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Mind Map: Week 11


In my mind map this week, I added a primary node of Ecology with smaller nodes linking out to Spellman and Syverston (since my book didn’t come until Tuesday, I only read summaries and, thus, I need to read him before I try to add him). As a result of our discussions in class this week, I created a connecting contrast node between Spellman and Latour. I actually had a date with a biologist on Saturday who studies freshwater streams and lakes, so this was a topic of our conversation. It was interesting for me to try to explain my perception (based on our readings and discussions) that ecology focuses on groups and classification. He didn’t see it until I explained how Latour’s theory of tracing all of the messy connections to an individual helps to define that individual’s network–the result of which would not be generalizable to other individuals. For instance, a species of fish serves a role in an ecosystem–its niche–and the role could be filled by any other of the fish in that species. However, while human individuals also serve a role in their network, all of an individual’s roles within his or her own specialized network cannot be fulfilled by another individual, because we have such a high level of agency and the importance we place on social systems.

I also added a primary node for Syverston and connected her concept of emergence to Bazerman, as I see a direct connection with the concept of speech acts and genres. This is a connection I plan to explore more as part of my own research.

Genres, Boundaries, and Away We Go_Mindmap


For this week’s update of the mindmap, I added in two nodes, “Genre” and “Genre Boundaries,” and from there added in four quotes by Miller, Popham, and Bazerman. From these four quotes, I started finding connections between the quotes I had chosen in earlier readings. My first choice was from that of Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action” in regards to a kind of “principle of selection”:

“Because a classification sorts items on the basis of some set of similarities, the principle used for selecting similarities can tell us much about classification. A classification of discourse will be rhetorically sound if it contributes to an understanding of how discourse works—that is, if it reflects the rhetorical experience of the people who create and interpret the discourse. As Northrop Frye remarks, ‘The study of genres has to be founded on the study of convention.’ A useful principle of classification for discourse, then, should have some basis in the conventions of rhetorical practice, including the ways actual rhetors and audiences have of comprehending the discourse they use” (Miller, “Genre as Social Action” 152)

This idea of “selecting similarities” reminds me of Foucault’s “principle of exclusion” in that choices have to be made, but explores how are those objects, ideas, threads of  thoughts chosen? Why are certain objects privileged over others? The choices that we make tend to follow some degree of sameness, even if the criteria are unspoken or loosely conveyed. I also connected this quote to the contention between Bitzer and Vatz’s articles with the idea of when a rhetorical situation occurs and how much responsibility is placed on the rhetor for deciding which situation was important enough to become a rhetorical situation. As well, this quote from Miller and a quote Bazerman’s “Speech Acts”–“The analytical approach of this chapter [Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People”] relies on a series of concepts: social facts, speech acts, genres, genre systems, and activity systems. These concepts suggest how people using text create new realities of meaning, relation, and knowledge” (309)– had me connecting with Vatz’s comment: ”If…you view meaning as a consequence of rhetorical creation, your paramount concern will be how and by whom symbols create the reality to which people react” (158). The three quotes connect in how they take a nod towards actual people using rhetoric in different discourses, not just theoretical approaches.

As I connected those thoughts together, I began to think about how the readings we had done previously were forming a foundation for the readings about genre that we have started doing now. It was helpful that Miller especially seemed to build her argument off of Bitzer, so that I could see how later scholars were moving older arguments forward with them. One such instance is when Miller builds upon Bitzer’s discussion of how “comparable situations occur, prompting comparable responses” pointed in the direction of “genre studies” without using the word “genre”—“Thus, inaugurals, eulogies, courtroom speeches, and the like have conventional forms because they arise in situations with similar structures and elements and because rhetors respond in similar ways, having learned from precedent what is appropriate and what effects their actions are likely to have on other people” (Miller, “Genre as Social Action” 153). The conversation between Miller’s text and Popham’s went a long way in helping me to understand the idea of genres in regards to rhetorical situations, especially in revealing to me just how wide the variety of rhetorical genres there can be (like medical forms) and how fluid the boundaries between the genres can be.

What really interested me, and is something I want to explore further in my mindmap if I can, is Popham’s inclusion of Foucault observation of the relationships between disciplines: “As Foucault (1975/1979) pointed out, relationships between disciplines are frequently characterized by competition, tension, and hierarchies. Although we often think of disciplines as coresiding peacefully across campuses, in which disciplinary experts agreeably respect and support each other, such a utopian picture obviously cannot be widespread. Moreover, if we accept the theory that disciplines experience tension in their relationships with each other, tensions that can be better understood by looking at the disciplines involved, we may begin to explain why certain tensions exist within our society” (Popham 279). What I find fascinating is that each discipline uses rhetoric and rhetorical genres that both differ widely and overlap, and yet the disciplines still have greater tension among them. Popham’s example of the medical forms as a “boundary genre,” or a text that acts as a kind of boderlands among the rhetoric of the three disciplines of business, science, and medicine was great because it showed a concrete example of how rhetoric plays out on a mundane level, which served as a contrast to me over Vatz’s rhetorical situation and the example of Winston Churchill.

