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Week 1--Welcome to the Game that is Genre!

Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome to the forum for Emerging Genres, a new interdisciplinary course at Bryn Mawr College. Let's start our conversation by musing out loud here together about "form" and "transformation," about play and its rules. What do you when you look @ these images? And/or: what is your response to Anne Freadman's invitation to think about genre as a game of tennis?

Marina Gallo's picture

Thinking about genre and theory

I have been thinking about genre theories and how useless I feel theory is to learning about literature. Sometimes I just want to talk about the books and not their catagories etc. I came upon an article by Jonathan Culler and he seemed to describe how I feel in a more eloquent way than I ever could. I especially like the first page of his writing. Maybe other people feel the same way?

Here is the link:

Anne Dalke's picture

Anyone for Theory?

For an extended thinking-through of the questions you raise here,
see "Anyone for Theory"?
Marina Gallo's picture


I don't know why my words got pushed together in the above post..sorry!
Marina Gallo's picture

Moby Dick Musings

When thinking aboutwhat was said in class and going over my notes the question of whether MobyDick is a classic novel really interested me. 

I think we define classicsas timeless pieces of literature, but Melville's use of Christian referencesmake the book less accessible to any audience. In the time that he wrotethe book, Melville assumed that the readers would have read the Bible. Thatprobably would have been a correct assumption on his part, but in today’ssociety far less people have read the Bible.

I felt like I was losing alot that I could have gained from this book because Melville didn’t explainwhat he was talking about. I don’t think it is correct to assume that peoplewill look up every citation he makes to Christianity when the whole book isfilled with stories that people don’t know. It is just unrealistic to asksomeone to also read the Bible just so they can understand Moby Dick. Though Ifind it to be an entertaining book, I don’t believe it should be considered aclassic and I’m also not sure it should have such an emphasis in English courses. 


egoodlett's picture

Week One

Well, I missed the first class, and also don't seem to be added to the Blackboard list, and thus, I can't find the Freedman essay to read it. Is it uploaded here somewhere?

As to the pictures, the first image looks like a lot of arched doorways, to me. Some are crooked, and they're all different colors, which seems to suggest they each lead to someplace different, depending on which one you choose to pass through. That could be a way of saying that the genre you choose to create in/write for affects where you will end up. The same basic storyline told through different genres will achieve different effects.

 The second picture appears, in my mind, to address the result of that choice between genres, rather than the choice itself. It depicts the deeper idea or theory of the story as a flower and butterfly emerging from the writing, in the midst of an otherwise dry/idea-less landscape. But that's just my interpretation of it.

Rebecca Pisciotta's picture

From reading the previous

From reading the previous posts I have seen that many students have has similar interpretations to mine of these two images.

I found that Prof Dalke's antecedent explaination of the activity to come was highly suasive, it strongly influenced my interpretaion of the first photo. I was prepared to see something to do with genre. In the first image I saw a series of archways. They reminded me of the Gates exhibit which took place in central park. The exibit was innumerous orange metal archways with an orange fabric hanging down. Both the form and color of the shapes on the cover of the book reminded me of the exhibit. The Gates arches were modeled after Japanesse "Torii" another form of archway which is used to mark the transition from one place to another, which are typically used at the entrance to temples or shrines. I saw the shapes of the cover to represent transition between many different states. I felt that the colors, which were all different, represented transition between very different states. The rough edges also suggested a human hand in these transistions.

The second image immediately evokes mempries of Salvador Dali paintings. I immediately noticed how influenced I was by having seen the first photo first. I saw desolation, and isolation. The rose stands on its own, being created in a void. I saw the two photos as contrasts, the first photo showed an evolution and change from one thing to another, whereas the second showed a creation of something from nothing.


Christina Harview's picture


I think I posted on the main site by accident. Well, I understand now how to post every week.

No regrets,


Anne Dalke's picture

message to the future

...when this happens? (or when any of you decide, on purpose, to write a longer entry, one that belongs in your blog rather than in the more conversational forum?) put a link here, so others can find their way to your musings...

For Christina's message to the future through the time/space continuum of Serendip, follow this link...

and for Annamarie's on pants, doorways and arches, go to this one...

l. amsterdam's picture

Week 1 Reactions

Reactions to the images:

Image 1: It seems to be several variations on an arch. They are different (in color, size, etc), but really the same basic form. Some are bigger than others. I suppose this could be a representation of one idea of genre--different varieties that play off of each other, but all the same thing at the most basic level, a text.

Image 2: A book, turned by a hand/arm with no visible body (but seeming to wear a white robe). The book has flowers and butterflies blooming from it; the bright colors, contrasting strongly to the dull ones in the rest of the painting, make it the focal point. However, there is a figure, who seems to be uniterested in the book; the figure instead seems to have climbed a ladder so as to journey up the arm. Perhaps this is meant to convey the idea that what we focus on is the finished product (the text), but that in a more subtle way, we also get a reflection of the author within that (we climb up their arm and explore them, in a way). Wow, I think I gave way too much attention to such a silly picture.

