The book: From King Lear came Fool, Christopher Moore’s irreverent take on the Shakespeare play that is told from the point of view of King Lear’s fool; from The Odyssey came The Penelopiad, in which Margaret Atwood tells the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Odysseus’ wife Penelope; and from Jane Eyre came Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ prequel to the Brontë novel that zooms in on the story of Mr. Rochester’s “mad” first wife. In Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace (Columbia University Press), Jeremy Rosen ’01 dives into the genre he calls “minor-character elaboration,” in which contemporary writers take marginal characters from canonical works and make them protagonists of their own stories. Then, using minor-character elaboration as a case study, he argues for a new understanding of genre, and of the role the literary marketplace plays in the creation and development of genres.

The author: Jeremy Rosen, associate professor of English at the University of Utah, earned his A.B. in English from Princeton in 2001 and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 2011. This is his first book.

Opening lines: Minor Characters Have Their Day is a book about genre and a case study of a booming contemporary genre. It attempts to explain how genres work, what defines them — form? content? a particular publishing niche? — how they emerge and develop, what they reveal about the cultural moment at which they flourish and about the literary, cultural, and commercial institutions and networks through which they circulate. The book draws its insights about genre through the focused analysis of a particular genre that has flourished since the late 1960s and become particularly visible since the late 1990s.”

Reviews: James English, author of The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value, says, “Moving deftly between readings of individual works and arguments in sociological theory, Rosen succeeds in leveraging the genre of minor-character elaboration as an illuminating case study in the social and institutional dimensions of the contemporary book world.”