Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction

By George E. Slusser; Eric S. Rabkin | Go to book overview

The Gestation of Genres: Literature, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy . . .

Samuel R. Delany

At the Strasbourg International Colloqium on Genre, in July 1979, French philosopher Jacques Derrida began his essay, "La Loi du genre" with Ne pas meler les genres (Genres are not to be mixed). The essay proceeds by a series of intellectual feints, turns, and interrogations of its own rhetoric, readings of Gérard Genette L'Absolue littéraire and of Maurice Blanchot's limpid fable of vision and blindness, law and the failure of narrativity, crime and the impossibility of punishment, "La Folie du jour," to suggest that such a law--"Genres are not to be mixed."--is, for genres, madness.

Derrida goes on to write: "What if there were, lodged within the heart of the law itself, a law of impurity or a principle of contamination? And suppose the condition for the possibility of the law were the a priori of a counter-law, an axiom of impossibility that would confound its sense, order and reason?"

Excerpting synoptic statements, definitive conclusions, or, indeed, any expressed notion that smacks too much of intellectual closure is notoriously difficult with Derrida's writing, which tends to proceed in a style that reminds me of nothing so much as a white moth in a white cloud, beating its wings against the mist, only to be repelled by it, again and again, as if its particular luminosity were a species of negative light. But in this essay Derrida comes as close to an unself- subverted statement as he does anywhere: "I submit for your consideration the following hypothesis: . . . Every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text; there is always a genre and genres, yet such participation never amounts to belonging. And not

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