As we are currently reading Clay Spinuzzi’s book Tracing Genres, I think having the nodes “Genre” and “Genre Boundary” are going to be very useful in mapping out the way later works tackle the concepts of genre and the use of rhetoric.

For Every Boundary, There Must Be Music:

Genre, Speech Acts, and Interdisciplinary Community: Week 4 Reading Notes

Key Terms and Concepts

There are so many terms and concepts in this week’s readings that it seems necessary to begin by defining them.

Boundary Objects: A genre that is the product of a single community but can be “understood, used, or prescribed by another community” (Popham, 2005, pp. 282-283).

Distallation: The process by which “a discipline takes key theories or ideas from another discipline and summarizes them into kernels of knowledge to use for its own purposes” (Popham, 2005, p. 285).

“Felicity” Conditions: Conditions that “must be right in order for the speech act to succeed” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 314).

Genres: “Patterned, typical, and therefore intelligible textual forms” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 311).”Regulated, textual forms functioning in repeating situations” (Popham, 2005, p. 282).

Genre Sets: “Collection of texts someone in a particular role is likely to produce” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 318).

Genre Systems: “Comprised of the several genre sets of people working together in an organized way, plus the patterned relations in the production, flow, and use of these documents” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 318).

Illocutionary Act: The act intended for the hearer to recognize (Bazerman, 2004, p. 318).

Interpenetration: The process of exporting and importing ideas–closely related to reflexion (Popham, 2005, p. 285).

Locutionary Act: “Literally what is said” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 314).

Perlocutionary Effect: “How people take up the acts and determine the consequences of that act for future interaction” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 314).

Propositional Act: The proposition stated in the locutionary act (Bazerman, 2004, p. 314).

Reflexion: A strategy for tracing interpenetration by highlighting “a discipline’s ‘blind spots’ by emphasizing the constructedness of its identity” (Popham, 2005, p. 285).

Social Fact: “Those things people believe to be true, and therefore bear on how they define  a situation” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 312).

Speech Act: Acts that are “done by the words themselves” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 313). For example, marriage, war, promotions.

Systems of Genres: Part of the systems of activity; the institutional grouping of the genre systems that “identify a framework which organizes their work, attention, and accomplishment” (Bazerman, 2004, p. 319).

Three-leveled Analysis of Speech Acts: Proposed method for analysis: 1) what was stated (locutionary), 2) what was intended (illocutionary), and 3) actual effect (perlocutionary) (Bazerman, 2004, p. 315).

Translation: Conversion of vocabulary, theories, methodologies, or forms from one discipline to another (Popham, 2005, p. 284).

Discussion of Readings as a Network

If we start with Miller’s 1984 article, we can kind of place it at the center of our little network–Miller establishes the need for a systematic, categorized definition of genres, explaining why previous attempts to define were insufficient. From Miller, Bazerman expands the notion of genre and offers a method for analyzing their function in human systems of activity. Popham and Miller then, again, both expand the discussion of genres to include interdisciplinary and community functions. These connections are illustrated in the diagram:


Doctoral Students Helping Doctoral Students

Here is Renae Frey’s blog on genre. Frey is a doctoral student at the University of Miami, Oxford, Ohio. Her blog functions as both a resource for better understanding genre theory and as an object of analysis.

My “Uptake”

Considering genres as a rhetorical response to recurring situations (both cultural and disciplinary) makes me consider not only how I teach my freshmen but also how I train consultants to work with other composers. Instead of considering the rigid forms of certain texts, considering the functions they perform in response to situations will better help us understand how to work with students. For instance, a resume is now a well-recognized genre. There are cultural expectations that a genre will adhere to a certain format and length and include certain information. Thinking about the resume in terms of the illocutionary act (what is intended), the locutionary act (what is said), and the perlocutionary effect (the resulting action) will likely prove more beneficial. Understanding the audience and discipline and anticipating the effects the document might have on the audience is something that writing center consultants already do, but separating those concepts and foregrounding them for discussion could prove fruitful.

Popham’s article also sparked a lot of thoughts for me about the ways that we document our services in the writing center world, but especially in the Noel Studio. Thinking about medical documents as “boundary objects” made me realize how many different functions we intend certain documents to serve. If we were to trace the history of records of consultations, I’m not sure where we would find the origins. These documents serve as the record of what was discussed (for the writing center and the student), data assessment (for potentially department chairs or provosts), and as proof that the student visited (for the faculty member). While the record is different for each center, there are commonalities that classify it as a genre: most often there are data fields for the “proof” (student’s name, date, class), open spaces for comments of what was discussed (the consultant’s take on the consultation), and checkboxes for easy assessment (what was worked on, areas of focus, recommended follow-up). Surprisingly, the records for a writing center do not seem that different than medical records–they collect data and seemingly tell the “diagnosis” of the student’s writing.

Finally, after a discussion with Shelley last week about my dissertation, I’m seeing where I might be able to use genre theory to explore multimodal communication. Considering forms of digital writing as genres might make teaching and working with it less intimidating for teachers and consultants. I definitely need to reread each of these sources and start reading more about each, but I’m excited about this potential focus for my dissertation.