Messy and Complex

Throughout grade school we were taught that genre were the different types of categories that writings were placed into. Carolyn R. Miller “argues that genres are ‘typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations’” (Dean). She focuses more on the “’action [a genre]’” uses to accomplish. I didn’t really think much about this definition until I got to the end of the reading. This definition is so much more complicated than what is on the surface level. It all just starts when we realize “genres pervade lives”. They shape our lives while we shape them as well. Dean uses the words “messy” and “complex” to define genres. These words not only describe the theories of genre but also the effects and derivatives it produces. It clicked in my head when it described genre as being to “both arrange what exists and produce something else, something that might not have existed before”. This made me think about how everything relates back to the past and has somewhat of a grip on our entire existence. For example, it is later addressed in the text as the “Historical” aspects of genre.  As Dean goes on to talk about what genres are not, she is expanding and disputing our prior knowledge of what a genre is. This expansion of not only the idea of genre but genre in itself brings us to ask well what is genre? Genre is characterized as “social, rhetorical, dynamic, historical, cultural, situated, and ideological”. This is only the beginning of the complicatedness. It was difficult for me to read about these aspects of genres. These aspects contribute to what genre is, therefore “genres define cultures as much as cultures define genres”. “Different theories about genre place varying degrees of emphasis on these characteristics, and doing this results in different views of what is means to use of learn a genre” (Dean). This chain of thinking leads to a range of different theories about genres. These theories include “Genre as Text” (formalist perspective, most common in classrooms), “Genre as Rhetoric” (genres are ways of acting), and “Genres as Practice” (genres as actions). These theories provide different views on the various implications of the genres concepts; not only the difference between cultures and societies but even between countries. Although some theories make more sense than others, there is no “right” one. But how do we know which theory to follow? How can we process and teach these theories without emphasis on any specific one? Then the question arises can these theories even be taught? Or must we acquire them ourselves, like Discourses?

Dean.GerreTheory Reading Notes


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