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Response & Bio T.J. Gerlach
Question #7) Ron Silliman also argues that “A work without genre makes no sense – not simply because the term is derived from genus, the root for kind, but because to achieve such a state a work would have to cancel out or erase its own sense of form & integrity as it proceeded, constantly dissolving before the reader, & that of itself would constitute its genre.” Can we have a writing that is free from genre distinctions or would it constantly dissolve for the reader in ways that Silliman suggests? That is, would even this dissolution constitute a genre? Moreover, do you feel that by writing prose poems or flash fictions you are consciously resisting certain social divisions and hierarchies manifested in generic literary distinctions? That is, does this form enable (perhaps require) you to make a political statement about form and genre?

The intertwining of genre and politics is a sticky issue. On the one hand, it is nice to think of art as a space where social critique and progress can take place. Yet some of the status quo elements inherent in notions like “form” and “genre” are the very things that enable art to function, to have any meaning at all. For me the most effective works are able to have it both ways. They may blur, or dissolve genre distinctions, but they also reaffirm the pleasure to be had in them. I think of the Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares collaboration Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, which is a brief, but encyclopedic, send-up of almost every trope of the detective genre while simultaneously being a damn good page-turner. Or a little gem like Ron Carlson’s “Disclaimer” which comments on the obvious fiction behind the rhetoric of a “disclaimer” to devastating emotional effect.


T.J. Gerlach has an M.F.A from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver where he currently teaches. His current project is a novel set in Chicago called The Way the World Ends.