Writing Genres as Social Action—English 493

Next offered: Fall 2021 (syllabus)
Last offered: Fall 2020


This course is designed for upper-division students interested in examining issues of identity, power, and medium as they relate to writing in various contexts. Taking a rhetorical genre studies approach, we study and apply relevant theory and research methods to a range of genres to consider how the moves they make create and maintain particular effects in the world. We analyze the texts, context(s), and social significance of a public, professional, digital, and/or advanced academic genre and produce writing that meets, modifies, and subverts expectations. We ask questions not only about how to write successfully but also about how to write with awareness of the social norms and values sustained by the texts we produce. We come to see genres as providing “rules for play” that link us to shared expectations and enable innovation.

Our central aim is to become more effective writers, more alert readers, and more acute observers of the social significance of textual production and circulation. Course workload includes daily writing, regular readings and scholarly research, meetings with genre experts, a research paper, a portfolio of writing, and a final exam.

Class Meetings

Class meetings will alternate between small-group discussions that reflect on and respond to our class readings; peer review and draft workshops for short essays and digital experiments; and full-class discussions that tie together the broader analytical framework of the course and the various digital experiments and assignments.

Learning Outcomes

Students will learn to evaluate and develop their own writing habits and methods of interrogation and critical analysis.
Background image is of a DEC PDP-11/34 minicomputer, data drive storage cabinet, modem, a covered typewriter, and DECwriter terminal under a window with mustard yellow curtains open to show a sunny day. The photo was taken circa 1984 in the basement playroom of my childhood home.