Hybridity, Convergence, and the Grotesque

“That the grotesque exists has always been a given. But it is up to the culture to provide the conventions and assumptions that determine its particular forms. Culture does this by establishing conditions of order and coherence, especially by specifying which categories are logically or generically incompatible with which others…. the grotesque is becoming less and less possible¬† because of the pervasive, soupy tolerance of disorder, of the genre mixte…. with the emphasis, especially in literature on non-closural and heterodox works that deliberately skew traditional forms, how can any given point of mixed-mode confusion be called merely an ‘element’? The most conspicuous forms of our culture contribute to this process: in more innocent times it was possible to create a grotesque by mingling human with animal or mechanical elements; but as we learn more about the languages of animals, and teach more and more complex languages to computers, the membranes dividing these realms from that of the human begin to dissolve, and with them go the potentiality for many forms of the grotesque. In short, the grotesque–with the help of technology–is becoming the victim of its own success: having existed for many centuries on the disorderly margins of Western culture and the aesthetic conventions that constitute that culture, it is now faced with a situation where the center cannot, or does not choose to, hold; where nothing is incompatible with anything else; and where the marginal is indistinguishable from the typical. Thus the grotesque, in endlessly diluting forms, is always and everywhere around us, and increasingly invisible.”

Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. ON THE GROTESQUE: STRATEGIES OF CONTRADICTION IN ART AND LITERATURE. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982. xx-xxi. Print.


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