To be honest, I found Freadman's essay a bit dense, and I probably would need to give it another reading (or two or three or four) before I could really take anything truly insightful from it. However, I did find the idea of genre as a game, requiring active participation (between two equals), versus something passive or restrictive like a recipe, very interesting. Knowing absolutely nothing about tennis, that metaphor was, for me, almost impossible to follow, and therefore not very useful. The idea of the importance of place was also interesting; it seems quite obvious in retrospect, but I feel that the obvious is too often overlooked.

akeefe's picture

Brain Spasms

When I walked into class on Tuesday it was really the first class of my new semester, my fresh start. (the class before had just gone over the syllabus and run a lottery) Everything became a brain trigger. That’s right desks and paper, not bed and books. Collective opinions, not just your own. Okay I remember now…

The pictures trigger several spasms of the brain. I saw traveling through the city of Ephesus, or I was reading Gulliver’s Travel’s in my garden. To me, both picture has a clearly similar theme of transformation. The subjectivity of the first piece gave rise to its own transformative properties. The second one depicting an actual transformation.

As to tennis and genre connection, I’ll admit I had a difficult time with the reading, if not simply because I have never really understood tennis. Freeman’s argument was built around these layers of rules and play folding over each other like freshly cooked pasta. I was having brain spasms all the way back to the seventh grade tennis unit in gym, listening to all of the rules, and the ceremony around it. If I learned anything from the article, it’s that tennis, and genre, and even the interpretation of the above pictures, are not like I learned about in gym. The “rules for play” cannot guarantee me any success at the game if my technique or timing is lousy. It is also very hard for any of these things to exist without other players, because they’re function would just need to be replaced. In this instance the competition for the genre that will be the set of rules and techniques generally accepted. Not really a winner and loser, but an evolution or agreement.

M. Gallagher's picture

Week One

Well, since we went over the first image in a bit of detail in class, I'll just write my reactions to the second image (in a sort of telegraph/note structure).

Image two: surrreal. Rather stark Dali-esque figures. The hand is a hill flipping the pages of a book, which sprout the growth of colorful flowers and butterflies; it's somewhat trite to have books representing knowledge which represent growth. Ladder to hand impling that it's an aid to this gain of knowledge? Farmers/other (uneducated) figures toiling (the fields) with a barren tree as their sole companion.


Anne Freadman's metaphor/allegory/simile that genre is a game of tennis seemed a bit bulky to me. It ended up working alright, but it seems to have confused the matter by adding yet another layer of abstraction. The best part I noticed was when she talked about how genre should be defined by a system of contrasts rather than the inherent nature of the work. This tied into the idea of an "ideal form" for a genre. Thus, there could be an archetype (or, perhaps more accurately, a holotype) for a genre that would obey all of the contrast rules, while the rest of the texts might just obey the majority of them; the fewer contrast rules obeyed, the more divergent from the holotype (and thus genre) that specific text would be.

Hannah M.'s picture

Week 1: genre and place

Anne Freadman’s essay dramatically expanded my idea of what genre is and how we use it, and take it for granted, every day. One part I found interesting was her description of how the place and the “props” for a text, and for a social situation in her metaphor, determine what kind (what “genre”) of text or situation it is. Two business people having a conversation over a desk will act differently than they would talking about the same subject over a lunch table. She says that one is not less ritualistic that the other, though; everything we do/read is governed by rules, we just “choose one ritual instead of another.”

A “genre” debate in the same vein might be the familiar differences between writing an email and writing a letter. Here, the setting or the place of the text determines what kind of text it is. Even though an email is supposed to be less formal than a letter, it’s easy to labor over how to express what I want to say in a way that is appropriately casual or otherwise, depending on who I’m writing to. In other words, there are still expectations and conventions, even though an email is in a different genre than a letter. I understood her argument to be that the context and the placement of words has much to do with their meaning; in fact, that the meaning is not the same at all if it is moved from its context, and that this applies not only to texts but to pretty much everything else, too. It’s interesting how she sees the study of genres as the study of everything.

Marina Gallo's picture

Week One Post

In these two images I saw different things. The first seemed abstract and somewhat like colorful pants with feet. It also gave off the feeling of arches or passageways. Though the arches were in different places in the images, they were still similar. Maybe genres interact with each other instead of one dominating an entire work. 

The second image was very different from the first.  I found that it was more of a clear picture and less interpretation was needed to understand what the images were. On the other hand, the meaning of the images could be interpreted still. It was obvious that flowers and butterflies were growing out of a book in a desolate landscape. The sky was grey and lent a melancholy feeling to the scene. This could be a picture representing a specific genre instead of genres as a whole. 

AF's picture

Week One: What do you see in these images?

  Initially, when i saw the cover of "Modern Genre Theory" there appeared to be many pairs of legs in various shades of orange, red, and yellow. These legs all stop sharply at what I would assume is the waist line of the figures and also seem to be advancing toward the viewer. The most striking feature of the image is the yellow pair in the foreground. This pair has placed it's foot in front of another pair almost as if these sets of legs are in competition with one another. After writing out this seemingly irrational explanation of the image I concluded it would be more rational to assume the pairs of legs are actually arches or doorways. This new conclusion led me to discover what looks like a small window hidden in the center of the arches, almost as if it was in disguise.

The meaning of the second image seemed clearer to me. Something along the lines of "books give you wings" came to mind (along with various memories of RedBull commercials) after I noticed the transition from hand to book to flower to butterfly. I then noticed the bleakness of the background in comparison to the detailed foreground of the image. Finally, I noticed how small the men where compared to the flower sprouting from the book and concluded this difference in size reflects the idea that knowledge is greater than man.