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Case Study 2: AT + GT + MOOCs = Alphabet Soup

Introduction: In my first case study, I examined the Composition MOOC from the lens of structural theory, which provided a foundation upon which to build this second layer of analysis. There are a number of scholarly discussions concerning the technological … Continue reading

Response to Peers’ Outline for Case Study #2 Theories

As my peers and I work toward the second case studies of our Objects of Study, we had to do an outline of the two theories we will be applying. Not an outline of what we would be writing, but of the application of the theories. I peer reviewed Leslie’s and Chvonne’s outlines. This assignment was more of a challenge than I usually find for peer reviews as the task was centered on giving comments for theory application without anything really being applied (that part comes next).

I started with Leslie’s outline as she sets forth her plan for putting Spinuzzi’s Genre Tracing and Prior et. al’s CHAT into conversation with one another. It’s interesting because both theories have to do with people’s relationship with technology and local solutions. Seeing her outline makes me curious about how my own OoS will reveal technology as agents and the relationship they will have to people.

As for Chvonne’s outline, she also chose CHAT to be paired with Genre Theory. I really the picture she took of a whiteboard with her mapping of the two theories; it was a great tool for conveying how she was holistically seeing her second case study. I am looking forward to seeing how CHAT’s remapping of the rhetorical canon to make way for new activities and technologies merging with people’s intentions in  conveying/persuading/arguing, especially with the creators of CHAT not being completely in their definitions of some of their terms. I am also curious to see how Snapchat plays out with Genre Theory as Chvonne has labeled it a closed network, with the rhetorical community located outside of the app.

In Which I Reveal My Deep and Abiding Love for Korean Drama:

*Warning: melodrama and mushy scenes contained within*

Responding to Case Study #2 Outlines

I read and responded to Amy’s ENGL894 Locklear Case Study 2 Outline and to Jenny’s Exploring the Flow of Information in LLL via Rhetorical Situation and Genre Theory. Each took a different approach to the application of theories to object of study from each other and from the one I took in my outline, and I found that difference instructive and reflective of the continued emphasis our theorists place on difference in discursive formation.

Both Amy and Jenny took a more formal approach to the outline than I did. Their outlines included the standard numbers and letters (mediated, I noticed, by Microsoft Word’s formatting expectations and defaults, a particular pet peeve of mine), while my outline consisted of a table that (I hope) functions as an operationalized comparison and contrast rubric for the case study (mediated, I admit, by the focus on “compare and contrast” and a desire to place my theoretical conversants in a concrete framework). I also noticed that Jenny and Amy carefully examined and summarized the theories they seek to apply, while I more generally mentioned my applied theories and focused more attention on addressing the questions of the final assignment. In some ways I feel I shortchanged my outline (and I’ll regret that in the days leading up to March 23); in other ways, however, I’m working to convince myself that I directly addressed the expectations of the final assignment, important in a 3,000 word response that includes a brief literature review.

I found Amy’s presentation of nodes and activity in MOOCs very different from what I expected. As I consider MOOCs, I gravitate toward the technology that makes MOOCs possible as network nodes and activity. It’s this focus on non-human members of the network that I especially appreciate about ANT. I found Amy’s focus on the pedagogical theory and human agents as nodes an interesting and useful boundary for her discussion. Ultimately, each of us seeks a boundary within which to develop a coherent theoretical application to our object of study. Amy’s boundary differs from the boundary I would choose, but that difference tells us something about our individual network and rhetorical experiences. It also makes class-sourced collaborative models of theoretical applications to networks more valuable, in my mind, to scholarship and to pedagogical outcomes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the two instructors are of the same mind in this conclusion.

la leche league logo

My La Leche League cake. Drawn in buttercreme: Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Sondra

Jenny’s focus on ordering nodes in her outline was also unexpected. Throughout this semester, probably starting with Vatz, I’ve gravitated away from applying frameworks to theories (my tabular outline an obvious contradiction, alas). I’ve willed myself to avoid imposing order on the theoretical chaos in my head. Jenny’s outline was a refreshing shift, but one important aspect I noticed was that each “ordering” of nodes was dependent on the individual theory. Instead of using a set of common criteria (like my use of the assignment questions) by which to compare and contrast theoretical stances, she developed individual criteria for comparison based on her summarized analysis of the theories themselves. Doing so likely required more effort than a standardized set of comparison criteria, but the result is that she likely has a much clearer handle on each of the theorists’ main ideas as they relate to her object of study.

In both cases, I learned from each interpretation of the assignment. My “meta” moment has less to do with the theories or their application to objects of study and more to do with each of our different executions of the assignment itself. From a pedagogical standpoint, multiple interpretations of an assignment are difficult to assess in a rubric, but they better reflect many of our theorists’ perspectives on the importance of difference in discursive formation. That’s an important lesson for my own pedagogy.


Van Ittersum, D., & Ching, K. L. (2013). Composing text / Shaping process: How digital environments mediate writing activity [Webtext]. Computers and Composition: An International Journal. Retrieved from

Lock, A. (2014, March 3). ENGL894 Locklear case study 2 outline [Google doc, outline].

