Aviva FreedmanRethinking Genre

Sometimes – if you’re lucky and if the light is right -- a new element/construct/concept is introduced into your field of vision, which suddenly alters the way everything else is, and can be seen. For me, such a moment came when I serendipitously and almost simultaneously read Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action” and heard Chuck Bazerman describe his research-in-progress at the 4C’s.

To that point, Susanne Langer’s insights about the incessant and powerful human drive to discover and create patterns out of ambient experience had shaped my thinking about composing and its teaching. Vygotksy’s emphasis on the social had enriched this. But it was Miller and Bazerman who allowed me to see what I had been staring at for years without being able to formulate or articulate my emerging understanding -- in my research into writing in the classroom and the workplace, and in my own life, teaching, and extra-academic work. Their notion of genre clarified for me the many ways ways in which textual patternings (rhetorically and socially invented) interact dynamically with the social construal of situation-types (or humanly constructed experiential regularities).

Suddenly, everything was illuminated.

It gives me great pleasure to know that the insights that so captured my imagination and that of my colleague, Pete Medway in the late 80’s and early 90’s, leading to our joint research and to the hosting of our conference here at Carleton has been able to continue to fuel new research, new thinking, new directions. I wish that I could attend with all of you and I wish to express my gratitude to Natasha Artemeva, Graham Smart and Jaffer Sheyholislami for taking on what I know to be an extremely arduous enterprise. I wish you as much joy from this conference of this as we experienced in ours!

Aviva Freedman