Genre and the New Rhetoric

Genre and the New Rhetoric

Genre and the New Rhetoric

Genre and the New Rhetoric


Since The Mid-1980s The Notion Of "Genre" Has Been Dramatically Redefined. This redefinition has prompted theorists and scholars alike to analyze the shaping power of language and culture, and the interplay between the individual and the social.; Recent work in genre studies has drawn upon ideas and developments from a wide range of intellectual disciplines including 20th-century rhetoric, literary theory, sociology and philosophy of science, critical discourse analysis, education and cultural studies. In this text, leading theorists reflect and capitalize on the growing interest in genre studies across these allied fields, and examine the powerful implications this reconception of genre has on both research and teaching.


I am not sure whether editors are supposed to enter into critical debates between contributors or between books in the series. The conventional rules of the genre are to be bland, complementary and encouraging—which is why many of us never read series editor’s introductions, much less cite them as having anything to say.

No tricks here, but I will try to shift the genre of the introduction a bit sideways. Because Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway’s Genre and the New Rhetoric directly takes up issues raised by another recent book in this series, Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’s The Powers of Literacy (1993), and because my own work on literacy and pedagogy is cited here as a link in the argument, my aim here is to use the introduction to critically reassess issues and questions that the two books raise—issues that have been the topic of ongoing conversations with Freedman and Medway, Cope and Kalantzis over the past year.

Now in its eleventh volume, this series has featured cross-disciplinary work that looks at language and literacy in institutional contexts, including schools, universities, the mass media, new technological infrastructures, workplaces and scientific disciplines. The books have critiqued dominant approaches that treat literacy/illiteracy as an individual mental attribute or deficiency, a virtue or pathology. They have presented alternative analyses that have drawn from critical social theory, feminist theory, social history, linguistics, and cultural studies. The principal theme running across the series has been the connection between literacy and power. It has, hopefully, provided a forum for debate over how literacy enables and precludes particular kinds of political enfranchisement, social life and cultural identity, for debate over who gets included and who gets left out. But the key question about what kinds of practical, pedagogical intervention might alter the literacy/power relationship in schools and universities, workplaces and public life remains up for grabs.

Genre and the New Rhetoric mixes groundbreaking articles in the field, by Miller, Freadman, Freedman and others, with new and recent pieces. The result is an excellent primer on current American and Canadian debates over genre and pedagogy that pushes beyond formalist and individualist approaches to writing. It begins from a social and cultural approach to literacy, in this case drawing strongly from rhetoric, speech act theory and the philosophy of language, pragmatism and symbolic interactionism. At the same time, much of the work here is strongly influenced by humanist approaches to writing, and by applied American work in the field of College Composition. That work on writing has been pushed along by practical issues of . . .

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