Moore, J. (2014, March 2). Exploring the flow of information in LLL via rhetorical situation and genre theory [Google doc, outline].

[Top Image: Mediated by Microsoft Word. Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Erik Eckel]

I’ll Just Spinuzzi My Way On Through_Mindmap




This week I focused on Clay Spinuzzi’s book, Tracing Genres, when adding nodes to my mindmap. For this round, I added four new nodes with connections out from three of them. The node I left relatively unconnected for now contained definitions for the three levels of analysis that Spinuzzi sets up: macroscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic. The reason I left it unconnected here is that I want to create a separate Popplet that has major nodes with each of those levels and connections to examples and quotes that embody each level. I thought about doing that connection here, but my mindmap is getting more than a little complex.

One of the first quotes I chose is in regards what genes are and, in a way, what they are not: ”Genres are not simply text types;  they are culturally and historically grounded ways of ‘seeing and conceptualizing reality’… Genres are not discrete artifacts, but traditions of producing, using, and interpreting artifacts, traditions that make their way into the artifact as a ‘form-shaping ideology’” (Spinuzzi 41). This quote reminded me a lot of Bitzer’s consideration of rhetoric as a “mode of altering reality…by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action” (3). I thought this was really interesting because I had never really thought of genres as “culturally and historically grounded” and, when I did, it was only in passing and only as related to the Greeks with their apologies. It makes sense that as cultures change, rhetoric will take on different forms that are reshaped around people’s needs. It seems like genres are a way for us to impose order on the chaos of discourse, a way for us to see reality within boundaries or to define what we see as reality. Again, I am reminded of the medical forms analyzed by Popham. Those forms are not necessary to human survival in any way, but we give them meaning by imposing societal value on them; they become a discourse between us, our doctors, our insurance companies, and any others who are part of the process. As we are filling out the forms, we define ourselves as patients and allow others to see us as the same as well as bits of data. The political discourse around elections also seems to be its own kind of genre. As candidates go for whatever position, they and their supporters produce commercials, pamphlets, signs, and advertisements as a to define themselves as a political and public figure, reshaping themselves to fit images they believe would be most beneficial in gaining votes. Ballots also function as artifacts in the political genre and, when we vote, we are defining ourselves as voters and as citizens, but also allow us to see us as statistics (part of a majority or a minority), supporters or opponents, and so on. We don’t need politicians and politics for our basic survival, but we agree, more or less as a collective, that society would not function without such frameworks in place.

Um, haha, now that my tangent is over. The second quote I chose is one of my favorites: “Mirel argues that no matter how fine the grain, ‘knowing and learning take place in a dynamic system of people, practices, artifacts, communities, and institutional structures,’ and that such dynamic systems always coconstitute even the finest grain of human activity” (Spinuzzi 29). I like this because knowledge is communal and continual. Human activity is what creates history, literature, mathematics, music, visual arts, and other subjects, and then that knowledge moves forward (and sometimes gets left behind) to be presented to  younger generations who will imitate, react against, or build upon with other activities. I liked this quote with two quotes by Vatz – ”To the audience, events become meaningful only through their linguistic depiction” (157) and ”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). I chose these two quotes because the idea of symbols and linguistic depictions are learned and emerge out of the collective knowledge. Meaning for us with events and rhetoric comes out of what we know and can identify. Hmm that sounded to abstract. What I mean is that I can recognize the meaning of something or learn the meaning of something by identifying it based on what I already know. For example, with the politicians I mentioned in the paragraph above. I can recognize and make meaning from their rhetorical choices because I know enough about the political system of the U.S. for their promises, their accusations against other candidates or the current system, and their proposals to make sense. These politicians and my understanding of them do not exist in a vacuum.

For the last quote I connected outwards, I chose two and combined them in a single node: “We can talk about genres mingling, merging, splitting, disintegrating, and being repurposed. Genre provides a way of lending dimension to the genetic aspects of given artifacts–to make connections among discrete artifacts that, on the surface, may bear little resemblance to each other” and “The genre embodies a galaxy of assumptions, strategies, and ideological orientations that the individual speaker may not recognize. It represents others’ ‘thinking out’ of problems whose dialogue has been preserved in genre” (Spinuzzi 42 and 43). I linked these two quotes to ones from Bitzer, Vatz, and Foucault, though I need to go back and link it to Popham as well. I could discuss why I chose Bitzer and Vatz, but I am instead going to use this space to talk about the quote I linked it to from Foucault, his enunciative level of formation in relation to the statement and the sentence. I’m paying more attention to this particular link because I am not sure if the connection is correct and wanted to unpack my own thinking. Foucault describes statements as “linked rather to a ‘referential’ that is made up…of laws of possibility, rules of existence for the objects that are named, designated, or described within it, and for the relations that are affirmed or denied in it. The referential of the statement forms the place, the condition, the field of emergence, the authority to differentiate between individuals or objects, states of things and relations that are brought into play by the statement itself; it defines the possibilities of appearance and delimitation of that which gives meaning to the sentence, a value of truth to the proposition” (91).  I feel like these statements are what composes “others’ ‘thinking out’” in the genre galaxy that Spinuzzi mentions and is that genres lend dimension to as they mingle and merge and split and disintegrate and even as they are repurposed. When a person constructs a statement, they may not recognize the possibilities, rules, and relations that are embedded within the referential of the statement, and this same thing seems to happen when a person puts forth a text (like a novel) and cannot completely see all of the different genre types that may be associated with his/her work.

