Whether a book is a “good book” is a matter not only of taste but also of genre. The genre of every book sets up certain expectations which the reader must engage and assess in order to understand the text. The reader uses genre to differentiate among multiple ways in which texts “work.” Genre minimally enables the reader to avoid the uncritical expectation that the success or failure of a text depends on the presence or absence of a particular theme. Maximally, a generic analysis can suggest new ways of disclosing the religious significance of literary texts. Genre as hypothesis provides a heuristic method for interpreting a text by itself and in relation to others. Generic analysis overcomes the deficiencies of thematic analysis to show how Mary Gordon's Final Payments succeeds as an action novel and The Company of Women as an apologue.
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