A Study of Genres in Context,
a Theoretical Intermezzo
We struggle more with getting the facts than we do deciding
what to do with the facts once we have them.
—tax accountant, in an interview
The real complexity of genres, as of societies, can best be suggested in examining actual genres in actual settings. To demonstrate some of that complexity, to interrogate the six principles I proposed in the preceding chapter, and to illustrate the definition of genre I propose in the first chapter, I will examine in this chapter the genres used in a professional community, the genres used by tax accountants. In 1986, I investigated the writing done by tax accountants in the so-called Big Eight accounting firms (later merged to a Big Six and later Big Three). Among other results, I discovered a profession highly dependent on texts, one whose work was the production of texts and whose epistemology was grounded in the authority of texts. 1 One part of the original study focused on the genres through which tax accountants performed their work, for how texts shaped the work of tax accountants varied according to genre. To describe the interaction of genres within the community and how they together represented the accountants' work, epistemology, and values, I used the term genre set. The original depiction of the tax accounting community and its genre set, in my original article, helped to establish how genres help professionals do their work, but that depiction now needs to be elaborated in order to capture the complexity of a community enmeshed in genres. Examining the community of tax accountants provides a useful example of the rhetorical and social significance of genres. My study of the genres used by tax accountants further complicates the basic principles, as, I suspect, does every study of specific practice. Finally, to com
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Publication information: Book title: Writing Genres. Contributors: Amy J. Devitt - Author. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of publication: Carbondale, IL. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 66.
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