Breaking and entering. Theft. Racketeering. Probably not the first words that come to mind when you think of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. One of the most popular modern works of transgressive literature, this layered and conceptually driven story is filled with as many criminal acts as The Godfather trilogy. So why does Fight Club fall into the transgressive category instead of crime? First, let’s look at what transgressive literature actually is.
What is Transgressive Literature?
According to Wikipedia, transgressive literature is “a genre which focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectation of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways.” Through reading, you’ll find that transgressive literature often takes two tracks: either high concept or slice of life.
Whether following the crusade of a disaffected homegrown terrorist organization as in Fight Club or just spending a week with a group of bored, rich, drug-addicted college students home for the summer as in Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, transgressive stories are often filled with criminal acts, though they may not be the driving force of the narrative.
Crimes of Transgression
Even if the crimes are not as flagrant as blowing up buildings as is the case in Fight Club, the act of defying societal norms is often a crime, since our laws are often created as a way to enforce generally accepted societal standards.
Though transgressive literature and crime fiction often feature characters that cling to violence and drugs, the biggest difference is that in transgressive literature, the characters tend to do it as a way to rebel against ennui and a general malaise, while crime fiction characters do it as a reaction to more tangible problems.
The Common Link Between Transgression and Crime
Beyond the crimes that take place in transgressive literature and crime fiction, the strongest common thread is that both genres offer the perfect platform to highlight the worst of humanity, enabling authors to shed light on the various problems that plague our culture.
Do you think there’s a crossover between transgressive literature and crime fiction? Comment and let us know.