Writing and Rhetoric


English; Communication Studies


Price, Heather

Advisor Department

Writing & Rhetoric




genre; reader; text; writer; conventions; mixing

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.


The way in which literary genres are understood shapes how one reads and interacts with different texts. Genre expectations affect both how individuals choose texts to read, and then how those texts are understood. Therefore, labeling literature as a certain genre affects the relationship between writer and reader. Literary nonfiction is unlike most genres as it promises a certain truth to its readers. One cannot deviate too far from “the truth” in nonfiction writing and still fulfill the genre; the relationship a reader has with a text changes if it is not considered “true enough.” Author James Frey, who marketed a fictionalized story as a nonfiction memoir, has received backlash because readers felt lied to after reading a “mislabeled” text. In cases like this, the connection between reader and writer, as well as reader and text is lost. This is because texts can only be understood in the context, or genre, in which they are placed. James Frey’s memoir can no longer be judged upon a genre standard since it cannot claim the truth that nonfiction promises. If this memoir was marketed as fiction instead, all could have been alleviated as his text would have been judged upon a different set of standards. Fiction is most commonly understood as being imaginary, so it is perceived accordingly. Within the fiction genre, there are subcategories like romance, horror, and science fiction. All of these subcategories have their own sets of rules that must be followed in order to stay true to the genre. Some writers like Diana Gabaldon, author of the popular Outlander series, feel as though their works cannot be defined by a certain genre as they do not follow any standard genre conventions. Publishers then must decide how to market a text to make it as successful as possible. However, this marketing may not always align with reader expectations for that genre. Therefore, genre labels impact how one understands and reads literature as a whole. In this project, I aim to push the boundaries of the body of literature. I have compiled information gleaned from both outside sources as well as my own personal research of reading books with ambiguous genres. With this information, I have created a research paper, written a short story, and revised older short stories based on my new-found knowledge of mixed-genre literature.