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ENGL104 Lecture Notes - Mikhail Bakhtin, Rhetoric, Thesis Statement

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Michael Hancock

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Generic Criticism
11:20 AM
Rooted in the assumption that certain types of situations provoke similar needs and expectations
in audiences, and call for particular kinds of rhetoric. Certain situations occur often, perform
similar acts on similar audiences and call for a specific kind of rhetoric.
Seeks to discover commonalities in rhetorical patterns across recurring situations.
Purpose is to understand rhetorical practices in different time periods and places by discerning
similarities in rhetorical situations and the rhetoric constructed in response to them: how people
create individual instances of meaning and value in structured discursive fields
Genre: refers to a distinct group, type, class or category of artefacts that share important
characteristics that differentiate it from other groups.
A rhetorical genre is a fusion of three different kinds of elements so that a unique kind of artefact
is created
o Situational requirements, perception of conditions in a situation that call forth particular
kinds of rhetorical responses
o Substantive and stylistic characteristics of the rhetoric - features chosen by the rhetor to
respond to the perceived requirements of particular situations. Substantive characteristics
are those that constitute the content of the rhetoric; stylistic characteristics constitute the
form. Content = substantive; form = stylistic.
o Third element is the organising principle: notion that serves as an umbrella label for the
various characteristic features of the rhetoric. Is the label for internal dynamic of the
constellation that is formed by the substantive, stylistic and situational features of the
Greek Origins:
o Deliberative/political rhetoric, aimed to persuade audience
o Forensic speaking, issues of justice, methods for defending and accusing
o Epideictic, ceremonial discourse. Praise or blame to others
Modern Origins
o Edwin Black: suggested generic criticism as an alternative to Neo Aristotelian. Limited
number of situations that needed a rhetor, limited number of responses a rhetor could
possibly make, and the recurrence of a situational type provides a critic with information on
the rhetorical responses available in the situation.
o Lloyd Bitzer: focused on recurring situations
o A 1976 conference focused on form over situation; presenters at the conference spoke
about how repeated use of images, metaphors, arguments, structural arrangements, and
configurations of languages could be thought of as comprising a genre.
Significant form in Rhetorical Criticism
o Significant form was recurring patterns in discourses of actions. Patterns include repeated
use of images, metaphors, arguments, structural arrangements,
Anthony Pare and Graham Smart
o Define genre as distinctive profile of regularities across four dimensions: textual features
(styles of text, modes of argument); regularities in composing process (gathering and
analysing of information); regularities in reading practices (where, when and why a
document is read); social roles performed by writers and readers
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