From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In genre theory and narratology body genres refer to genres that have an effect on the audience's body. These genres produce a physical effect, catching the body in the grip of an intense sensation or emotion, making the body display a physical reaction.
The concept was first brought forward by Richard Dyer in his essay "Male gay porn: Coming to terms" (1985):
- "The fact that porn, like weepies, thrillers and low comedy, is realized in/through the body has given it low status in our culture. Popularity these genres have, but arbiters of cultural status still tend to value "spiritual" over "bodily" qualities, and hence relegate porn and the rest to an inferior cultural position."
The term "body genre" was coined by film scholar Carol J. Clover in "Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film" (1987) to designate "the sensation or "body" genres, horror and pornography, the only two genres specifically devoted to the arousal of bodily sensation".
In "Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess" (Film Quarterly, 1991) Linda Williams expanded the definition to include melodrama: "I am expanding Clover's notion of low body genres to include the sensation of overwhelming pathos in the "weepie.""
The physical reactions in body genres are:
- horror (and thriller): the fear causes the physical reaction of trembling produced by adrenaline, of sweating, chills and possibly goose bumps
- erotica and pornography: the physical reaction is sexual arousal, tumescence, vaginal lubrication and orgasm
- comedy and humour: the physical reaction is laughter
- melodrama: the physical reaction is crying which produces tears, the genre is also called a "tearjerker".
Similarly, in music, a distinction can be made between mind and body genres. The example of a musical genre with a focus towards the body is dance music.