Defining the Action Genre

Action Literature

Part 1: Defining the Action Genre

Although in “Questions of Genre” Neal argues that “elaborate definitions [of genres] always seem to throw up exceptions” (p. 189), you will define “action genre” as a

way to historically contextualize the work you are proposing for the film festival. Your definition will be shared with both film studies experts and action genre

fans; keep the expectations of both of these audiences in mind as you craft your definition.

In “Action and Adventure as Genre” Tasker claims “action is not an interruption of cinematic story-telling, but part of it” (p. 17) and although Selbo calls action a

“prescriptive genre” (p. 230), she also argues that the elements of the action film must contribute to the construction of the story. Your definition for action genre

will need to account for conventions of both story and style as well as social functions (Bordwell, Thompson’s, & Smith Chapter 9). Some terms that might help you

explore these three areas include: iconography, repetition & difference, semantic, syntactic, purpose, intended audience, and audience expectations.

You definition of the action genre must include at least seven (7) characteristics/criteria. Your characteristics/criteria should reference specific film elements as

discussed in Film Art Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. You also should reference scholarly definitions and descriptions of the action genre (cite at least four (4) of the

critics we have read so far this term). While defining your criteria, use evidence from films as examples of your criteria. You need to pull evidence twice (2) from

each of the following:

the J&H films you’ve watched (the two pieces of evidence can be from only one or any number of the J&H films),

your focused film, and

one (or more) other “action” film(s) you have watched sometime previously (note: any of the other film suggestions could work for this).

Put your definition in dialogue with at least four (4) of the following ten (10) texts. You might use one of these texts to support a

description/characteristic/criteria or to argue against a specific interpretation of a concept or idea. These texts should help you to both figure out how to define a

genre as what specific characteristics/criteria to associate with action as a genre.

Bordwell’s, Thompson’s, & Smith’s chapter on Genre (Chapter 9 in Film Art)

Selbo’s Chapter 1, “Film Genre for the Screen,” from Film Genre for the Screenwriter.

Neal’s “Questions of Genre” (Chapter 14 on in Film Genre Reader IV).

Tasker’s Chapter 1, “Action and Adventure as Genre,” from The Hollywood Action and Adventure Film.

O’Brien’s “Introduction” from Action Movies.

Wilcox’s Descriptosaurus: Action & Adventure

Altman’s “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre” (Chapter 3 on in Film Genre Reader IV).

Williams’ “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess” (Chapter 13 on in Film Genre Reader IV).

Selbo’s “Action” (pp. 229-248) in from Film Genre for the Screenwriter.

Bordwell’s “Anatomy of an Action Picture.”

For Part 1, I’m imagining you will have a 1-2 paragraph introduction, 7 “body” paragraphs (one for each criteria and the discussion of the examples), and a conclusion.

I can imagine shorter versions (where you group together criteria and examples under headings like story, style, and social functions); however, be careful, make sure

they are still distinct criteria. You may find using subheadings helpful; however, they are not required (for example, you might group together “narrative” versus

“formal” criteria).

You must use both in-text citations and include a works cited list for Part 1.

Part 2: Action Festival Proposal

In the proposal you will argue that your text and film pairing should be considered for the Action Adaptation Fiction & Film festival because the film meets the

majority of your criteria defining the action genre. In short:

What: the film you selected in your text/film pairing;

Why: because your film fits the definition of action as you articulated it in Part 1.

In this argument you should primarily be using evidence from the film; however, it might be helpful to occasionally reference the alphabetic text. Your action festival

proposal should be no longer than 1 page, single space. You only need to use in-text citations for Part 2.

Alternate Part 2 Prompt: If you do not feel your selected novel and text pairing makes for a good proposal for this festival, pretend you are one of the committee

members assessing proposals. You need to provide a justification for why the pairing does not fit with this festival.

You will need to follow MLA citation style for your proposal (both in-text and full bibliographic citations for a Works Cited list at the end of the document). Please

note that MLA recently published the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook; we’ll be following those guidelines (If you are an English major, I highly suggest you purchase

it. It’s only 130 pages and a very quick read!). Use the following examples to help:

In-text citations

Textbook: I’m assuming you’ll only be using parenthetical citations to cite paraphrases and/or direct quotes; use “(Bordwell et al. ##)” with “##” the place holder

for page numbers.


If you are referencing the title of the film in the text, give the title in italics and year in parentheses: “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)”

If you are referencing, do a timestamp instead of page numbers within the parenthetical in-text citation: “00.00.00” for hours, minutes, and seconds.

Note: MLA doesn’t require timestamps; however, they are the equivalent of page numbers for texts like films, television episodes, songs, podcasts, etc. In

this class you are required to reference specific sections of your film by using timestamps.

If you are doing a complete parenthetical in-text citation, it will look something like (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde 1920, 00.00.00).

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