Reading Response: Explaining Genre Theory

I have always been under the impression that the term genre is used to classify or categorize a specific group. These specific groups can include a genre of music,  literature genre, or an art genre, that correspond each other in style, form, and subject matter. However, as I was reading Dean’s text on explaining Genre Theory, I was exposed to the complexity and messiness that this word brings about. As I read the first paragraph, I immediately began to ask myself, “what is genre?” and “why is this word so hard to define?” These questions were answered only to a certain degree but I still feel like I do not completely understand what genre means, however, I do understand that there is not a distinct definition. The more I read through the text, the more I saw a connection between genre and discourse. Both of these terms generate historical change, because they are constantly evolving and depend on previous genres or events. Genre and discourse also prove that they belong to several different cultures simultaneously. But how is this possible? What characteristics, attributes, or qualities define a person as being apart of a certain genre community. I think part of the answer lies in the text on page 16, “People who share substantial amounts of time together in common endeavors.” Page 16 also said that, “Devitt also acknowledges that people also form groups with commonalities within cultures and between cultures.” People can relate and associate with each other within certain genres because they gather together around a single repeated interest. I also thought it was interesting when the text said, “genres define cultures as much as cultures define genres.” How do these two concepts coincide with each other? On page 18, this sentence really stood out to me, “Since genres are shaped by situation, they represent the values of participants in that situation.” How exactly are genres shaped by situation? It’s interesting that we also have the ability to shape our own discourses according to our situations. I also thought it was very interesting that, “Many areas of genre theory still need further research and exploration.” I would have assumed that genre is a well understood topic since it is so relevant to literature and language. This text definitely expanded my knowledge to the complex and mess that genre creates, and it also formulated a lot of questions about the term and how it takes on many different meanings. Like discourse, genre is not something that can be taught, simply because it is constantly changing and it is something that just becomes a part of us.


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