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Emerging Genres: Form and Transformation, From Novels to Blogs

Victor Bregeda, "The Transformation"

Emerging Genres:
Form and Transformation, From Novels to Blogs

English 209
/ Bryn Mawr College/ Anne Dalke
Spring Semester, 2008
Dalton 119, TTH 11:30 AM—1:00 PM

Photos of Final Performances
& of Re-writing the Law of Genres
Course Forum Area
Archive of Class Notes
Web Papers
1: Thinking Generically About Moby-Dick and...
2: Thinking Generically About Uncle Tom's Cabin and...
3: Thinking Generically About Blogs and...
4: Thinking Generically About...Everything

Teaching and Technology: What I Do On-Line

Class Roster
Schedule for Summaries
Instructions for Preparing Final Portfolio and Self-Evaluation

“Gestaltenlehre ist Verwandlungslehre”
(“The study of forms is the study of transformations”—Goethe, via Propp)

" genre, you’re sort of buying a guarantee that you are going to
have essentially the same experience again and again.
It’s a novel. It won’t be too novel. Don’t worry."
(William Gibson, "Back From the Future,"
New York Times Magazine,
August 19, 2007)

This course will look at the ways new genres evolve, and ask what aesthetic, cultural and political purposes those transformations may serve. The class will take as its point of departure a longstanding reliance on the Darwinian theory of evolution as the model for the development of literary forms. (Used most enthusiastically in Ferdinand Brunetière’s 1890 “L'évolution des genres,” it has been reinvented by virtually every student of genre since.) Our reading of Darwin and Brunetière will be supplemented by David Duff’s 2000 Longman Critical Reader on Modern Genre Theory, which includes essays by Propp, Bahktin, Frye, Jauss, Jameson, Todorov, Derrida, Folwer, Eagleton, and others, and highlights a range of ways of thinking about the relationships among different genres in different periods of literary history. Duff's collection will be supplemented, in turn, by current evolutionary theory about emergence.

Following Bakhtin’s claim that “faced with the problem of the novel, genre theory must submit to a radical restructuring,” three hybrid novel forms will function as the first set of exemplars for this range of concepts. All were written in the United States during the same decade as The Origin of the Species: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “romance,” The Scarlet Letter (1850), Herman Melville’s “anatomy,” Moby-Dick (1851), and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “sentimental novel,” Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).

Our second ongoing set of imaginative test cases will be found in the emerging genre of blogging. Four tri-co professors who are engaging in this activity in a variety of ways will be guest lecturers in the class, and each of us will also be writing a blog on Serendip as a portion of our work for this course.

In a series of linked writing projects, students will 1) post weekly on-line reflections about the readings; 2) reflect on the generic concept of genres; 3) explore the specific genre of the 19th c. American novel and 4) the new genre of blogging before 5) examining a topic that has arisen for them in the course of the course, which they wish to explore further. In addition to the weekly postings, a total of twenty-four pages of writing will be required by semester’s end.

Course Requirements:
Bi-weekly attendance and participation in class
10 reflections on assigned readings, posted on the world-wide web
Three 4-pp. papers:

    • 2/22: what are you thinking about, generically?
    • 3/26: what are you thinking about the emergence of the genre of the novel?
    • 4/28: what are you thinking about the emergence of the genre of the blog?
5/2: Final performance
5/16: Final 12-pp. project, portfolio and self-evaluation

Instructions for Preparing and Posting Your Papers

Course Resources:
A selection of theoretical essays
3 novels available for purchase in BMC Bookshop:
Melville, Moby-Dick
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Reading Schedule
T, Jan. 22 Introduction: Reading Some Images & Imagining Some Forms

Th, Jan. 24 Anne Freadman, “Anyone for Tennis?," Genre and the New Rhetoric,
ed. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway (Bristol, Pa: Taylor & Francis, 1994), pp. 43-66.

T, Jan. 29 Adena Rosmarin, "A Theoretical Introduction," The Power of Genre
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 3-22.

Th, Jan. 31 Rosmarin, "Defining a Theory of Genre," The Power of Genre, 23-51.

T, Feb. 5 Moby-Dick, Chapters 1-36
Power Moby-Dick: the On-Line Annotation

Th, Feb. 7 Moby-Dick, Chapters 37-81

T, Feb. 12 Moby-Dick, Chapters 82-135

T, Feb. 19 Introduction, abstracts, and Croce's "Criticism of the Theory of Artistic and Literary Kinds." Modern Genre Theory, ed. David Duff. New York: Longman, 2000. 1-28.

W, Feb. 20 Conferences with Anne

Th, Feb. 21 Moby-Dick finale

M, Feb. 25: 4 pp. of blogging due, about the use-value of thinking "generically,"
or about the generic qualities of Moby-Dick in particular

T, Feb. 26 Yury Tynyanov, "The Literary Fact" (1924), Vladimir Propp, "Fairy Tale Transformations" (1928), Mikhail Bakhtin, "Epic and Novel" (1941) and "The Problem of Speech Genres"(1952), from Modern Genre Theory

Th, Feb. 28 Uncle Tom's Cabin

T, Mar. 4 "
Th, Mar. 6 "


T, Mar. 18 Uncle Tom's Cabin
Th, Mar. 20
Northrop Frye, "The Mythos of Summer: Romance" (1957) &
Fredric Jameson, "Magical Narratives: On the Dialectical Use of Genre Criticism" (1975) from Modern Genre Theory

T, Mar. 25
Jacques Derrida, "The Law of Genre" (1980) and
Mary Eagleton, "Genre and Gender" (1989), from Modern Genre Theory

W, Mar. 26: 4 pp. of blogging due, about thinking "generically,"
or about the generic qualities of
Uncle Tom's Cabin in particular

Th, Mar. 27
The Scarlet Letter

T, Apr. 1 "
Th, Apr. 3 "

From Diary to Blog: A More Recent Emergence

T, Apr. 8
Writing as Jo(e), "Blogging as Emerging Genre" (November 16, 2005).

Laurie McNeill, "Teaching an Old Genre New Tricks: The Diary on the Internet."
26, 1 (2003): 24-47.

Th, Apr. 10
Boxer, Sarah. Blogs. New York Review of Books, 55, 2 (February 14, 2008).

Miller,Carolyn R. and Dawn Shepherd, "Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog." Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. Ed. Laura J. Gurak, Smiljana Antonijevic, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman (2004).

T, Apr. 15 Tim Burke, Easily Distracted: Culture, Politics, Academic and Other Shiny Objects
Specific Reading Suggestions from Tim

Th, Apr. 17
Kate Thomas, Syllabub: Words on Food

T, Apr. 22
Laura Blankenship, My description of a blog
M, Apr. 28: 4 pp. of blogging due, about the emergence of the genre of the blog:
explore the relation between the particular and the general, the personal and
the theoretical in
The Scarlet Letter and/or on blogs you know

Th, May 1 Final Performances

A 12-pp. final project, portfolio and self-evaluation
due by 12:30 p.m. Friday, May 16