What it is
Genre simply means ‘type’ or ‘kind’ and refers to groups of texts that have similarities in form and function.
Genres are not prescribed categories but have developed through trial and error as the most effective way to achieve a purpose. Some aspects of genres may remain stable and recognisable while others may grow and change over time to reflect new concerns and new values. Similarly, as new media emerge, genres adapt to new technologies.
So, to take the example of the ‘adventure’ genre, the pattern of the plot may remain the same but the character and the action will change according to the context: the medieval knight slaying a dragon transforms into the sheriff ridding a town of a malicious gun-slinger or into the spy outmanoeuvring a political foe or into the scientist averting a threat to the planet from outer space.
Most texts are not pure examples of a genre but contain elements of several:
- the ‘adventure’ stories above could also be classified respectively as mediaeval romance, western, thriller, or science fiction
- real life’ documentaries are usually structured as narratives
- a medium such as a web page will combine various genres to achieve its purpose.
Why it is important
All kinds of texts, imaginative, persuasive and informative, follow recognisable genres. There is a sense of ease and pleasure in the familiarity of a genre and a way of categorising likes and dislikes.
The study of genre enables us to see relationships between texts, the ways they are similar and the ways they are different or even innovative. It allows us to support students in analysing texts and in writing particular kinds of texts as it provides guidelines for structure, identifiable features and ways to deviate from conventional approaches.
The more students read in a genre, the more they are aware of the expectations it sets up. These expectations may be realised or disappointed, so confirming or challenging the ways that generic conventions are used to represent the world.
Students understand that genres are textual expressions of social and cultural purposes
They learn that
- all texts are instances of one or more genres
- genres are dynamic and open-ended
- new genres may emerge through different technologies or through blending to form hybrids
- interpretations vary when texts are read through different generic “frames”*
- responders and composers can choose to draw attention to or ignore the guidance offered by these generic “frames”*.
Students understand that particular values attach to certain genres.
Students learn that
- Genres shape representation and perception
- Adaptations of genres across time and culture reflect changing values
- Subverting the genre can challenge the value system associated with the genre.
Students understand that the expectations of a genre shape composition of and response to texts.
They learn that
- Knowledge of generic conventions can guide composition of and response to texts
- genres can be adapted to and combined in different modes and media
- genres are adapted to times and cultures.
- generic conventions may be challenged.
Students understand that texts may be categorised into genres.
They learn that
- texts in the same genre have similar functions and ideas, forms and conventions and give rise to particular expectations
- genres are not fixed categories but may be adapted for interesting effects.
Students understand that types of texts arise from similarity of purpose and vary according to the mode and medium of their delivery.
Students recognise that particular types of texts can be identified through features and structures.
Students recognise that imaginative and informative texts have different features.