To Soothe One’s Mind, Add a Violin:

MindMap: 18 Feb.

Mind Map: This last week’s introduction to Spinuzzi created all sorts of unifying connections to the Popplet! And yet… The trouble is, I have been thinking that now is the time to integrate a 3-D element.  I had been … Continue reading

Case Study #1: To the Guild Network, I Present a Bazerman

Image hosted in article "Drama Mamas: How to find a World of Warcraft guild" on Joystiq's WoW Insider

Image hosted in article “Drama Mamas: How to find a World of Warcraft guild” on Joystiq’s WoW Insider

In the worlds of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, there can be two levels of networks in regards to guilds: on a game-global level (I make this specification because some games are actually global, with players from around the world joining in on different servers), the guilds themselves are part of a larger network as they compete against one another, and on a game-local level, the members in each guild represent nodes in their particular guild network. For this particular Case Study, I am going to be dealing with the game-local level in relation to World of Warcraft (WoW) as I best understand the framework of the game, and members have quite a bit of support in-game and out-of-game with the creation of, acceptance into/experience within, and dissolution of guilds. The concepts within Charles Bazerman’s chapter “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People” provide interesting insight into how members of guilds become part of the mini-societies within gameworlds, especially in WoW, through the speech acts and social facts that emerge through player-player interaction.

Bazerman’s theory of speech acts and systems of human activity can define the local level of MMO guilds through interactions between players and the cohesion and disruption felt once those interactions begin to collect into trends and movements. What makes guilds in virtual environments so interesting is that players conform to rules and norms much as they would in the “real world,” which is an idea that plays into the concept of “social facts” that Bazerman describes as “those things people believe to be true, and therefore bear on how they define a situation” (312). In order for the guild to work, players have to agree on certain organizational methods (usually in the form of hierarchies based on player rankings, group goals like raids or more storytelling play styles, and newer members being linked with mentors), or else the guild divides and falls apart. Guilds themselves can have very fluid hierarchies, as players establish themselves and gain rank, or as other players drop out of the guild or the game for a variety of reasons (work, family, school, injuries, financial issues, and so on). Much like “real world” groups, communication styles in guilds differ, but tend to be two-way as members offer suggestions for how to approach a particular raid, where to find the best armor, and what strategies are useful against specific creatures or bosses.

As a whole, these gamers generally agree on ideas like ranks as rightfully earned, that (most of the time) there should be a leader (or leaders) for raids and for the guild itself, and that the guild is a space worth joining. These agreements, or disagreements, come to define how the system works: are the raiding teams cohesive? Is there in-fighting among guild members? Is the guild strictly run or does the Guild Master encourage a more laissez faire style? Are newer players mentored by more seasoned players, or are they expected to learn on their own? The atmosphere of the group is determined by the group and the norms to which players are willing to submit, whether it is through explicit agreement or a quiet submission (though most gamers can be fairly vocal when they disagree or feel they are being treated unfairly).

Example of a "guild window" from WoW. Image hosted on WikiHow.

Example of a “guild window” from WoW. Image hosted on WikiHow.

Almost all of the interaction between players is done through speech acts, whether verbal or written. Players can either found their own guild or seek one out (through in-game means or through forums) that has already been established, and then gain acceptance into that guild (with a growing trend of actually having to file an application, especially for the more prestigious guilds). Once in a guild, players find that they have a balance of how much agency they can have within the group. Their abilities and experience define what role(s) they may play when raiding (tank, damage per second also known as dps, or healer), but the player can choose to hone skills that would give them access to other roles or make them more desirable as a combat buddy. Guild members can contact other members through the guild window (displayed above and below) for small raiding parties, or they may choose to join in larger raids (though stricter guilds demand players be present or they may be kicked out of the guild), and loot tends to be shared among players, with certain pieces being set aside for players trying to finish an armor set or guild officers being allowed first pick. For guilds that are more story-based, players have the chance to introduce origin stories for their characters, drawing on the mythology set up by the game creators, which allows players to carve out a space for themselves in the gameworld and establish their character as a more three-dimensional entity within the world and the group.

Each guild window includes a roster of members, which include options for each member to contact another member or to leave the guild altogether. Image hosted on WikiHow

Each guild window includes a roster of members, which include options for each member to contact another member or to leave the guild altogether. Image hosted on WikiHow

As social networks, guilds in WoW are the embodiment of communication technologies. While players initially had to depend on keyboard chats in order to communicate with other players, advancements in technology have opened the way for players to chat over headphones and now remote chats on cell phones. Players also communicate using official forums, through emails and phone calls, and may utilize websites like WoW Guild Hosting to stay in touch. One of the major motivations for a strong communication network within the guild is to prepare for and execute raids that require larger numbers of people. While there can be unexpected obstacles, guild and raid leaders focus on ensuring that members of raid groups understand their roles and the strategy the guild has decided on. Breakdowns in communication can be disastrous, ending with entire teams being slaughtered in more difficult dungeons (any experienced WoW player will shudder and laugh at the Leeroy Jenkins incident).


