Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres”

Before having read Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres” I would have defined genre as a category or type of some artistic work such as a book or movie.  I specifically thought of genres of books like mystery and science fiction and genres of movies such as horror and action.  I thought of genres as relatively static and I didn’t think of them as particularly useful.  If I was choosing a book to read or a movie to watch I would look for a particular genre that I like.  After reading “Navigating Genres” I would redefine genre as a set of guidelines for writing for a particular situation.  This situation is usually recurring and each new addition should build on previous writing in the genre.  That being said he claims that writing in a particular genre isn’t just an exercise in filling in the blanks.  In addition, this writing should also focus on the purpose that we are trying to achieve.  The author should think about what response he wants to get out of the audience and write accordingly.  This purpose then determines the genre used.  A joke is written to make people laugh whereas a ransom note is used to get someone to give you money.  It is also important to consider location when discussing genre.  This is the context in which you write.  If you are writing a research report for a first year english class this is different than writing for a psychology class.  A useful metaphor for describing genre would be genre as a foundation of a building.  Although the foundation gives the general structure of a building, each person can build a different building on top of it.  Similarly the conventions of a certain genre are really guidelines and not just a formula to be followed.  They help shape a piece of writing but they are only a foundation to be built upon.


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