Generic innovation and social change : the American thriller in the 1970s

Cobley, Paul (1993) Generic innovation and social change : the American thriller in the 1970s. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


The following thesis explores the relationship between generic innovation and social change. It identifies a number of approaches to genre whose common feature is a theory of genre according to which the generic text is a relatively stable entity whose main internal features are empirically identifiable and subject to little change. The thesis will address the problems entailed in such approaches, particularly two central deficiencies: firstly, the inability to give an account of innovation within a generic framework; secondly, the difficulties that arise in analysing the role of readership when genre is theorized as a static structure. It will be argued that generic texts - and innovations across generic texts - are characterized by readings rather than by internal textual characteristics. It will also be argued that the predominance of text-based definitions of genre has had a long-term effect on the constitution of generic corpuses.

The alternative model of genre proposed by this thesis focuses on the means by which generic texts might be thought to embody innovations at certain moments in history. This will be demonstrated in a case study of a specific period during which the political character of the thriller seems to have fundamentally changed in a hitherto unprecedented way. The thesis will concentrate on the American thriller in the 1970s, attending to the connection between readings of thrillers and crucial political events such as Watergate. Following a survey of what might be thought to be the key discursive features of the history of the 1970s, the thriller in the period will be approached in two ways: in relation to its historical existence, and in relation to its existence in a particular 'regime of reading'. The thesis will seek to establish, therefore, what determines the relationship of contemporary discourses regarding social change in 1970s America and potential readings of thrillers in the period.

Throughout its history the thriller has often been found to be made up of a number of subgenres; it will be argued that readings of these subgenres are determined in a historically specific manner. The thesis will consider some of the chief examples of thriller subgenres in the 1970s in terms of potential contemporary readings of them and in relation to previous theoretical approaches.

volume 1
259821_Vol1.pdf - Published Version

Download (31MB) | Preview
volume 2
259821_Vol2.pdf - Published Version

Download (35MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item