Hugh Kenner, in a discussion of Eliot's The Waste Land, notes how comforting it would be to critics if only one had a name for the sort of poem that The Waste Land is.Indeed, the comfort to be found in categorization of literature is a general one, forming as it does the basis of the whole field of genre criticism. Such categorization is not always easy, however. For example, when Melville's Moby-Dick was first published in England (as The Whale), a reviewer in the Britannia wrote that he was "at a loss to determine in what category of works of amusement to place it. It is certainly neither a novel nor a romance, although it is made to drag its weary length through three closely printed volumes, and is published by Bentley, who, par excellence, is the publisher of novels of the fashionable world, for who ever heard of a novel or romance without a heroine or a single love scene?" Indeed, much of the reaction to Melville's perplexing book involved puzzled attempts to classify it and thereby render it tame. American reviewers, perhaps less steeped in tradition than their British counterparts, seemed less determined to fit the book into preexisting categories, but instead were often content to announce it as the beginning of a new genre all its own, calling it such things as an "intellectual chowder," a "Whaliad," and a "prose epic."
How to Cite:
Booker, M.K., (1987). Gravity's Novel: A Note on the Genre of Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon Notes. (20-21), pp.61–68. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.334