Carolyn R. Miller’s article, Genre as Social Action highlight important arguments from many well-known Composition theorists on the issue of Genre and the rhetorical situation. The conversation I found most intriguing deals with genre and being linked to human action. Another element that is stressed is how reoccurrence is demonstrated as a social act compared to a materialist point of view. “In order to understand occurrence, it is necessary to reject the materialist” (156).
Miller is implying the rhetorical situation and genre are both human habits. In this argument, she takes a more cognitive approach to the situation of genre by linking it with human interaction. She mentions our “stock of knowledge” and how people learn and comprehend information through interaction and in turn, become familiarized with the patterns of the information in which they learn. Form these patters, reoccurrence spawns and creates a cycle that is repeated through the learning process, hence, reoccurrence. Once information begins to reoccur, the person then becomes familiar with the pattern.
While relating this to genre and learning genre through rhetorical situations, it leaves one to think, where is the room for creativity in a rigid and formalistic structure on how to compose, departmentalize, and categorize genres? Why and how do people categorize genres as they do?
Having demonstrated and assigned various genres in the classroom, I can relate when Miller mentions genres can become repetitive… from a grading point of view. I find it ironic that the definition of genre according to the text taught in my class, Writing Today by Johnson- Sheehan, genre is defined as being flexible (36). But the definition of genre through Miller’s article in a rhetorical sense is to ‘classify’ (155). How can one place genre within specific parameters while maintaining ones own authenticity and creativity without bending the constraints of the genre and rhetorical situation? Is there a method for this? Or, if one veers outside the imaginative lines of genre, what happens next?