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Essay 1 - Genre Nature vs Culture Parker Watson English 058...

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Genre: Nature vs. Culture Parker Watson English 058 Section 001 February 27, 2007
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Watson 2 Parker Watson Dr. Maria DeGuzmán English 058 Section 001 13 February 2007 Genre: Nature vs. Culture Genre, a word French in origin, is a word that most people might describe as a word in their vocabulary but not a word that they might be able to very descriptively pin down to one meaning or another. In French, the word means “kind” or “gender;” hence, in English the word means a category of the named subject. Within these categories are an infinite amount of other categories. There is a hierarchy of genres that come in an almost unlimited about of combinations, depending on the person combining them. This is a topic worthy of a little under three pages of discourse in Mary Louise Pratt’s essay The Short Story: The long and short of it . Pratt delves into the discussion of genres, thereby seemingly putting herself into contradiction with another critic and analyzer of short stories, Julio Cortàzar. Cortàzar’s Some Aspects of the Short Story analyzes the short story, and without directly addressing the subject of genre, inherently creates an assumption about it. His subject matter necessarily, but indirectly, makes the claim that genres are a creation of a set of qualifications that must be met. These two essays are in opposition with each other. One claims that genres are intrinsically manmade; the other assumes that genres are naturally part of literature and, though it may be difficult, can be pinned down in some way or fashion. Each reading of Pratt inspires another look and another scrutinizing of Cortàzar. Likewise, each examination of Cortàzar inspires yet another investigation into Pratt’s conjectures concerning genres. This roundabout way of critical thinking leads to many truths that are to be stated and then to be reexamined and perhaps even thrown out only to be restated.
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Watson 3 Mary Louise Pratt immediately stresses the significance of genre to language. Here the word language is important; Pratt distinguishes between literature and other types of “verbal behavior” but says that they are both subject to genre (Pratt 92). “Genre is not solely a literary matter. The concept of genre applies to all verbal behavior, in all realms of discourse. Genre conventions are in play in any speech situation and any discourse belongs to genre, unless it is a discourse explicitly designed to flaunt the genre system” (Pratt 92). She says that possible types of non-literary genres are, or might be, “the telephone conversation, lecture, interview, personal narrative, verbal duelling, therapeutic discourse” (Pratt 92). It is important to Pratt to point this out because it is helpful to compare verbal genres to written genres. With this said, Pratt points out that the word genre is not consistently used (Pratt 91). She notes that this is because of its overextension. “The fuzziness of the term arises not just from its being applied at different levels, but also from its being applied according to different criteria” (Pratt 92).
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