ENGL708G - Seminar In Rhetoric: Genre Theory

In this seminar, we will approach contemporary genre theory as a point of connection between areas of English studies. Taking rhetoric as a dimension of all discourse, we will explore genres as socially responsive typifications that are central to our ways of acting, understanding, and interacting as rhetorical beings. The course will begin with a reconsideration of the relationship between literary and rhetorical approaches to genre before moving on to intensive introduction to rhetorical genre theory, exploring its claims that genres are not just ways we define and organize kinds of texts (i.e., genre as classification system), but also ways we rhetorically define and organize kinds of social actions mediated by texts broadly conceived (i.e., genres as conceptual system). We will examine genre's role in the reading and writing of texts not only in terms of the patterning of form and rhetorical action but also corresponding issues of identity, ideology, and social structure.

The first part of the semester will focus on a sequence of readings that takes us through a contemporary history of the concept of genre. Around the halfway point in the term, seminar participants will begin to develop projects that apply genre theory and analytic methods to individual scholarly interests. Readings for the latter part of the semester will be selected to support these interests and to complement those of selected guest speakers.