Always Already in Flux: A Response to Anne Freadman
Carolyn Miller’s rich and theoretically complex 1984 essay “Genre as Social Action” has been widely influential among scholars who have been variously identified as part of Rhetorical Genre Studies (Freedman, 1999), North American Genre Studies (Freedman & Medway, 1994; Artemeva, 2004), or American New Rhetorical Studies (Hyon, 1996). Despite being associated with each other, these loose congeries of scholars do not form a coherent whole with a commonly shared theory; nor have they taken up Miller’s essay in exactly the same way, to use the uptake term introduced into genre discussions by Anne Freadman (1987/1994). These scholars have a variety of understandings of how contexts configure perceived communicative opportunities within situations, how communicative actions are perceived by others, how social circumstances are relevant and articulated by the participants, the degrees of freedom of action by the writer and the interpreting reader, how mandatory certain elements of genres are and how those elements are realized in texts, as well as many other issues, including the natures of agency and exigency that Freadman (2020) considers in her current essay. Moreover, the theories or concepts advanced by these scholars are developed through empirical studies, each of a different character, although Freadman would like to distinguish sharply between genre theory and genre studies.
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