Friday, February 25, 2011

Reading :: Rhetorical Genre Studies and Beyond

Rhetorical Genre Studies and Beyond
Ed. Natasha Artemeva and Aviva Freedman

At a recent conference, one presenter was having trouble getting the projector to work. After a few minutes, to keep us from shifting uncomfortably, the session's chair brightly said that if we in the audience had any questions about genre studies, this was the time to ask. After all, the room was loaded with excellent genre scholars, she explained, then pointed to and listed several. It was an interesting moment, because the list was a partial roll call of scholars working in Rhetorical Genre Studies, a strand of North American genre theory. In RGS, genres are seen as texts-in-use; these scholars conduct empirical (generally observational) investigations, drawing from ethnographic and case study methods, rather than structural (i.e., focusing on a close examination of the texts themselves).

Alas, I can't offer you a room full of RGS scholars. But I can point you to this book, now available as a free PDF. You can get it by clicking on the link above. And if you're interested in genre studies, particularly in the North American (Bakhtinian, interpretive, text-in-use) tradition, you really should. It's a good strong introduction to RGS, answering questions such as: What does RGS tell us about how people learn genres? What are RGS' potentials and limits? In what areas does RGS need further development? How do you conduct a study in the RGS tradition?

The chapters are well done, and I especially liked Artemeva's bibliographic essay assessing the state of RGS. The studies - in settings such as classrooms, healthcare, engineering, and various workplaces - do a nice job of illustrating how RGS can frame methodologies and guide interpretation. And, like most well-done studies, they're entertaining.

Bottom line: Definitely download the book if you have more than a fleeting interest in genre theory or genre studies.

No comments: