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Looking back at the work that we have done this year I can say that the course has gone over many factors that I had not previously looked into in my other English classes. Genre, medium and audience are concepts that I would have never connected before taking this course. However, after writing all of these papers, I can find overlaps in these concepts and I feel that I can define them confidently using some of the work that I have come up with.
The first Unit which focused on sources and their credibility was a great way to start the course because the unit was quite broad. We began by reading a piece of Tompkins’ work which claimed that it is challenging if not impossible to approach a piece of writing without some sort of predispositioned bias that would shape how we interpret the writing or the opinion by which we write our own work. With this claim in mind, I began my paper on the history of Christopher Columbus, a national hero, yet also a controversial image in history.
While writing my essay, Tompkins’ writing made me consider my sources’ backgrounds and why two different sources could possibly come up with different opinions on the same historical event. My first source was a series of entries from Columbus’ personal diary. Although personal accounts on an event are an excellent form of primary sources, I had to remember that Columbus had one goal in mind, which was to acquire 10% of the gold and resources that he brought back to the Queen of Spain (Bourne 79).
Therefore, the entries in his diary which never mentioned violence towards the Natives or any form of conflict were probably not 100% credible. Similarly, the articles on this time in history and Columbus himself were being written by people with modern-day standards of how we should treat each other. As I mentioned in my essay: “Historians will unconsciously depict a figure as morally correct or incorrect based on how they view their current society”. Although I was not a fan of Tompkins’ work, I had to agree with her when she stated: “none of the accounts were accurate because they were all produced from some particular angle of vision” (117).
Like in every unit this semester, I focused on the effects of distinct media on writing. In my essay I incorporated oil paintings from around 1847, a time in which Columbus was nothing but a hero, conquering new land and expanding the Spanish empire. It was interesting to see how paintings from this time period never showed violence, only Columbus standing tall, planting a flag to claim his new land. However, when I searched woodcut paintings, the images took on a much more war-based content and seemed to portray a completely different opinion on what took place during Columbus’ discovery of America. One form of media showed what is considered the ‘Western myth’ whereas a different type of painting contained an opposite story. The only difference in my Google search was ‘oil paint Christopher Columbus’ versus ‘woodcut Christopher Columbus’. Having to consider different mediums and how they could present the same event in diverse ways was a great way to introduce the concept and help us understand it. Since medium was one of the hardest parts of this course for me to grasp, using visual aid in my first unit essay helped me see the effects of medium first hand as well as be able to use images to support the argument that I was making in my paper.
The second concept: Genre, was surprisingly challenging for me. I had never paid much attention the types of genres or the effects that they have on readers. By the end of the unit, my definition of genre was: ‘a category that a piece of work falls under based on its medium, writing-style and plot’. In Clark’s and Holt’s Evolution of Genre in Wikipedia, Yates and Orlikowski created a diagram the claims that genre is determined by physical factors that the readers can see such as language and structure and then there is the purpose or the arguments and the topic overall which also determine genre. I kept all of these factors in mind when writing up my Genre Report on mystery. I considered how the plot in mystery novels and films is created in a way that grasps the consumer’s attention right at the beginning with the development of a problem or a question that is usually solved dramatically at the end. The author or producer uses certain language, whether in the form of words or body language/comments of the actors that provides the readers or viewers with a form of foreshadowing or dramatic irony that gives them hints of what might happen later in the plot. Finally, a smaller detail that is often overlooked: the physical trait of the piece of work. For example, in class we looked at physical books and basically judged them by their cover. Specifically for basic mystery novels, I found that many of them are decorated with darker colours. If there are actual images, the characters portrayed are often looking around themselves at their surroundings which are dark, usually alleys or forests. The reader cannot tell much about the relationships or even the individual characters that will be present in the novel. The physical shell of the novels are made to show minimal amounts of clues, but to grasp the reader’s attention by sparking curiosity in them. This helped me with my Genre Report. When I was asked ‘What does mystery highlight?’ or ‘What does mystery assume of its readers? I found that the genre of mystery relies heavily on the readers and the attention that they pay to small details and their ability to piece clues together and make their own assumptions based off of these clues. By the end of the unit I was able to say that:
Genre plays a large role in how readers perceive a text. Stam’s idea of normativism is real in that it gives a definition to how genre labeling basically tells readers what to expect and how to approach a text and it makes them subconsciously analyze the text in a way that is appropriate for the genre which they are working with.