Doing well in raids and as a guild altogether has gained greater importance with the introduction of Guild Perks, moving from player motivation for guild banks (which is in-game storage) to actual competition to have and be included in a higher level guild. Guild perks, as defined by WoW Wiki, are “special benefits received when a guild reaches a particular guild level and the corresponding guild achievement.” This new dynamic of perks into the guild network has altered how WoW is played, with most players now belonging to a guild instead of traversing the world alone or with a companion/small group. Players come to be defined by what network they belong to, finding safety and prestige in being a connected node instead of a solitary adventurer.

Remote WoW guild chats on an android phone. Image hosted on Curse.

Remote WoW guild chats on an android phone. Image hosted on Curse.

Bazerman’s theory of speech acts allows me to look at how guild members become enough of a collective to create their own mini-society in a virtual space, which becomes even more interesting in light of the fact that these players may never meet in real life, are coming together based on common goals, and are being judged based on merit, personality, and design choices represented by their avatars’ appearances and classes. His theory is helpful in that it looks at how players’ interactions through speech acts start to create movements in the guild itself, helping to establish boundaries between players, norms for the group to follow as a whole, and can also bring about the dissolution of the guild. Though interaction between players is done through speech acts, Bazerman’s theories of genre, felicity conditions, and typification would help to define how the kinds of communication players have to enrich the game experience and ensure the success of their guilds.

To Make This Quest Just a Little Easier:

Works Cited

Bazerman, Charles. ”Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People.” What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Charles Bazerman and Paul Prior. (Eds.). London: Routledge, 2004. 309-340[PDF]

WoW Wiki. Wikia, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2014.

MindMap Feb. 9: Genre Theory

MindMap Feb. 9.

Since I am trying to keep track of the various theories that we are exploring in the class, for this week’s MindMap I added a popplet labeled “Genre Theory” that branches off from the central node labeled “Networks”. In the new node labeled “Genre Theory,” I included three brief definitions of “genre” from our readings. Branching off of the node labeled “Genre Theory” I added four new nodes labeled “Action,” “Recurrence,” “Utterance,” and “Situation”. All of these elements are central to understanding the nature of genres, and I added them so that I could further elaborate on the definitions of genre that I provided in the “Genre Theory” node. From each of these nodes (“Action,” “Recurrence,” “Utterance,” and “Situation”) I connected several new popplets to describe how they are central to genre theory. For example, one of the popplets branching from the word “Action” says “Action is guided by meaning, by perception, not by material (Miller 156). So this means that content, context, and interpretation are more important than generic form”. I found this to be a very helpful exercises because it is helping me identify the core elements of genre theory and then to explore them so that I develop a  clear understanding of the basic tenants of genre theory and how they relate to one another.

Reading Notes Feb. 3

Carolyn Miller and Charles Bazerman. Gêneros 2013.

Bazerman, Charles. “Systems of genres and the enactment of social intentions.” Genre and the new rhetoric (1994): 79-101.

Bazerman’s aim in this article is to examine the ways in which individuals operate within discursive fields to “create individual instances of meaning and value” (79). People act within systems by genre performance (79). Systems involve literate activity, and as we become more familiar with that activity, we are more able to advance our goals and understand how actions may be of value or impact the community (79). Bazerman refers to genres as levelers within a machine that allow us to create social action (79). To explain how genre systems work, Bazerman explores the patent. The patent is an interesting combination of first and third person (80). Required elements are very specific. The patent is part of a system, and the textual elements of the patent allow for the patent to operate within the system (81). Bazerman says a textual form that is not recognizable is of no value (81). Genres form when over time as “individuals perceive homologies in circumstances that encourage them to see these occasions for similar kinds of utterances” and genres “”identify the possible intentions one may have” (82). The constructed realm is navigated by patent applications that include “the intention, the recognition of the intention, the achievement of that intention with cooperation of others, and the further actions of others respecting that achievement” (82). Bazerman traces the history of patent development to show how the patent system was derived and how elements of the patent application and patent grant were formed and for what purpose they were formed (83-84). Bazerman compares the patent application and grant to speech acts which may have such contextual conditions as “timing of the utterance; authority of the utterer; relationship between speaker and hearer; psychological state of the speaker and hearer toward the act, the utterance, and each other; the speaker and hearer’s perception of the situation of utterance; the convention of language through which the utterance is enacted, and the kinds of particulars (propositions and predictions) included,” and together these conditions “guide the creation of successful utterance” (85). To be successful, scientific assertions these conditions must “be transformed into a set of constitutive, regulatory and advisory rules” (85). Unlike most speech acts, patents are a speech act that allow for procedures and institutions to match illocutionary force to perlocutionary effect” (85). Local knowledge of speech acts helps us to understand and interpret such acts, while formalization strips locally significant meanings (86). Speech acts can be interpreted in a variety of ways, as speech acts are “manifold and intermediate” (87). Formalization serves to “characterize a dominant appearance in a multiple act” (87). To “reduce a speech acts to a speech system removes the activity from the act and reduces complex, interpretive, intelligent, motivated human behavior to a static set of signs, no longer responsive to human needs and creativity” (88). Speech activity is easier to analyze when the speech being studied is part of a regulated system of agreed upon characters (88). Bazerman says that “we must look to the dynamics of the moment to understand what is happening” as the “dynamics of the moment grant new meaning and new life to the typifications” (88-89). Lengthy texts often contain multiplicity of action, but genre helps to limit the ways in which these texts can be interpreted (90). The system of the genre, “are interrelated genres that interact with each other in specific settings” (97). Only certain genres may follow each other in specific settings because succession is dependent upon actions at various ate each stage of the succession (98). Bazerman says that to be successful we much “identify the generic utterance appropriate for our needs at each point and successfully fulfill the conditions that will constitute the perfected act” (98). It is important to remember that the “genre set” represents only “one side of a multiple person interaction” (98). Bazerman says that “By considering the ways in which generic utterances open up pathways to certain consequent speech acts and close off other pathways, we give a new precision to the concept of kairos, or timeliness (99).

