Pleasure as genre: popular fiction, South African chick-lit and Nthikeng Mohlele's Pleasure

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6 Citations (Scopus)


The success of popular women's fiction requires a mode of analysis that is able to reveal the patterns across this category in order to better understand the appeal of these books. Popular fiction, like chick-lit, can be contradictorily framed as simultaneously constituting one, as well as many genres, if a genre is the codification of discursive properties. It may consist of romances, thrillers, romantic suspense and so forth in terms of its discursive properties, but popular women's fiction will also have a pattern of similarity that cuts across these forms – that similarity, I will suggest, lies in the idea of pleasure as a genre of affect that ties various popular fictions together, thereby acting as a type of imperial genre. Pleasure is so ubiquitous and so diverse across the multiple forms that constitute popular women's fiction that I argue it has become a genre in itself. This is, however, not a genre that limits itself to one particular stylistic form, but rather, as a dynamic social construct, it has become a genre of affect that invokes feelings of pleasure. Nthikeng Mohlele's most recent novel, Pleasure, exemplifies the applicability and plasticity of the concept of pleasure, allowing me to examine this work as a type of fictionalised theory which I then apply to South African chick-lit texts: the Trinity series by Fiona Snyckers and Happiness Is a Four-Letter Word by Cynthia Jele. Mohiele's expansive theorisation of pleasure is inherently local in that it is depicted at the level of experience and imagination; yet it is simultaneously macro and global in the connections made to deeply political circuits of identity-based oppressions and structural inequalities. Mohlele reveals the mobility of pleasure as a genre that offers an opportunity to think through the circuits that connect popular fiction through the lens of African literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Chick-lit
  • Cynthia Jele
  • Fiona Snyckers
  • Nthikeng Mohlele
  • South Africa
  • genre
  • pleasure
  • popular fiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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