Negotiated spaces: constructing genre and social practice in a cross-community writing project

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Kain, Donna
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Rebecca E. Burnett
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The Department of English seeks to provide all university students with the skills of effective communication and critical thinking, as well as imparting knowledge of literature, creative writing, linguistics, speech and technical communication to students within and outside of the department.

The Department of English and Speech was formed in 1939 from the merger of the Department of English and the Department of Public Speaking. In 1971 its name changed to the Department of English.

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  • Department of English and Speech (1939-1971)

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As a critical factor in ordering the production and reception of texts, the concept of genre has received considerable attention from theorists and researchers in rhetoric and professional and technical communication. Theorists suggest that established genres, as authorized forms of discourse, powerfully shape the ways in which people perceive and understand texts and contexts. However, much of the theory and research on genre focuses on the ways in which genres emerge within discourse communities as specific responses to the perspectives and purposes of groups that are in some way circumscribed. My focus in this dissertation is on investigating the role of genre in mediating textual practice in contexts that include people from different discourse communities who must act together to negotiate and create texts. In such situations, intersecting---and sometimes competing---influences and interests come to bear on interpretations and uses of genres.;In this dissertation, I develop and apply a rhetorical framework to analyze the genre use on one multi-disciplinary writing project, the purpose of which was to develop a text that would help people better understand the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the importance of accessibility in built environments. To investigate the work of the project team, I first consider the role of genres in shaping the broader social context surrounding public policies related to disability and accessibility. In establishing this context, I discuss the ways various professional genres have constructed disability and accessibility in U.S. culture. Specifically, I explore the ways in which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation and various responses to it have contributed to shaping social perceptions as well as social, cultural, and political realities. In studying the project work as a response to this context, I employ qualitative, participant-observer methodology to investigate (1) the ways in which established genres influenced the work of the team, and (2) the ways that the team members strategically applied genre knowledge to negotiate and construct its own text. I conclude by suggesting possible implications of this study for future research on the situated use of genres.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2003