Emerging and Genre

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I was just talking with a colleague about possible new directions for the writing program at our school and one of the things we started thinking about was genre.  As the content and apparatus for Emerging might suggest we’ve traditionally focused on academic expository writing in our classes—the class argument-driven academic paper.  But it occurs to me that Emerging does offer entry points for those interested in exploring some different genres.


Roxane Gay’s “Good Feminist?” is a good starting point and an interesting model for students.  One might call Gay’s work an autobiographical essay, but it’s one that engages the writing of others and makes a strong argument, as well.  But I think it also models for students one way to engage in autobiography that moves from simple narration to a kind of positioning.  After all, Gay is interested in her relationship with feminism (or with what is considered being a “good” feminist) and her essay offers an interesting model for students to positions themselves within and against other markers of identity or political positioning.  Dan Savage’s and Urvashi Vaid’s “It Gets Better” and “Action Makes It Better” are also useful for thinking about genres that bridge the personal and the political.


For something that moves towards the multimodal, Tomas van Houtryve’s “From the Eyes of a Drone” is a good bridge for thinking about the visual essay.  Throughout his essay, the images and the text work together to form an argument.  That use of text in conjunction with image might be particularly useful in getting students to think about the visual essay or in working in the visual essay to a more traditional writing classroom.


Finally, there are some essays that are, classically, essays.  David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” is probably the stand out example, but you might also consider Michael Pollan’s contribution.  I think Yo Yo Ma’s essay is a particularly good example of the genre, especially as it is written from someone not only outside academics but within the music profession, as well.


Ultimately, of course, if your class is all about genre-based writing, then this probably isn’t the text for you.  But it’s interesting to think about the small moments of flexibility allowed by this reader and interesting as well to imagine where one might go with it.

About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.