Swales' "Worlds of Genre—Metaphors of Genre"

Swales, John M. "Worlds of GenreMetaphors of Genre." Genre in a Changing World. Edited by Charles Bazerman, Adair Bonini, and Débora Figueiredo. Parlor Press, 2009, pp. 3-16.

Swales considers agreement about the concept of genre among the ESP Tradition, North American New Rhetoric, and the Australian Systemic Functional School, noting that they all describe a genre not in terms of classification, but in terms of its "reciprocal" relationships to the situations and systems in which it is used, and in terms of its boundaries as parameters in which to make decisions (3-5). 

Swales reflects on metaphors of genre, a topic of his earlier writing, listing six metaphors he had used to describe genres: "frames of social action," "language standards," "biological species," "families and prototypes," "institutions," and "speech acts" (6). Swales writes that "occluded" genres are harder to apply metaphor to (6)

Swales first describes the genre of personal statements as one whose conventions are particularly hidden from those who most need to use the genre (7). Swales also describes the importance of using certain conventions and lists some similarities among personal statements in particular cultures (8-9). Swales uses these examples to "suggest that the three genre metaphors of frame, prototype, and institution" clarify this genre (10).

Next, Swales discusses the genre of the art history monograph, describing how it has changed over time, using Thomas Eakins and his The Gross Clinic as an example (10-11). Swales shows that early performances of the genre celebrated the artist as a person, then began to explain the artist's work, then began to include social and societal factors in the artist's time, then to include psychological readings and family history (10-13). Swales argues that the transformation of this genre shows it has "lost a considerable part of its institutional status," and that because of that, the metaphors of institution and species are helpful in understanding it (13). The idea of species shows how genres can "rise and fall" (14).

Swales closes by stating that "the work of genre is to mediate between social situations and the texts that respond strategically to the exigencies of those situations" (14).

GenreKatie Ancheta