Genre Theory, Genre Analysis, and Blog as Genre

Here are some preliminary thoughts on genre analysis as a method for studying blogs. I'm taking Carol Berkenkotter's genre theory class this semester, and this is a response paper I wrote to some forthcoming work by John Swales and "The Problem of Speech Genres" by Mikhail Bakhtin.

While I appreciate genre theory, the primary material in the reading that interested me is genre analysis as a method (or methodology), as I desire to acquire knowledge of genre analysis as a tool to analyze weblogs. Swales' work, then, was particularly useful to me. One methodological problematic I have been struggling with lately is the question of why, when analyzing an Internet genre one would need a print referent. Three concepts helped me see why a print referent is necessary: Bakhtin's notion of intertextuality among utterances, Todorov's remark that genres come “'[q]uite simply from other genres,'” and Linell's idea of recontextualization. Now I realize that a print referent—a paper journal, perhaps—is needed, but I am still grappling with the problem of genre and subgenre, e.g., a poem is a genre and a sonnet is a subgenre; a blog is a genre and a warblog is a subgenre.

Back to the topic of the reading: I had hoped to find genre analysis to be a unique, coherent, systematic way to analyze text: a way of coding a text, for example. Instead, Swales points out that “[genre] theory and [genre] methodology represent not so much separate epistemological worlds, but function more as mirror images of the same enterprise—that of making useful discoveries” (Chapter 3, p. 1). Theory, then, must be understood alongside methodology. His literature review of the diverse theoretical approaches to genre, expressed through metaphors, provides the connection between theory and methodology; the connection becomes clear to me when Swales quotes Fishelov as saying that the metaphor one uses to describe genre (institution, chain, etc.) implicitly corresponds to the “'distinct communicative situation'” (Chapter 3, p. 12). This choice to research the movement from situation to text, rather than from features of the text to communicative situation, appears to be part of what makes genre analysis different from rhetorical analysis. Some genre analysts, of course, do move from text to situation, but Swales seems to prefer the former.

Genre analysis, then, calls for a multi-methodological approach, especially if the researcher is studying the text and the communicative situation, or, as Swales puts it, if the researcher is doing a “textography.” I noticed six methods one could use in genre analysis: participant observation, corpus linguistics (diachronic approach), discourse analysis, interviews, think-aloud protocol, and citation counts. Because there are so many methodological complexities involved in the study of genre—do we give primary interpretive authority to the writer/speaker of the genre? The audience? The researcher? What about what is not said? How do you find that?—one view is that “[c]omplex phenomena are best engaged by approaching them from a number of methodological directions—basically the more the better” (Atkinson, qtd. in Swales, Chapter 3, p. 60). For my own research, another methodological complexity is presented in Bakhtin’s essay, particularly on page 71, when he discusses the beginning and the end of an utterance. In a blog post, which I take to be a unit, an utterance, one might have one or several links to other blog posts or to articles in newspapers. To my mind, those are, albeit by proxy, part of the utterance, and they disrupt an utterance’s “absolute beginning” and “absolute end.” I would argue that links to other documents are part of the utterance in a way that is more direct than if I just made a reference to a prior utterance: for example, if, on my blog, I want to quote a blog post in which there is a link, it is considered “best practices” in blogging to include the link as part of the quote, because if I didn’t, I would be quoting out of context.

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.


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I agree. But then again, I also like pickles.

Leach Blog September 13

Leach Blog September 13
There's something great about going to a movie late at night when no one's around, you're all by yourself, and you buy a huge box of juju fruits. I find myself doing that more and more. Last night I did it and went to see Jawana Man, which was playing downtown. I loved every minute of it.

The Grim Leacher

blog as genre

As a writing teacher, I'm concerned about how to "pitch" the blog to students. Some are "into" journaling and can relate to this print metaphor, but others are likely to be resistant becuase of past bad journal experiences ("Today I am writing in my journal/blog because my stupid teacher told me to . . ."). Granted, some students are resistant to everything, but are we limiting the potential of blogs with a print referrant? What are the other genres blogs might fit into?

Intertextuality, Bakhtin style

I think in the case of pitching blogs to students, it's definitely not necessary to have a print referent, but in a genre analysis of blogs that one would do for, say, Rhetoric Review, it seems to me that tracing print predecessors would be significant, especially if you're using Bakhtin (which you could opt not to do if you want, of course).

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