Because of this I believe that genre is a title given to a text so that it may first fall under a category but most importantly so that the consumers of the text actually look for specific aspects of the text that the authors or producers want them to see.
By the time we had finished the second unit, I was starting to see how the semester was coming together and how our assignments were designed in a way that would actually prepare us for the next unit. Our first unit introduced us not only to a broad topic: how writing is strongly influenced by one’s opinions and we must keep this in mind when reading and writing and how different medias themselves can present the same topic in completely different ways. Our second unit tied directly with medium. We learned how the medium of a work can be a factor that helps determine what genre it falls under. The second part of our Unit 2 project, perhaps one of the most entertaining writing assignments I have ever had to do highlighted how medium can affect genre. For my project, I did an Amazon review on a math textbook as if it was a mystery novel. Obviously my writing turned out to be humorous, but it made me realize that genre is not that flexible. When an author writes something, he should have a genre already in mind and work in those guidelines. A piece of writing cannot be labeled as a genre after it is written. As hard as I tried to read my math textbook as a mysterious novel, its purpose was not to spark curiosity in its readers. Its purpose was to guide math students with step-by-step instructions and therefore it falls under the genre of academic writing’ and its medium is “textbook’. It is written and presented in a way that cannot be interpreted as something else. Its content, language and the images it contains prevents this from happening.
Now that the class has a clear understanding of genre and medium, and how they are related it was time to introduce the concept of audience. By the end of my Unit 2 project, I had begun to touch on the relationship that genre has with audience. As I said in my analytical essay: “The process of genre labelling is a crucial process for the author because it largely determines the success of his or her work”. Surprisingly, my Unit 3 Companion Essay revolved around how targeting the right audience can determine the success of an author’s writing. So how is it that genre and audience are tied together? And how will medium come to affect everything as it always seems to do? Well as I mentioned in my Unit 2 analytical essay, the genre label that a work has will make a reader approach it in a certain way. As I saw with mystery, a reader opening a mystery novel is prepared to pay attention to small details and make their own assumptions on how the novel ends based off of what they read between the lines. So if a novel that is clearly not meant to fall under the genre of mystery, let’s say my math book, is approached as a mystery novel, will the reader be pleased with what they read? The answer is no. An author who wants their writing to be successful amongst their readers has to write with the reader’s’ expectations and interests in mind. This includes the process of genre labelling. The author needs to ask themselves: does my novel actually fall under this genre? Will my readers who approach this writing as a mystery novel be pleased with what they read? On the same note, the medium in which a work is published can also impact its success. If an author publishes an article that will appeal mostly to teen girls in Men’s Health, it will probably not gain much attention and therefore not very much success.
My argument in Unit 3 is just that. I believe that authors have control over the success of their writing as along as they take into account their audience, what they are looking for in the writing, and how they will approach it. By publishing your work under the write medium, an author can have a fairly clear idea of who their audience might be. Once they have an ideal audience in mind they can write to meet their needs by using the correct language, writing about an interesting topic, and labelling your genre appropriately. Stanley Fish argued that the medium of a piece of writing can be interpreted differently and even incorrectly depending on the context that the audience is in and the social backgrounds of the audience. I disagree. I argue that perhaps this misunderstanding can take place in an ambiguous text such as the assignment that Stanley Fish refers to in his piece: How to Recognize a Poem When You See One. However, if an author makes his or her medium, genre, and audience clear, I believe that not only will there be little to no debate on the purpose of the text, but the overall success of the piece will be high. In my Unit 3 project, I made my publication site, The Lad Bible, obvious. This ensured that I had a clear idea of who my audience would consist of. I wrote an article on a topic that I knew my audience would enjoy and I made it obvious that my text should fall under the genre of ‘informative writing’ since its purpose was not only to entertain but mostly to inform my readers of the influence of religion on the Star Wars films. Because of this I assume that there will be no misunderstanding about the purpose of my writing, there will be no misinterpretation of its medium, regardless of the background of the audience, and the majority of the readers will be people who would rate my writing as high-quality.
By the end of the semester I can say that I understand the concepts of genre, medium, and audience not only as individuals but I understand how they impact each other and go hand in-hand in writing. The curriculum of the course was designed perfectly. The projects were not only creative but they really did provide the right amount of teaching and preparation for the next unit. Overall, I am pleased with the class and the work that I have accomplished this semester. I no longer think that I am a ‘One Draft Wonder’! This class truly helped me understand the importance of MULTIPLE drafts and exercises in order to produce the best possible work.
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