Workshop 1 - Genre: theory, methodology and practice

Saturday 6 October 2012 (09:30-16:45)

Speakers :Sam Leith (London, UK), an award-nominated columnist, novelist and journalist; Prof. Carolyn Miller (North Carolina State University, USA); Dr Garin Dowd (the University of West London, UK); Dr Natasha Artemeva (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)

Roundtable: What informs our judgement about the genre of a text?

Venue: Room 121, Muirhead Tower (R21 on Campus Map, Edgbaston Campus).

All workshops are open to everyone and are free but places are limited. If you are interested to attend any of them please email the organiser Natasha Rulyova at

Talks from the workshop can be listened to via the links below:

Genre, Newspapers, Rhetoric, Sam Leith

Abstract: This talk aims to discuss the way genres behave in some contexts outside the more obviously literary domains in which they are most studied. Starting with a look at the way some news media (the author’s natural habitat) behave in genre terms – and the cross-currents of genre between different types of newspaper and different sections within newspapers – it will seek to build on that to consider the importance of genre in framing an audience’s expectations and understanding of itself. I’ll move on to set that briefly in the context of the traditional ways in which we’ve understood the working of rhetoric – which was, after all, what we had to talk about language before linguistics or literary criticism entered the picture.

Sam Leith is a journalist and critic. He’s the author of four books, most recently: “You Talkin’ To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama.” (Profile Books

New Genres, Now and Then, Carolyn Miller

Abstract: Two periods of discursive proliferation have seen particular interest in genres and the theory of genres: the Renaissance and the current era. Both of these periods are times of technological and social change, and it is these similarities that invite a comparative inquiry into the role of genre in these two eras. This paper explores the Renaissance debates over the authority of genres and the problem of mixing genres with an eye to understanding the current proliferation of genres and talk about genres that we find in popular culture. If we understand genres as sites of tension between stability and change, their nature as dynamic patterns of rhetorical relationships allows them to serve as sites of rhetorical innovation, points of intersection between the expected and the unexpected. The historical comparison also raises questions about the nature of genres as both rhetorical actions and as cultural products or commodities.

Carolyn is SAS Institute Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Technical Communication at North Carolina State University. She was also Visiting Associate Professor at Michigan Tech and Penn State in 2988, Visiting Professor at Georgia Tech in 1991, and Visiting Professor at the federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil in 2007. She is also the founding director of NC State’s PhD in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media. She served as Director of Professional Writing in 1993–2002 and 2003–2004. She established and directed the Center for Communication in Science, Technology, and Management from 1995 to 1999 and co-directed its successor, the Center for Information Society Studies, from 1999 to 2003. Carolyn's professional service includes terms on the governing boards of the American Society for the History of Rhetoric, the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the MLA Division on the History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition, and the Rhetoric Society of America. She is a past president of the Rhetoric Society of America and was editor of Rhetoric Society Quarterly 2008–11. She has previously served on the editorial boards of College Composition and Communication, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Written Communication.

Genreflections: Genre Theory, Philosophy and the case of Poetry, Garin Dowd

Abstract: This paper asks the question why, at key moments in the history of philosophy, in the discipline’s attempts at self-definition, the genre of poetry has seemed to play such a key role. Philosophy, at these moments, has, inter alia, been defined as the enemy of poetry, the guiding light for the philosopher who can only try and fail to emulate its brilliance, or as the anomalous guest at the philosophical table with whom the host discipline has relations which result in either generative or degenerative effects. The ideas of philosophers associated with each of these positions will be addressed. Parallel to this line of enquiry will run another considering the role which poetry has played in the self-definition of genre theory as we have come to know it today. I conclude my enquiry by considering the contributions of an author who moved adeptly between poetry and philosophy, Wallace Stevens.

Garin teaches in the Ealing School of Media, Art and Design at the University of West London, where he is currently Reader in Film and Media. He is the author of Abstract Machines: Samuel Beckett and Philosophy after Deleuze and Guattari (Rodopi, 2007), co-author (with Fergus Daly) of Leos Carax (Manchester University Press, 2003) and editor (with Lesley Stevenson and Jeremy Strong) of Genre Matters (Intellect Books, 2006). He has also published work on aspects of genre in the writings of Samuel Beckett, essays on the French film critic Serge Daney and on the films of Jacques Rivette.

Learning genres of teaching: A rhetorical approach to the study of written genres, Natasha Artemeva

Abstract: In this presentation I provide a brief historical overview of different approaches (product, process, and socio-rhetorical) to teaching academic writing and introduce Rhetorical Genres Studies (RGS) (Miller, 1984), an approach to genre studies that focuses on the social aspects of genre learning, teaching, and use of academic and workplace written genres. I review possible combinations of RGS with other social theories of learning and practice, and illustrate the power of such combined approaches by discussing recent and current studies of teaching and learning genres in higher education. These studies raise questions about future developments in RGS research.

Here you can listen to the talk by Sue Wilkinson, Birmingham Central Library

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