This afternoon, I had a college class - the kind where we present and discuss texts, that sort of thing. Today, the subject was an essay by Umberto Eco, which has made me wonder some things...
The "popular novel", according to Eco, has an archetypal "skeleton": a sympathetic protagonist, alternating moments of happiness and unhappiness and the resolution at the moment of most tension, also described as "catharsis". The emotions we felt were "planned" by the script, and we followed suit.
As such, a "popular novel" is one that offers an answer after offering a problem, thus meeting and satisfying the reader's expectations; in other words, it's a matter of finding comfort in the familiar, in the clichés, in the deus ex machina that resolves the plot without "leaving us hanging". The resolution often happens in a "good vs. evil, with good prevailing" theme, "good" standing for the cultural values represented by the protagonist. In short, it's a work that offers no surprises - save for those we were waiting for - and simply tries to trigger "safe" emotional reactions out of us.
The "problematic novel", on the other hand, offers no definitive resolution, leaving the text open-ended; the reader/viewer has to grapple hirself with the ambiguity and lack of resolution, being asked questions without being supplied answers. Among examples of this kind of fiction in film, we suggested (in class, I mean) movies like Black Swan, Inception, Requiem for a Dream and Equus. Heck, even Be Kind Rewind was used as an example of a story that not only has no resolution, but no denouement as well.
What do you think of this classification? Is it accurate, in your opinion? Is it really a matter of not being able to deal with uncertainty and incompleteness? Does that make one kind better than another?
...Also, does preferring the first kind of fiction say anything about your intelligence, your gullibility, your willful ignorance, etc.? Does having the expected emotional reactions make you a sucker?