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Top charts. New arrivals. How do the ways we argue represent a practical philosophy or a way of life? Are concepts of character and ethos pertinent to our understanding of academic debate? In this book, Amanda Anderson analyzes arguments in literary, cultural, and political theory, with special attention to the ways in which theorists understand ideals of critical distance, forms of subjective experience, and the determinants of belief and practice.

Drawing on the resources of the liberal and rationalist tradition, Anderson interrogates the limits of identity politics and poststructuralism while holding to the importance of theory as a form of life.

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See more. Amanda Anderson. Combining analysis of Victorian literature and culture with forceful theoretical argument, The Powers of Distance examines the progressive potential of those forms of cultivated detachment associated with Enlightenment and modern thought. Amanda Anderson explores a range of practices in nineteenth-century British culture, including methods of objectivity in social science, practices of omniscience in artistic realism, and the complex forms of affiliation in Victorian cosmopolitanism.

In so doing, she offers a revisionist account of Victorian culture and a tempered defense of detachment as an ongoing practice and aspiration. Art could be used to reflect and comment on the lives of ordinary people. Genre became a dynamic tool to help the public make sense out of unpredictable art.

In fact, as far back as ancient Greece, new art forms were emerging that called for the evolution of genre, for example the "tragicomedy. Unfortunately, genre does have its limitations. Our world has grown so much that it is difficult to absolutely classify something. Information overlaps, and a single book can encompass elements of several genres. For example, a book might be classified as fiction , mystery , science fiction and African American literature all at once. Genre suffers from the same ills of any classification system. Humans are pattern-seeking beings; we like to create order out of the chaos of the universe.

However, when we forget that our order is imposed, often arbitrarily, over a universe of unique experiences, the merit of the individual gets lost. If a system of classification, like genre, is then used to assign value judgments, we allow our preconceptions about the whole to influence our opinion of the individual. Genre is useful as long as we remember that it is a helpful tool, to be reassessed and scrutinized, and to weigh works on their unique merit as well as their place within the genre.

A simple example of the inherent meaning in an art form is that of a western movie where two men face each other on a dusty and empty road; one wears a black hat, the other white. Independent of any external meaning, there is no way to tell what the situation might mean, but due to the long development of the "western" genre, it is clear to the informed audience that they are watching a gunfight showdown between a bad guy and a good guy.

It has been suggested that genres resonate with people because of the familiarity, the shorthand communication, as well as the tendency of genres to shift with public mores and to reflect the zeitgeist. While the genre of storytelling has been relegated as lesser form of art because of the heavily borrowed nature of the conventions , admiration has grown.

Proponents argue that the genius of an effective genre piece is in the variation, recombination, and evolution of the codes. Genre studies have perhaps gained the most recognition in film theory , where the study of genre directly contrasts with auteur theory , which privileges the director's role in crafting a movie. There is something more about genre theory, and to that effect it is necessary to propose Kristen H. Perry's definition. They change over time, reflecting essential shifts in social function performed by that text.

Genres also represent constellations of textual attributes: some attributes are necessary and other attributes are optional. Another definition which shows the different aspects of genre theory is Miller who defines genres as "typified rhetorical actions" that respond to recurring situations and become instantiated in groups' behaviors.

Genre evolves as "a form of social knowledge—a mutual construing of objects, events, interests and purposes that not only links them but makes them what they are: an objectified social need". This view sees genres not as static forms but, rather, as "forms of ways of being To try to show the importance of the context in genre an example is used about a particular part of the genre theory—speech genres; but it is important to stress that context is really important in all situations.

Context plays an important role in shaping genres Holquist, Genre theory does not conceptualize context as simply the space outside of text or the container surrounding texts, but as dynamic environments that simultaneously structure and are structured by the communicative practices of social agents.

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Speech genres are recognizable patterns of language-in-context Bakhtin, : speech genres include both oral and written forms of language. Researchers have also shown that the rhetorical moves people must make within accepted genres to communicate successfully in particular contexts operate to reinforce communities' identities and to legitimate particular communication practices. Thus, the genres that communities enact help structure their members' ways of creating, interpreting, and using knowledge Myers; Winsor, Ordering, Writing; Bazerman, Shaping, Constructing; Berkenkotter and Huckin; Smart.

