« Chapter quotes for 14-16 | Main | Fisking: getting away with murder »

October 11, 2006

Genre: More Than Meets The Eye

Chapter 11 of Hot Text talks of the matter of Genres. While a genre is defined by Price as, “A familiar pattern, a way of organizing information,” I have found through reading this chapter that a genre can be a variety of things and even be changed itself. I like how the book identifies a genre as a sort of promise. Price puts it best by saying, “a genre makes a promise to the user, and as you write, you have to fulfill that contract.”
The idea of writing in a genre never seemed to strike me as something that was that challenging. As a student of journalism, I am used to writing in a very fact based genre and staying within it. Price does describe the advantages of writing in a genre by the things a writer quickly picks up on, “You become ruthlessly efficient as you tweak individual phrases, because you are clear, at the start, about you stance.”
Price also credits the audience as the ones who came up with the idea of the genre. I never realized that a genre starts from an audiences demand for answers to questions. Fellow class mate Cory Struss expressed the same kind of surprise in his blog on this chapter also, http://blogs.setonhill.edu/CoreyStruss/2006/10/interesting_quotes_chapters_11.html.
The purpose of genres is also discussed in this chapter. The purpose of a genre can be figured out by the kind of question it answers. Price goes on to talk about how once a audience asks one question and get a writer to write in a specific genre. It can then lead to a lot of follow up questions. This sometimes causes a genre to become a procedure. Price talks about what a text must include to be considered a procedure this includes at least one instruction. Price includes a long list of particular follow up questions that lead to certain procedures. This is also where the talk of twisting the genre to fit a particular context comes in.
I do not really get why this book would tell you to twist a genre. Price even says, “A genre acts as a general model, an uncodified but widely acknowledged structure, with an implied style.” Why do they tell you to twist this model to fit a certain context? I did not really get an answer out of the chapter. Fellow classmate Karissa Kilgore posted a similar confusion in her own blog on these chapters,http://blogs.setonhill.edu/KarissaKilgore/017218.html. It just seems to be a bit of a contradiction when Price says, “the formalist always insists that you should maintain the conventional tone in any genre. But your job is just to figure out what that conventional tone is, then bend it, twist it, and expand it, taking it right up to the limit,” because at the same time in other areas in the book they say to be honest and professional.
This is why the sections that talk about building a persona and going “gonzo” confuse me. I can understand how building a persona in certain kinds of writing makes sense. You would not write a sports article in the same way you would write and editorial. But then when Price talk about, “go gonzo once in a while,” doesn’t that seem kind of unprofessional? I mean if a normal person decided to change the persona that their job’s organization had specifically told them to stick with, I could see them getting in trouble or even fired.
Perhaps it is just my lack of understanding about this part of writing for the internet. Mikhail Bakhtin has a quote in this book that actually helps express what I feel about genre and how to work with it. He says, “But to use a genre freely and creatively is not the same as to create a genre form the beginning; genres must be fully mastered in order to be manipulated freely.” A full understanding of how and when to change parts of genre would benefit anyone looking to write on the internet.

Links to help you more fully understand the concept of genre

This is actually Prices chapter skimmed down to the more important tips of genre writing.

This is a survey of writers asking why they write in certain genres.

Posted by RachelPrichard at October 11, 2006 4:37 PM


Great entry, Rachel. Price and Price have a lot of specific advice to give about writing online, but I rather like how they step back from making cut-and-dried, hard-line pronouncements about genre in general. Isn't it more fun, and more rewarding, to experiment and come to your own conclusions? This is a great example of that kind of experimentation.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 11, 2006 8:28 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?