Bazerman, Charles. “Speech acts, genres, and activity systems: How texts organize activity and people.” What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices (2004): 309-339.

The aim of this chapter seems to be to explore how speech acts, genres, social facts, concepts, genre systems, and activity systems work together to help people “use texts to create new realities of meaning, relation, and knowledge” (309). Bazerman says that “each text is embedded within structured social activities and depends on previous texts that influence the social activity and organization” (311). Each successive text is a social act which are accomplished through language by speech acts (311). The patterns or forms in which these speech acts take place are called genres, which fit together as genre sets operating within genre systems (311). Bazerman says that understaning these concepts is important so that writers “fulfill the needs of the situation” and that we understand when things go wrong with our communication, and how to change systems through texts (311).
Basic Concepts/Terminology:
Social Facts – what people believe to be true which impacts how they define a situation (312).
Speech Acts – “As a result of a set of words said at the proper time in the proper circumstances by the proper persons, someone will be obligated to do something” (313). “Every statement does something” (313).
“Felicity” conditions – conditions that must be in order for a speech act to succeed (314).
Locutionary act – “literally what is said” (314).
Propositional act – claims or representations about states of affairs in the world (315).
Illocutionary act – the act that the speaker intends for the hearer to recognize (314).
Perlocutionary effect – “How people take up acts and determine the consequences of that act for future interaction” (314).
Three-leveled analysis of speech acts – the literal statement; the intended act; the actual effect (can also be written) (315).
Genres – “recognizable, self-reinforcing forms of communication” (316).
Typification – “The process of moving to stanadardized forms of utterances that are recognized as carrying out certain actions in certain circumstances and to standard understandings of situations” (316).
Psycho-social recognition phenomena – phenomena that “are parts of processes of socially organized activities” (317).
Social activity –
Genre set – “the collection of types of texts some in a particular role is likely to produce” (318).
Genre system – a system “comprised of the several genre sets of people working together in an organized way, plus patterned relations in production, flow, and use of these documents” (318).
System of genre –
Systems of activity – “framework which organizes their [people’s] work, attention, and accomplishments” (319).


Characteristics of Written Texts:
Written texts require complex analysis because they are lengthy, but there are “very few dominant actions that define its intent and purpose” (320). They also do not provide immediate evidence that the reader’s understanding and response to the text (320). The author has few opportunities to revise or make corrections (321). The written texts can travel easily to places where they may be used or interpreted in unexpected ways (321). Mutual understanding of texts is difficult, which is why genre studies are necessary because we don’t understand genres of unfamiliar fields (321). To approach the study of genres, methodologies include examining texts in a regular way, interviewing and observing readers and writers, and “ethnographically documenting how texts are used in organizations” (322).

Methodological Tools:
It seems easy to identity genres, but Bazerman points out that there are problems with identifying and analyzing genres based on possible reasons for easily spotted features of the genre (323): we only examine aspects of genre that we are already aware of; ignores the varying ways people see texts; and the collecting of features makes the features seem to be the end goal (an emphasis on form) rather than a function document; t6his ignores how genre is not stable and changes over time (323). Bazerman suggests that we 1) “go beyond those features we are already aware of,” 2) “consider variation in different situations and periods,” 3) characterize unfamiliar genres by gathering information about texts as well as information about how people understand those texts, 4) ethnographic research allows the researcher to “see the full range of implicit practice” ( 324-325). When you examine the genre set, you “see the range and variety of the writing work” (326). The genre system reveals “the practical, functional, and sequential interactions of documents” (326). The activity system “enables you to understand the total work accomplished by the system and how each piece of writing contributes to the total work” (326).