Genres are very important in our every day life and we do not realize how much we use them, how much they affect us, how much they determine the way we act and understand the others. In , Lloyd Bitzer claimed that discourse is determined by rhetorical situations in his article titled, "The Rhetorical Situation".

A rhetorical situation refers to the fact that every situation has the potential for a rhetorical response. He looks to understand the nature behind the context that determines discourse.


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Bitzer states, "it is the situation which calls discourse into existence". Each situation has an appropriate response in which the rhetor can either act upon or not act upon. He expresses the imperative nature of the situation in creating discourse, because discourse only comes into being as a response to a particular situation. Discourse varies depending upon the meaning-context that is created due to the situation, and because of this, it is "embedded in the situation".

According to Bitzer, rhetorical situations come into existence, at which point, they can either mature and go away, or mature and continue to exist. Bitzer describes rhetorical situations as containing three components: exigence, audience , and constraints. He highlights six characteristics needed from a rhetorical situation that are necessary to creating discourse. A situation calls a rhetor to create discourse, it invites a response to fit the situation, the response meets the necessary requirements of the situation, the exigence which creates the discourse is located in reality, rhetorical situations exhibit simple or complex structures, rhetorical situations after coming into creation either decline or persist.

Bitzer's main argument is the concept that rhetoric is used to "effect valuable changes in real" Bitzer In , Carolyn R. Miller examined genre in terms of rhetorical situations. She claimed that "situations are social constructs that are the result, not of 'perception,' but of 'definition'". Miller seems to build from Bitzer's argument regarding what makes something rhetorical, which is the ability of change to occur.

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  4. Opposite of Bitzer's predestined and limited view of the creation of genres, Miller believes genres are created through social constructs. She agreed with Bitzer that past responses can indicate what is an appropriate response to the current situation, but Miller holds that, rhetorically, genre should be "centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish".

    Either way, Miller's view is in accordance with the fact that as humans, we are creatures of habit that tightly hold on to a certain "stock of knowledge". The concept of genre is not limited to classifications and lists. People interact within genres daily. Genre is determined based "on the action it is used to accomplish" by the individuals using that particular genre. People respond to exigencies provided by genre every day.

    Exigence is "a set of particular social patterns and expectations that provides a socially objectified motive for addressing" the recurring situation of a particular genre.

    Miller argues that, "a rhetorical sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse, but on the action it is used to accomplish". The idea that rhetorical situations define genre means that participants in genre make decisions based on commonalities and repeat those instances. Genre is not only about the form of but also the mere repetitiveness of similarities. The classroom setting exemplifies this. When students wish to speak, they raise their hands to signify that desire.

    Raising a hand is the correct response to speaking in turn in that particular social setting. A person at lunch with a group of friends would not raise their hand to speak because the social situation is different. Miller concludes that social actions are the response to "understanding how to participate in the actions of a community". Miller builds on arguments made by other scholars while also contradicting Bitzer's argument by giving her readers five features to understand genre. Not only will there be action, but this action will also be repeated. The repetition of action creates a regularized form of discourse.

    Miller would add that the result has more to do with the action accomplished by the situation. Miller recognizes that a person chooses to take a certain social action within a defined set of rules - rules set in place by that user.

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    Lastly, a situation cannot dictate a response. Miller ends her article with the thought that genres are partly rhetorical education through her statement, "as a recurrent, significant action, a genre embodies an aspect of cultural rationality". According to Mnotho Dlamini genre is basically a deep information in a particular context. Bitzer's definition of exigence as "an imperfection marked by urgency Miller also points towards the theory that genres recur, based on Jamieson's observation that antecedent genres finding their way into new genres.

    More importantly, Miller takes on the bigger picture of a rhetorical situation in which all of these steps happen. Genre, also, understood in terms of social contexts provides greater meaning to each recurring situation; it essentially allows for differentiation, though past genres have a role in present and new genres.

    Through this differentiation, genre is allowed to continue evolving, just as social contexts continue to change with time. Bawarshi describes the way in which this happens as "communicants and their social environments are constantly in the process of reproducing one another" Bawarshi Rhetoric essentially works the same way, as seen in the example of writing Bawarshi provides, "writing is not a social act simply because it takes place in some social context; it is social because it is at work in shaping the very context within which it functions".