Genre, cycles and critical traditions
in Hollywood romantic comedy States of the union, 1934–65
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It is difficult or impossible to define what a romantic comedy is because all Hollywood films (except some war films) have romance and all have comedy. While the pervasive presence of romance and comedy is undeniable, there are different levels of representational convention. All Hollywood genres implicitly belong to the broader traditions of American narrative film; romance and comedy are common narrative conventions, hence their ubiquity. This chapter describes the genre, cycle and critical traditions of Hollywood romantic comedies. On the basis of the dominant concept of a film, particular genres can be characterized not only as the only genres in which given elements, devices and features occur, but also as the ones in which they are dominant, in which they play an overall organizing role. Thus, the formation of a couple takes place in many fictional texts as a narrative convention, but it plays the dominant, organizing role in two genres: romance and romantic comedy.

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