CCCC 2001 in Review: N.5 Constructing Connections Through Genre: Fostering Student Understanding of Assignments, Arguments, and Language
Irene Clark presented "Connecting Students with Assignments: A Genre Approach."
Using recent reconceptualization of Genre Theory, Clark asserted that writing assignments is similar to stage directions because they use explicit cues and are based on unstated assumptions about what constitutes acceptable practice. Moving from a particular set of conventions to typified social action, Clark then asserted that our perceptions of genre are being redefined and moving us to think more about discourse conventions with situation, rhetorical purpose and social action, rather than addressing formal or traditional expectations. Clark concluded that teachers teach our assignments as a genre and calls on the field to better articulate and design our assignment prompts. This will help instructors avoid an "assign and complain" syndrome where their vague instruction becomes a more sharpened form of complaint about what students are not doing.
Richard Fulkerson presented "Reading Student Assignments as Nested Genres: How Stases and Genre Interact."
Admitting that the paper and his research in genre began over Christmas after wondering "what in the pluperfect hell" was I proposing?, Fulkerson explained the benefits of teaching generic principles of argumentation to students and defined his notion of . nested genre as "a discourse type in which two separate genre systems operate and one dominates, while the second is re-made to fit 'inside.'" He broke down stasiastic genres of argument into argument for definition, argument for categorization, argument. for generalization, argument for. causation, argument for evaluation, and argument for policy proposal.
David Bleich presented his "commentary." He preferred not to give a conference paper, talk about genre, or criticize those who teach argument, "much as I should" Bleich said. "Why isn't the substance of the issue engaged?" asked Bleich. "When are we going to see how much words matter?" Bleich analyzed Miller's review of Andrea Dworkin's latest book in context of responding to two of his graduate students' commentary on the same context.. Why does Dworkin become the issue and not her ideas?, asked Bleich, as he wondered how he could respond to his students. He seemed to dancing with feminist and genre issues but it wasn't clear what he was really getting at. He didn't think the two women students he was working with were doing good commentary, though he thought their scholarship was credible. He wondered if their restraint was due to him being a male. Bleich wondered if their commentary was not enabling them to really get at key issues but didn't dwell on the content of what he meant by commentary or what he had assigned them to do. Dworkin believes that being a writer means telling the truth, always, Bleich pointed out, and criticized the reviewer, Miller, for not following suit. Commentary for Bleich means rabinic commentary-arguing what the text has to teach. Neither text, author or audience are inaccessible to one another in our time, claimed Bleich. Though he seemed to be calling for more straightforward student ideas about their central topics, but it wasn't clear. At the end of the session in Q&A, Bleich was asked if he had student permission to discuss their commentary and he honestly said no. [WH]
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