Genre Trouble – About the problem of using modern day literary terms on Egyptian texts

Part of working with textual data is the classification of the text in question in some way or another. Now, there are many different ways of classifying a text: epoch, school of thought or authorship are only a few examples. This article will deal with genres or rather with the questions and problems concerning them. Every day we let our reading be guided by genre classifications: We open up a book with a cover saying “Thriller” and automatically expect a more or less suspense-packed plot. Or if it says “Novel”, we hope to read a rather sweet and romantic story. But can these classifications really be trusted? (For example: An English speaking reader would expect a “novel” to be rather long. A German speaking reader on the other hand might expect a “novel” to be rather short, because the term resembles the German term “Novelle”, even though “Roman” would be the actual translation.) And what do they help us regarding ancient Egyptian texts?

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