For this research project, the field of study consists of two important current theories in the discipline of rhetoric and composition, genre theory and activity theory. The purpose in studying these theories is to develop a continuing understanding of both their complexity and their synthesis for future application to the teaching of writing. Other teachers who are interested in connecting their students to the genres of both the academic and professional “real worlds” will be interested in this research. Although I initially gathered many sources on the potential application of these theories in the classroom, it became apparent that a focus on the theory would be necessary as a foundation for future study. However, I did include one textbook which utilizes genre theory to teach writing, a demonstration of the synthesizing power of the theory. I collected scholarly sources only, including articles from scholarly journals as well as books in the field of rhetoric and composition studies. Because the study of writing through these theories is a relatively new subsystem of the discipline, my earliest source dates to 1994.
Bazerman, Charles. “Systems of Genre and the Enactment of Social Intentions.” Genre and the new Rhetoric (Critical Perspectives on Literacy and Education). Freedman, Aviva and Peter Medway, eds.
This article, by Charles Bazerman of
Devitt, Amy, Mary Jo Reiff, and Anis Bawarshi. Scenes of Writing: Strategies for Composing with Genres.
This textbook, created by Anis Bawarshi, Associate Professor at
Russell, David. “The Kind-ness of Genre: An Activity Theory Analysis of High School Teachers’ Perception of Genre in a Portfolio Assessment Across the Curriculum.” Coe, Richard et al, eds. The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre: Strategies for Stability and Change.
In this chapter, David Russell, Professor at
In this article, David Russell addresses a gap he perceives between his interpretation of cultural-historical activity theory and the theory of genre systems as proposed by Charles Bazerman in 1994. Here he offers the activity system itself as a unit of analysis to bring together the macro- and micro-levels of human interaction, and discusses at great length and with a number of concrete examples some ways in which his approach accounts for stability and change in individuals and in systems, as well as for the learning of writing itself. From here, he proceeds to the middle ground between the micro-level and the macro-level, an intermediate cell biology classroom. The cell biology classroom becomes the illustration of how his approach extends through numerous systems to the research university and beyond, again accounting for individuals and groups, stability and change. This illustrates quite thoroughly that his synthesis provides a better unit of analysis, accounts for groups between the macro- and the micro, and relates texts to interactions.
In a chapter of a book edited by Joseph Petraglia, Russell begins with a four-part critique first year composition courses posed by Albert Kitzhaber in 1960. Russell’s rendition of the critique is as follows: there is a lack of consensus on content, a lack of intellectual rigor compared to other first year courses, the aims are too ambitious, and there does not seem to be a way to improve upon these problems—therefore the class should be transfigured. Russell utilizes activity theory to analyze and synthesize each aspect of Kitzhaber’s argument, which at times reads circularly—but also proceeds to suggest two specific ways to transfigure the course. Prior to the analysis, the text provides a discussion of activity theory, and then proceeds to apply it. Russell’s suggestions are to extend writing across the disciplines and change the first year composition course into an introduction to rhetoric in language, based in the research and writing of the social disciplines and described as a liberal arts course.
Wardle, Elizabeth. “Can Cross-Disciplinary Links Help Us Teach ‘Academic Discourse’ in FYC?” Across The Disciplines 2 (27 July 2004).
---. “’Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC: Can We Help Students Write the Genres of the University?” College Composition and Communication (Forthcoming).
In this article, Wardle uses activity analysis of the first year composition (FYC) program at a Midwestern university to show that the goals of FYC do not align with the goals of other activity systems within the university. Wardle begins with a look at genre, concluding this section with the statement that all classroom genres, including those of are, citing Petraglia, “pseudotransactional” (5). She begins the account of her research by questioning what general knowledge can be taught in FYC that will transfer to the university, and what pedagogies must be used to facilitate that transfer. The investigation was conducted through interviews, focus groups, and surveys administered to teachers and students of both regular composition courses and courses linked to specific majors—and Wardle uses activity theory to analyze the problems inherent in both approaches. One of these problems is the pseudotransactional or “Mutt” genres of the FYC classroom. Here, the text returns to the initial questions, and Wardle proposes a completely new goal for the FYC course: to teach about writing through use of texts in the discipline, as part of a general education requirement, much as other survey courses introduce students to their disciplines. She concludes with a call for the academy to seriously consider this un/orthodox proposal.