Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Ideas...

Based upon the ideas within Anis Bawarshi's book Genre & the Invention of the Writer, I now have one more nuance of life to appreciate. Any time you can take what once seemed defined, even shallow in meaning, and provide a new angle of perceiving it adds to life in general. These moments of realization are a sly, friendly wink that there is so much more out there to be discovered if you look a bit closer. I will freely admit to falling into the routine of employing a comfortable pair of critical blinders, glazing over the subtleties, but when I do find my world expanding it is quite the experience. I do not make any claims that Bawarshi has hit upon any absolute truths, but rather that I have a new appreciation of what once seemed so simple and static. I'm a bit self-conscious now, having written the last few thoughts when all that gushing was over a more encompassing comprehension of the word "genre".

Surely we know genre in its relation to literary categorizing, but this bookish adolescent with seemingly no social grace is really a blooming social scientist coming into its own. I started with genre as a way of bunching various artistic endeavors into "types" and, after Bawarshi, am now with the new idea that it encompasses much more: "...genres are dynamic discursive formations in which ideology is naturalized and realized in specific social actions, relations, and subjectivities" (8). Genre theory can be summed up, somewhat crudely, as a way of explaining and perpetuating the way we as social animals interact with one another, assuming roles and rules that have become recognized and standard.

Building upon this new comprehension of what genre's can represent, the implications in regard to invention trigger my educational funny bone. Taking the thought that humans in general behave in such a way so as to create the situations where their actions are understandable and necessitated (when they identify with and act out of a genre), anyone can understand and therefor create novel situations (pun intended). I am thinking in terms of composition, where a student can take a genre, with all its inherent qualities, and create a situation loyal (or divergent) to its principles. It would be a lesson in understanding the world, both real and literary, and practice for writers to learn more of the written arts.

Who knows if the genre theory will last in academic circles as an adequate way of conceptualizing links between people, situations, and meanings, but what it did give me was a new outlook on certain things. It gave me pause to look into my (learned) behavior within specific circumstances, or exigence, and the ways in which I can take these thoughts and apply it to composition instruction.

1 comment:

Jimmy Astacio said...

Hey Martin,

I liked your post, and wanted to comment on the Bawarshi reading.

I can appreciate how Bawarshi brings in the concept of genre as a way to get students to see the blank page as less scary and evil. The notion that they're working within a genre is excellent; they're not starting from scratch then, from a tabula-rasa, they're working within an already established genre.

But, this is not news. The idea that students are not empty vessels waiting to be filled is an old one by now, likewise the notion that texts influence each other and are, in a sense, written by other texts (intertextuality).

Still, Bawarshi's argument is interesting, and I'll have to wait and see what he does later in the book.