minor-Character Elaborations Since 1966NotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

To have discovered a fictional genre thriving unnoticed in the postwar literary field would have been impressive enough. Minor Characters Have Their Day does much more than this, contributing brilliantly to the study of genre as such. Lively, lucid, and persuasive, its reach will be very wide.