Sunday, March 06, 2011

Reading :: Genre: An Introduction

Genre: An Introduction to History, Theory, Research, and Pedagogy
By Anis S. Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff

Since I bought my Kindle, I've been looking for books available as free PDF downloads. It's just so convenient, and frankly, I expect to be reading a lot more PDFs than Kindle books on this thing. In any case, one good source of such PDF books is The WAC Clearinghouse. Some of the books were published by presses, then discontinued and their rights reverted to the authors; others were commissioned for the series in conjunction with Parlor Press.

This particular book, by Bawarshi and Reiff, is of the latter variety. Published in 2010, it aims to do exactly what the subtitle says: introduce us to the history, theory, research, and pedagogy of genre. And it does a remarkably good job. These two scholars have absorbed a really amazing amount of material, examining genre in literary traditions, systemic functional linguistics, historical/corpus linguistics, English for Specific Purposes, rhetorical and sociological traditions (including the Brazilian Genre Synthesis), and rhetorical genre studies (RGS). That's just Part 1 - and the chapters in this part function as a massive framework essay on the concept of genre.

In Part 2, the authors examine genre research in several different contexts, including academic; workplace and professional; and public and new media contexts. Again, they do a tremendous amount of review here, sensitively discussing the research on each context.

Part 3 goes to school, examining various pedagogical approaches to teaching genres. Rhetorical Genre Studies gets its own chapter here.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the book's sheer scope and treatment of the material. Yes, in a far-ranging survey such as this one, some things get lost - but the authors lose much less than I might have expected. They clearly understand the material from many different angles, and they provide and contextualize a wealth of information; my Kindle notes are almost all along the lines of "get this cite!"

If you're planning to teach a graduate seminar on genre, or if you are just interested in the different genre traditions out there, go download this book. It's a terrific resource.

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