Bazerman outlines methodological guidelines for examining a “genre investigation”:
1. “Frame your purposes and questions to limit your focus.”
2. “Define your Corpus.” (Identify texts or collections you plan to examine)(326-327).
3. “Select and apply your analytic tools.”
If no pattern emerges, either, “”the collection doesn’t reflect practices of users” or flow of documents, or the “analytical focus may be misplaced” (327).
Bazerman closes with an applied example of genre analysis.

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as social action.” Quarterly journal of speech 70.2 (1984): 151-167.

In “Genre as Social Action,” author Carolyn R. Miller, explores the question “What constitutes a genre?” There have been a number of ways in which rhetorical genres have been defined (similarities in form or strategy, audience, modes of thinking, or rhetorical situation) (151). In the article, Miller constructs a theory of the genre by examining others’ approaches to genre theory and explaining how she agrees or disagrees with those theories. She also explains how genre impacts our relationship with texts.
Key Points/Terms:
• Genre theory should focus on the action that the genre is meant to accomplish rather than form or substance (151).
• “Genre is composed of a constellation of recognizable forms bound together by an internal dynamic” (Jamieson and Campbell 21, qtd. on 152). It includes “substantive, stylistic, and situational characteristics” (152).
• Reference to Bitzer: Bitzer’s theory is similar to Jamieson and Campbell’s theory of the relationship between situation and discourse: The rhetorical situation is a “‘complex of persons, events, objects, and relations’ presenting an ‘exigence” (152).
• Inductive and deductive approaches to genre are problematic because 1) they provide no clear classification and 2) they do not ground genre in rhetorical situation (154).
• Burke’s approach is promising because it is action based (154).
• Miller proposes that “genre” refer to a “classification based in rhetorical practice,” that is open to new members, and is “organized around situated actions” (155).
• The situational focus can be either on motive or exigence (155).
• Motive (Burke) implies action (155).
• Exigence (Bitzer) reaction (155).
• Materialist “relationship between rhetoric and situation that empowers external, objective elements” (156).
• Rhetorical situations must recur (156).
• “Situations” are “social constructs that are the result […] of ‘definition’” (156).
• Action is guided by meaning, by perception, not by material (156).
• Cycle of type formation: “the new is made familiar through the recognition of relevant similarities; those similarities become constituted as a type” (157).
• To communicate effectively, requires that “participants share common types” that are “socially created” (157).
• Exigence: exigence is social knowledge-“a mutual constructing of objects, events, interests, and purposes that not only links them but also makes them what they are: an objectified social need” (157).
• Exigence, which is a social motive for action, allows us an opportunity to make our feelings known (158).
• Rhetorical genres should be classified by recurrant situation (or exiogence), which is basing classification on “the typical joint rhetorical actions available at a given point in history and culture” (158).
• Because of the unstable nature of our culture, genre is a problematic classification (158).
• Genre members are complete discourses circumscribed by a shift in situation (159).
• The significance or meaningfulness of a genre is based on the fusions of substantive, stylistic, and situational elements (159).
• Form (“the ways in which substance is symbolized”) and substance (“aspects of common experience being symbolized”) have a hierarchical relationship (159).
• Speech-act theory (coined by John Searle): “meaning […] has two elements: an utterance or proposition and the action it is used to perform” (159).
• Context is the third element in the hierarchy of meaning (159).
• Form, substance, and context are relative, not absolute (159).
• “Form at one level becomes an aspect of substance at another level (this is what makes form “significant”) (160).
• “At the level of the genre, motive becomes a conventionalized social purpose, or exigence, within the recurrent situation” (162).
• When genre is defined by the relationship with rhetorical situation, the level of abstraction is made clear (162).
• Miller outlines the features of genre on page 163.
• Discourses may fail to be genres if: 1) there are not slow-level formal or substantive similarities; all elements of the rhetorical situation are not adequately considered; the genre does not encourage rhetorical social action (164).

Question: How can we compare Foucault’s enunciative function with Miller’s discussion of the hierarchy of rhetorical meaning? (see Miller 160)
Answer: Use the statements, formations in the PhD program, and draw comparisons.

Miller, Carolyn R. “Rhetorical community: The cultural basis of genre.” Genre and the new rhetoric (1994): 67-78.

Ten years after writing “Genre as Social Action,” Miller again visits the issue of genre. She says that in the intervening time, she noticed that the failure to understand genre has negatively impacted firs-year composition programs by “turning what should be a practical art of achieving social ends into a productive art of making texts that fit certain formal requirements” (67). She says that rethinking genre is necessary for two reasons: clarification of some issues unresolved in her first essay and the application of genre theory to community participation (68).

Key Points:

  • Genre as middle-level phenomenon between micro-level and macro-level: She calls this a “thrifty hypothesis” and says that she believes that micro-through middle-level hypothesis to be accurate, but further explores the macro-level, where “genres help constitute the substance of our cultural life” (68).
  • To address the relationship between culture and genres, Miller compares and contrasts the judicial discourse of ancient Athens and modern America, which are connected by “evolutionary heritage,” but the cultures are dissimilar expect for the social function served by discourse (69).
  • Genre as social construction: “New historical studies” says genre helps “reflexively” help construct their culture” (69).
  • Genre as “cultural artefact”: Views genre as anthropologist sees an artifact that has a function within a system of other artefacts (69). We make inferences about the culture based on these artifacts (70).
  • Genre set: “represents a system of actions and interactions that have specific social locations and functions as well as repeated or recurrent value or function” (70).  Relationship between material, individual generic acts, and systems of value and signification (70).
  • Relationship of observable particular action and abstract influence of culture, society, or institution (70). Representations: micro- vs. macro-sociological analysis, subject vs. society, action vs. institution, innovation vs. regularity, subjectivism vs. objectivism, private vs. public, cognitive vs. social (70).
  • Structuration theory (Giddeon): the structuring of social relations across time and space (70). Social relations rely on rules and resources. Rules are “constitutive and normative” and resources “are the means by which rules are actualized” (70). It explains the connection between individuals and collectivities (71).
  • Duality of structure: “phrase used to mean that structure is ‘both medium and outcome’ of social practices it recursively organizes” (70). Structure “is both means and end” (70).
  • Structure has a “virtual existence” but it must be made concrete in material existence, so actors create structure by relying on available structures (71).
  • Structure instantiated: structure made concrete is a reproduction of structure (71). Reproduction is stronger recurrence aided by the action of participants who “create recurrence in their actions by reproducing the structural aspects of institutions” (71).
  • How to View Genre: It is a “constituent of society,” central to communication, institutional power (71). It can be manifested in more than one situation as it has “reproducible speaker and addressee roles, social typifications of recurrent needs or exigencies, topical structures (or ‘moves’ and ‘steps’) and ways of indexing an event to material conditions, turning them into constraints or resources” (71).
  • “Genre becomes a detriment to rhetorical kairos—a means by which we define a situation in space-time and understand the opportunities it holds” (71).
  • Addressivity: “mechanism by which individual communicative action and social system structure each other and interact with each other” (72). The individual reproduces patterns of others in the pattern of society that allows such reproduction (72).
  • Actions is still primary and structure/form is a “constituent aspect of action” (72). Action is what matters.
  • Collectivity: “society, institution, culture, community” (72). Community is the most contested term (72). It makes it difficult to account for change (72).
  • Rhetorical community is a “virtual entity, discursive projection, rhetorical construct” (73). These “communities ‘exist’ in human memories and in their specific instantiations in words: they are not invented anew but persist as structuring aspects of all forms of socio-rhetorical action” (73).
  • Rhetorical communities operate rhetorically through genre and where centrifugal and centripetal forces meet (74).
  • The competing forces makes a community rhetorical because “rhetoric in essence requires both agreement and dissent” (74). The community includes the other (74).
  • Community is internal and constructed; heterogeneous and contentious (74).

What holds communities together? Genre, metaphor, narrative (74).

Popham, Susan L. “Forms as boundary genres in medicine, science, and business.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005): 279-303.

Popham begins by discussing the existence of tension between disciplines. She explains that health care is a field that is full of tensions between multiple stakeholders. To explore the tensions in the field, she examines the “extradisciplinary hierarchies of the medical profession as revealed in its genres” (279). She examines interdisciplinarity “to understand the impact that other professions have on medicine” (280). She explains that the field of medicine itself in interdisciplinary (280). Medicine has been influenced greatly by the fields of both science and business (281). Popham poses the following questions: “To what extent are these two disciplines or professions represented in medical documents?” “Given Foucault’s theory that disciplines often compete for power against each other, how is that competition revealed or constructed in medical documents or genres?”  Popham says that genres “are regulated textual forms functioning in repeating situations” and they are both stable and improvisational (281). Popham reviews literature regarding genres and genre systems, including the function of genres, how genres relate to their discourse communities (282-283). Popham says that we can “understand medical genres as multidisciplinary or multiprofessional” by studying “genres as boundary objects,” which are intersectional and are “necessary for coherence of information across multiple scientific worlds” (283). She claims that “boundary genres” function as “boundary objects” that “may actively participate in interprofessional struggles about hierarchies, dominance, and values, helping to create, mediate, and store tensions” (283). Disciplines cross boundaries through “translation and reflexion” (284). There are some genres that cross boundaries “by incorporating the knowledge, or content, of a discipline into the generic forms of another discipline or vice versa the content, knowledge, of the second discipline may be incorporated into the generic forms of the original discipline” (284). Interpenetration also allows for boundary crossing through the process of “exporting and importing ideas” (285). Distillation is the strategy “in which a discipline takes key theories or ideas from another discipline and summarizes them into kernels of knowledge to use for its own purpose (285).

In examining the medical profession, Popham recognized that patient care genres are strongly impacted by business genres (285). The business genres translate and distill “the scientific and medical knowledge it has subsumed” (285). Through textual analysis, observation, and interviews, Popham found evidence that by tracing the genre system as boundary objects allows us to see the roles and influence of the various professions: how they constrain, limit, and expand one another” (286). The field of business had the most behind-the-scenes impact (287). Despite this, most business communicators did not know how to balance medical and business discourse (287).

