Letters As/Not A Genre

Jolly, Margaretta and Stanley, Liz (2005) Letters As/Not A Genre. Life Writing, 2 (2). pp. 91-118. ISSN 1448-4528

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Abstract

With the rise of life writing studies, letters have become the subject of an increasing number of interdisciplinary analyses. The following essay ruminates on what common characteristics hold such analyses together and the peculiar difficulties they encounter in theorising a genre that perhaps, out of all writing practices, most exposes the limits of genre theory itself. The essay is written, appropriately, as a dialogue, in which Margarettas Voice asks general, if not straightforwardly generic questions about letters and Lizs Echo answers them in relation to her current two epistolary projects, theorizing the epistolarium, and editing a new Olive Schreiner collected letters for publication. The echo here is a voice that, unlike most echoes, answers back in an argumentative way. While Margaretta suggests that letters are proto-genres whose distinctive yet infinitely malleable features can be best understood through the social and literary codes of relationship, Liz explains how, after her scepticism about the concept of genre in her influential The Auto/Biographical I, she understands what makes Schreiners letters distinctive.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Centre for Community Engagement
Depositing User: Margaretta Jolly
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:14
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2012 09:19
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30448
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