Genre is one of the essential categories for the analysis of popular culture. A genre is a "kind" of work, suggesting an exercise in classification, but genres are also formulas that artists draw upon for the production of artworks and conventions that enable consumers to make sense of new works based on their knowledge of previous works in the same category. Genres should not be understood as rules or restrictions so much as enabling mechanisms that allow popular culture to be easily consumed and broadly appreciated. All works are born from a mixture of invention and convention. A work that is pure invention is unlikely to be fully understood or appreciated; a work that is pure convention is likely to be boring and uninteresting. Popular aesthetics centers around this effort then to reach the right balance between invention and convention.

My own work has explored a broad range of genres -- comedy, science fiction, melodrama, horror, exploitation films, erotica, children's films, and many others. In this work, I have tended to emphasize the complexity of genre categories, looking at works that straddle genre traditions and focusing on the ways that audiences negotiate between competing genre framings of the same work. For example, my essay, "The Amazing Push-Me/Pull-You Text: Cognitive Processing, Narrational Play and the Comic Film", first published in Wide Angle, drew on cognitive theory to explain how readers made use of genres in making sense of works of popular fiction and then suggested some of the complexities of applying this approach to answer the question of how we know that a film is intended to be taken as a comedy.

"It's Not a Fairy Tale Any More!': Gender, Genre, Beauty and the Beast", which first appeared in the Journal of the University Film and Video Association and was later expanded for publication in my book, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, dealt with conflicting understanding of genre between the producers and viewers of the television series, Beauty and the Beast, using genre theory to better understand how fans fall in and out of harmony with commercial media texts.

"Do You Enjoy Making The Rest of Us Feel Stupid:, The Trickster Author and Viewer Mastery," which appeared in David Lavery (Ed.) Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks, deals with Twin Peaks as a work which sparked a high degree of audience speculation in part because it combined mystery and soap opera, both genres which, in their own way, encourage readers to search for secrets hidden within the narrative.

In "Monsters Next Door," written as a dialogue with my son, we draw tools from the study of horror, melodrama, and youth media to explore what Buffy the Vampire Slayer might tell us about how teens negotiate tensions with their parents and other adult authorities as they seek to find their own place in the world.

"Shall We Make It for New York or For Distribution?: Eddie Cantor, Whoopee and Regional Resistance to the Talkies", which was first published in Cinema Journal and later in What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic, I look at the commercial basis for genre mixing, suggesting that Eddie Cantor's films were understood as musicals in New York and other major cities where Broadway entertainment was popular and as comedian comedies in the hinterlands where musicals were facing resistance from audience members and exhibitors.

"Tales of Manhattan: Mapping the Urban Imagination Through Hollywood Film", which will appear in a collection on Imaging the City, edited by Lawrence Vale for MIT Press, deals with an unusual genre -- films which attempt to tell the story of Manhattan. Here, I draw on the ideas of Kevin Lynch, a theorist of urban spaces, to examine the ways that these works struggle to give coherent shape and narrative structure to the complex experience of living in cities. The works discussed here cut across different genres, traditionally understood, but they may ultimately have more in common with each other than with other works in the same genre.

"Never Trust a Snake!': WWF Wrestling as Masculine Melodrama", which appeared in Adam Barker and Todd Boyd's Out of Bounds: Sports, Media and the Politics of Identity, draws on the theory and criticism of melodrama to better understand the particular appeal of wrestling as "sports entertainment." I argue that wrestling constitutes a form of serial fiction for men, one which can trace its performance and narrative practices back to roots in 19th century popular theater.

I have written two case studies of the ways that artists work with and against the conventions of popular genres: one centering on the exploitation film director Stephanie Rothman who struggles to insert her feminist politics into films intended for a drive-in audience; the other centering on the ways that avant garde artist Matthew Barney appropriates and reworks material from popular entertainment -- especially horror.

My dissertation dealt with the impact of vaudeville on the development of the comedian comedy genre during the early sound period and was later converted into the book, What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic. Here, my focus was on the relationship between genre and performance, a topic I have returned to a number of times in subsequent writings. For example, "That Keaton Fellow Seems to Be the Whole Show': The Interrupted Performance in Buster Keaton's Films", which appeared in Andrew Horton's Buster Keaton's Sherlock Junior, expanded my ideas about comedy and performance to examine the silent screen comedian, Buster Keaton, while "You Don't Say That in English!': The Scandal of Lupe Velez" explores the performance of racial identity within early sound comedy, seeing Velez as a "wild woman" caught somewhere between the scandalous erotic fantasies of the Tijuana bibles and the glamorous ideals of female stardom. Her Mexican identity made it impossible to fully assimilate her into Hollywood standards of beauty and was often used to naturalize the more transgressive aspects of her female comic performance.

Classical Hollywood Comedy, co-edited with Kristine Karnack, provided me with an occasion to outline key aspects of the theory of film comedy, including genre history, gag and narrative, performance, and ideology, each of which was the topic of substantive introductory essays. In "Laughing Stock of the City: Male Dread, Performance Anxiety, and Unfaithfully Yours," I used concepts of comic performance to examine the representation of male dread of women in Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours.

Written with John Tulloch, Science Fiction Audiences: Star Trek, Doctor Who and Their Followers explored why different audience groups were drawn towards science fiction as a genre and how this shaped their rather different experiences of Star Trek and Doctor Who. My interest in science fiction as a genre led me to organize a reading series at MIT that explored how science fiction authors have dealt with issues of media change. Transcripts of these conversations are posted on the Media in Transition website, along with an introductory essay which made the point that science fiction has been one major source of vernacular theory about the cultural and social impact of media change.

Several of my essays examine the emergence of and the long term consequences of gender specific genre categories in children's literature, categories which carry over into more contemporary media works targeting young consumers.

In "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Playspace", which appeared in From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, I suggested that the genre of the boy's adventure story and the boy's computer game drew on similar kinds of "blood and thunder" elements and represented attempts by adults to produce works consistent with boy's backyard play culture. I then draw on other works in the girls book tradition to understand some of the directions being taken within the girls game movement.

"The All-American Handful: Dennis the Menace, Permissive Childrearing and the Bad Boy Tradition", which appeared in Lynn Spigel and Mike Curtin's The Revolution Wasn't Televised: Sixties Television and Social Conflict, I discuss how Dennis the Menace emerged from the bad boy genre in children's literature and contrast bad boys with the sentimental representation of femininity in children's books of the same era.

"Her Suffering Aristocratic Majesty': The Sentimental Value of Lassie", which appeared in Marsha Kinder's Children's Media Culture, shows how one could examine animal stories to better understand the sentimental construction of childhood.

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