This course explores the role of genre in shaping society and the everyday actions of individuals. We will explore the following questions: What constitutes genre, and what functions does it accomplish in the world? How does a genre work to stabilize knowledge and particular realities in various contexts? How can use of genre promote social change? What happens when genre expectations are not met, that is, when the genre conventions accepted by a particular community are flouted either intentionally or by mistake? As we formulate answers to these questions, we will come to better understand genres not as static categories but as dynamic ways of processing information that shape the world we inhabit.
In addition to genre, the other centers of gravity for this course will be rhetoric and social movements. Even if the term rhetoric isn’t familiar to you, the practice of rhetoric is. In fact, you bring a good deal of rhetorical skill to this class: you already know how to gauge the way you perceive and produce language according to the speaker, the intended audience, and the purpose. Genres are vehicles in which discourse is packaged in a particular way for a particular audience. As we grapple with the various shapes and roles of genres, we will also grapple with various roles and formations of rhetoric. Social movements will serve as a uniting theme for the course as the present excellent opportunities to examine the dynamic role genre plays in terms of converging or disparate ideologies, beliefs, cultures, and customs.
The assignments will be aimed at the completion of a course research paper. However, this paper will be broken down into separate parts. You will have the opportunity to choose your topic of interest and build the paper incrementally as we progress through the course. The purpose of this structure of assignments is to equip you with a strong project to take with you as an example of your own undergraduate research. Such materials could be used in job or graduate/professional school applications.