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A photo of a stack books.

My last post was in June, promising another one “later this week”…. So, here’s a short post on how I’ve integrated some of the genre-thinking across other “recent” posts into my classes this semester.

In my first-year course on Rhetoric and Writing, I’ve had my students consider how genres don’t just give options for the types of messages or structures involved in producing particular “kinds” of texts. They also provide tropes for representing communities and individuals in popular media. This is nothing new in genre studies and has been discussed both thoroughly in scholarship as well as elsewhere on this blog.

My first-year students, understandably not completely up to date on academic genre theory (that’s a joke), were impressively able to understand the idea. We talked about ways that the ways that genres, being rhetorical, both inform and are informed by the expectations of their audiences and fanbases. These expectatons can, at times, inflect genres and their tropes with harmful representations of and assumptions about identities and communities. We also talked about the ways genres can be repurposed to make them more inclusive of a diverse array of human experience.

Students immediately drew connections to recent, racist outrages related to the more diverse casting of the new Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones shows. (I do not know what they are called; I do not watch them.) They were also able to independently pick out tropes of other genres that are worth noticing and being critical of, such as the way mental illness is represented in horror.

In all honesty, I took a chance with the level of genre theory I asked students to engage with, but the risk was largely successful. Genre remains an engaging intellectual topic.

More soon. (Hopefully.)