Experiments in Genre
Genre-bending pieces crafted in Beth Ann Fennelly's Honors English 409 Hybrid Genre course.
In the last several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in cross-genre works that blend inheritances from multiple literary parents. In our heterogeneous landscape, such hard-to-define pieces have a new urgency and popularity. Because I wanted to study them further, and I wanted to do with the bright minds of the SMBHC students at my side, I developed a new class on hybrid literature. Nine intrepid students put themselves in my hands and we read some pretty nutty stuff that allowed us to become familiar with the history and possibilities of various hybrid forms, including short-form nonfiction, flash fiction, prose poems, lyric essays, and forms that are hard to label. I decided to teach the class as a true hybrid not only in subject matter but in approach as well, so in addition to reading the individual works, we adapted some techniques from the creative writing workshop, writing zuihitsu (a Japanese form of “flowing ink” or “random” writing that incorporates lists and hermit crab hybrids (a piece of literature that borrows the shell from a non-literary source, as Conor Hultman did in his piece that takes the shape of a crossword) and others. In addition to papers, students produced a short portfolio of genre-busting hybrid work. I have to say, this is one of the most delightful classes I’ve ever had.
Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants and awards from the N.E.A., the United States Artists, a Pushcart, and a Fulbright to Brazil. Fennelly has published three poetry books: Open House, Tender Hooks, and Unmentionables, a book of nonfiction, Great with Child, and The Tilted World, a novel she co-authored with her husband, Tom Franklin. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs will be published by Norton in fall ‘17. Fennelly and Franklin live in Oxford with their three children.