3: Genre as a Purpose

Like most of the class, my definition of genre was far narrower before we began studying it in more depth. As a writer and avid reader, I would typically define genre in terms of ‘genre fiction’ such as horror, science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc., or the broader genres we talk about in creative writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry). My previous view of genre typically centered around genre conventions, the characteristics that indicate a particular genre. For example, fantasy novels usually include creatures like dragons, vampires, or faeries, and involve magic, while science fiction centers around technology or aliens. As Amy J. Devitt mentions in her article, “Traditional genre study has meant study of the textual features that mark a genre” (4). However, by studying it in class my definition of genre has broadened considerably.

Through the readings, my definition of genre expanded to include something a lot of my classmates focused on as well: purpose. The purpose that many genres perform, according to Devitt, is that of a response: “writers first respond in fitting ways and hence similarly to recurring situations; then, the similarities among those appropriate responses become establish as generic conventions” (5). Devitt goes on to explain that, as a response, genre allows us to respond more appropriately and more quickly to situations because our familiarity with a genre gives us an immediate understanding of its conventions. In addition, new genres can draw on older genres in order to create a new response for a new situation that may hold some similarities; Carolyn R. Miller discusses the idea of ancestral genre in her article, the genres that influence new ones in different ways. She says: “The imprints of ancestral genres can give us insight into what aspects of generic exigences [something that requires a response] are no longer addressed” (9).

Overall I think digital genres, especially the ones we went over in class like blogs and wikis, support this expanded definition of genre. As Emily Dilworth said in her post, digital genres often begin as adapted forms of older, non-digital genres in response to the changing needs and purposes of people in the age of the internet. Many of these digital genres make use of the internet to fulfill the needs of different people in ways that were not possible before it existed.

Two digital genres I would be interested in studying are visual novels or the “Booktube” community. Visual novels are a kind of amalgamation of a novel and a video game, where often there is a central storyline the player follows with various user-made choices scattered throughout that change the endgame. For example, Danganronpa, a Japanese video game/visual novel, centers around a group of students trapped in a school. The only way out is to murder another student and get away with it; the user-made choices come in when the group of students hold ‘trials’ to determine the culprit of each murder mystery throughout the game. Another visual novel I have talked about before, Doki Doki Literature Club, follows a dating sim format in the beginning that allows the player to pick one of the three girls to romance. However, as it is a horror game, later on the choices revolve around trying to save the girls’ lives.

A screenshot of the video game Danganronpa, where the player is encouraged to make a choice in response to a murder mystery trial.
The video game/visual novel Danganronpa allows the player to make choices during class trials in order to find the true culprit of each murder mystery.

On the other hand, “Booktube” is an online community of people centered around books. I consider this a digital genre because, for each person involved in the community (those who make the videos), there are genre conventions; they make book review videos, book haul videos, reading challenge videos, and most of these types of videos are consistent across multiple channels. I find this genre interesting because of its effect on the publishing industry, as many publishers consider Booktubers influential in the literary community and send them books to read and review in order to gain attention.

A screenshot of the YouTube channel of AClockworkReader, a "Booktuber" who makes videos about books she reads and buys as a member of the community.
This is the channel of a “Booktuber” that I follow that shows the kinds of videos she makes as a member of the community. This includes book hauls, book reviews, reading challenges, and other kinds of videos that many other members of the community also make.

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Works Cited

Devitt, Amy J. “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 4, 1993, pp. 573-586, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4LEqo5RknpkYlozcHk2Y2I0aEU/view. Accessed 13 February 2018.

Miller, Carolyn R. “Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog.” Into the Blogosphere, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0f81SG3m2PXQ2w3eGxFWE9mVWs/view. Accessed 13 February 2018.