Forms that are analyzed in this analysis are:

Patient Examination Form: This form is very scientific in nature, as it calls for data collection and observation (287). The patient is the role of data (288). Collected data is translated to medical knowledge (288).

Patient Visit Form: Also involves data collection. Collected data is scientific until it is translated for medical use (288). This data is also translated into business data to create bills (289). The doctor makes the visit static by recording it, so the doctor controls temporal representation (290). Translation allows for the crossing of boundaries of science and medicine for this form, and distillation saves scientific data in medical data  (290).

Diagnosis Form and Insurance Form: The diagnosis form is primarily business in nature, and the only medical information is the diagnosis (291). For the insurance form, the medical information is only used for billing (292). Both forms cross bounadries by translation (292).

Billing Claim: Hierarchical information is organized in a non-hierarchical way (293). Both the patient and the doctor are data (294).

For business purposes, medical information must be distilled into “a set of treatment and diagnostic codes” (294). Medical information plays a minor role on the business forms (294). Popham says, “The whole genre system of medical forms participates in reflexion (295). Reflexion “is the act of using a second discipline to create an image of the first discipline (295). Business genres surround and subsume the medical profession, and by affiliating itself with the medical profession, “gains a certain amount of dominance, control, and authority” (296). There is a commonality “of knowledge, vocabulary, and methodology across professions.

Reflection on Readings:

What does it mean that what makes a community rhetorical is the inclusion of sameness and difference “that it must include the other?”  How does genre hold communities together?

As I was thinking about this idea, that genre holds communities together. Miller says that rhetorical communities are heterogeneous and contentious. This make sense as there is no need for rhetoric to persuade if everyone shares the same ideas already. Recently I read a debate between rhetoricians over feminist rhetorical approaches to Aspasia. The debate centered around whether the attempt to recover Asapsia as the first female rhetor were good rhetorical practice or if they were simply feminist overreaching. The genre of the journal article mediates the debate and makes the community possible. It is through such debate, mediated by genres such as the journal article, that the values of the rhetorical are established, that methodologies are established and refined. The contentious debate in the community of rhetoric serves to refine and strengthen that community.

Question: How can we compare Foucault’s enunciative function with Miller’s discussion of the hierarchy of rhetorical meaning? (see Miller 160)

Miller says that “form, at one level becomes an aspect of substance at a higher level (this is what makes form ‘significant’), although it is still analyzable as a form at the lower level” (160). In my analysis of The ODU Ph.D. program utilizing Foucault’s theory of discursive formations, I realized that it is possible that objects or concepts that may be a formation at one level may be a statement at another level. For example, the Ph.D. program could be seen as a statement within the field of English Studies, while within the discursive formation of the Ph.D. Program, the individual  emphases within the program might be viewed as statements. It seems that this phenomenon of layered formations and statements could be examine through the lens of genre by comparing the form to the statement. If the most basic, low-level function of genre is the form, while the most basic element of Foucault’s discourse is the statement. I don’t think that this is necessarily a working analogy, because the form and substance are not strictly hierarchical, but the statement is truly nested within the discursive function. The similarity, though, is that in both genre and in Foucault’s theory of discourse, “A complex hierarchy of such relationship s is necessary for constructing meaning” (160).

Resources for Further Understanding

I found a terrific resource on You Tube in which Bazerman and Miller were interviewed at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco about genre theory in a 12 part video series called “Les Genres Textuels.” The captions and subtitles are all in Portuguese, but Miller and Bazerman answer questions in English.

In this video, Carolyn Miller and Charles Bazerman address the question “How do you define genre?”

In the video, Miller calls genre “A typified rhetorical action based in recurrent rhetorical situation.” Her focus is on production as action, but says that reception is also important.

Bazerman emphasizes that genre is “in the perception of the creator and the perception of the receiver” rather than genre existing as or within the object itself. He says it is a “psychological recognition category”. He also emphasizes that genres are “categories of utterances”.

In the second video of the series, Miller and Bazerman seem to be addressing a question regarding the kinds of objects to which genre theory can be applied.

Bazerman says that any “meaningful utterance” can be a genre. Both Bazerman and Miller say that genre is not simply textual. Miller says, “genre is a matter of social agreement”. Text, on the other hand, according to Miller, “is a particular way of materializing an utterance or a stretch of verbal discourse”.

I found the videos incredibly useful and enlightening because Miller and Bazerman are in conversation with one another, building on what each other states about the concepts being discussed. Reading separate articles can give the illusion that the authors may have different understandings of genre theory, but seeing Bazerman and Miller together in these videos makes it clear that genre theory is a unified theoretical approach to analysis of utterances. Miller and Bazerman may emphasize different elements of genre theory, but they’re dicussions are complementary rather than being at odds with one another.

These videos were also helpful because the answers are succinct and concise. They help me develop a better understanding of the basic elements of genre theory.

Genre Readings & Applications: Miller, Bazerman, Popham, & Digital Assessment

The readings this week on Genre Theory (listed below in the Works Cited section) represented a bit of a paradigm shift from the more intense theoretical frameworks of Foucault and Biesecker. And yet… I found myself making both of them … Continue reading