Genre Awareness

Theory —  Since this unit comprises the intersection of Genre, Rhetorical Situation, and Discourse Community, it is important that all three of these concepts be addressed.

Laura Carroll: Backpacks vs. Briefcases

On Using “Backpacks vs. Briefcases” in the Classroom: Carroll’s welcoming tone and clear style of writing make complex issues of rhetoric understandable — without dumbing them down. As her title implies, the author wants students to become aware of the non-verbal interpretive “reading”  do they do every day (judging their professor by their clothes, for instance); she then adjures students to not let their innate desire to analyze (make “snap judgements”) go under their mental radar, unappreciated and untapped for its power and potential to make them better scholars and citizens.  Terms like “logos,” “pathos,” “ethos,” “exigence,” and “audience” are unpacked and addressed. The last section of this reading, entitled ”…Why Do This Stuff Anyway?” is a worthwhile summary.

Keywords: rhetorical analysis, persuasion, logos, pathos, ethos, commercials, rhetorical situation, appeals, media saturation, argument, context  

Kerry Dirk: Navigating Genres

Kerry Dirk’s text is an incredibly helpful one to read with students— this is one of the best ones to utilize for genre discussions. Dirk maps out some of the most important ways that we can understand and define genre; as her title connotes, her essay helps us to navigate genres with our students.  She discusses many core theories on genre and responds to Amy Dewitt and Lloyd Bitzer’s theories among others. Dirk explains examples of rhetorical situations and breaks down the different ways one can understand genre. Dirk’s text is a great one to work with to establish genre awareness. The text is useful for faculty when considering the key terms that they can incorporate in their teaching and reminds us of the many types of genres that we can use in lessons, readings, and in the unit as a whole.

Keywords: genre, rhetoric, rhetorical situation, rhetorical action, genre knowledge, composition, composition theory, writing, teaching writing, genre theory, genre awareness, genre expectation.

Nelson Graff: Teaching Rhetorical Analysis to Promote Transfer (Highly Recommended!)

Graff discusses the work that he has done with his students providing details of his rhetorical analysis project as well as some student responses to the project. He makes clear links between a focus on metacognition when teaching composition and how this can lead to transfer; when students have more awareness of their own writing practices, they can apply this to other disciplines and writing experiences. Graff’s text is especially useful for faculty to find ideas and examples for possible rhetorical analysis assignments.  Also, for those who might be less familiar with what is happening in the field of composition, this text is an excellent place to start.

Keywords: writing, metacognition, transfer, rhetoric, rhetorical analysis, composition pedagogy, writing pedagogy

Reiff and Bawarshi: Tracing Discursive Resources: How Students Use Prior Genre Knowledge to Negotiate New Writing Contexts in First-Year Composition. 

On Using “Tracing Discursive Resources” in the Classroom: This in-depth article details the results of a study done on composition students who studied genres, and incorporated their previous genre knowledge (usually from high school) into college level writing courses. The findings were that many students who were reluctant to try new writing strategies were often seen as “genre guarders” while the more adventurous “genre crossers” were more willing to try composing in new genres and incorporating strategies and awareness from previous genres of writing that they had worked in. Strengths as an instructor-facing text to support creation of genre awareness assignments and classroom activities to highlight the differences between genre-specific writing and more broad genre-crossing writing strategies in the classroom.

Keywords: Genre, rhetorical awareness, writing strategies, crossing genres, previous genre knowledge, studies of composition, students

Kain and Wardle: Activity Theory: An Introduction for the Writing Classroom

Presents a brief overview of activity theory appropriate for undergraduate students, and describes how activity theory can be used to analyze texts as they mediate activity in different contexts.

Samples/Models (High Stakes)

Natalie Saleh: “Crafting Theology: Toward a Theory of Literacysmiths” (Student Ethnographic Genre Analysis)

Ashley Serku: “The Art and Rhetoric of Letter Writing: Preserving Rhetorical Strategies

Maegan Trinidad: “If it May Please the Court: Analyzing the Use of Rhetorical Elements in Courtroom Opening Statements” (Student Genre Analysis)

Scott McCloud: “Setting the Record Straight: Understanding Comics” Whole book is at this PDF. 

Sample Student Discourse Community Analysis

Nelson Graff has several different activities, including the rhetorical outline.

Sample Assignments

Rhetorical Genre Analysis (Professor Strang, MIT)

Kathy Yancey: Composition in Three Genres