How university students in Cali, Colombia joined me in talking about genre

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This series, Conversations about Genre, tells the tale of 26 students and their teacher from the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, who explored and critiqued the idea of written genres and invited me to join the conversation with them.

Through a set of emails and letters, these current university students and future teachers discussed what it means to be taught to write according to expected conventions, and what it can mean to think of genre not as “rigid and pure” but as dynamic and changeable, something each of them helps create. They also explore how difficult it can be…

Or 3 years

Baby in hand, Pixabay Public Domain CC0 Creative Commons

​It’s my anniversary! No, I don’t mean my wedding anniversary (though that was just a week ago. Happy anniversary, sweetie!) It’s my blog’s anniversary, which is either three years old or just over two years old. So I thought I’d share lessons I learned from birthing and raising a blog.

I published its first post in “Genre-Colored Glasses” on August 19, 2015, making my blog three years old. On August 19, 2015, I published “What I Notice — and Write About,” laying out the reason for the weird title Genre-Colored Glasses and the topics I expected to write about —…

A response letter from Amy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I hope you have been able to read the students’ letters in the preceding 6 episodes in this series .After reading such rich and engaged letters from the students, I found myself thinking deeply about their insights and perceptions — and about their questions.The result is a rather long letter that reflects on how my thinking has changed (and not changed), the teaching practices that have stuck with me, and what genre has meant to me. …

A video letter from Valentina, Jhoan, Sandra, and Valentina

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One student group created a video they call a “conversational letter” to ask their questions. Appropriately for their use of more recent technology, many of their questions were about how ideas have changed and evolved over the past many decades. You can watch their video on my website, using the link below:

link to conversational letter

I did not take them up on their invitation to use their conversational letter format in my own response. Why? Probably mostly because I was more familiar with using written text for complex ideas and to think things through. You will find the results…

An audio letter from Faubricio, Stephannie, Andres Felipe, Dick Morales, and Luisa

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One of the letters from students arrived in two forms, an audio recording and a written transcript of that recording. The students called what they had composed an “audio letter.” Of course, the voices give new resonance to the written version as they make connections with Foucault and discuss this new genre they’re composing. You can listen to their audio letter on my website, using the link below:

link to audio letter

Cali, March 12th, 2021.

To Amy J. Devitt:
It is a pleasure to send you this audio…

A letter from Leyla, Maria Paula, Pau and Valentina

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In this letter, the students reveal the struggle that all of us have with trying to reconceive of genre. And they were reading some tough stuff! Then they tell the tale of trying to write their letter in a different genre, as a comic, discovering that (as they so vividly say) the effort would “savagely slap us.” How do you keep from following a template?

Leyla Mejia, Maria Grajales, Valentina Chaguendo Lopez & Pau HurtadoDepartment of Foreign Languages and CulturesUniversidad Del ValleMarch 12th 2021

Dear Ms. Devitt,
We are Leyla, Maria Paula, Pau and Valentina. We are currently studying to get…

A Letter from Ángela, Favian, Daniela and Miguel

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Part of the special fun with this letter from the students is how they played with the genre they were writing. They followed the rhetorical patterns that all the students had established for this genre of writing to me, but they added details about themselves beyond the classroom, and they signed off with stamped-looking images representing those interests to stand in for their names.

March 12th 2021

Dear Ms. Devitt,

We are thrilled to write this letter to you. Let us introduce ourselves, we are Ángela, Favian, Daniela and Miguel. Ángela enjoys dancing, Daniela likes watching films and Favian loves…

A Letter from Alejandra, Melany, Jazmín and Jhoana

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The students in this letter describe their learning of genre as something “rigid and pure,” and they speak to the issue of subjectivity and describe a notion of “collective subjectivity” in genre that shapes individual subjectivity.

Escuela de Ciencias del Lenguaje

Departamento de Idiomas

Universidad del Valle

Santiago de Cali, Melendez 760034


05 March 2021

Department of English
1445 Jayhawk Boulevard, Room 3001
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
(785) 864–xxxx

Dear, Doctor Devitt

Allow us to introduce ourselves, we are Alejandra, Melany, Jazmín and Jhoana, a group of Universidad del Valle’s Foreign Languages Bachelor degree students, and…

A Letter from Sara, Juan Diego, Carol, Fanny and Leidy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Below is one letter I received from five students in Colombia. You can see the insightful critiques they offer of society through genre.

March 8, 2021

Dear Ms. Devitt,

Hope this message finds you well. We are Sara, Juan Diego, Carol, Fanny and Leidy, students of Foreign Languages from Universidad del Valle, in Cali, Colombia, and we read your article Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept in our English class. We are now writing you to share some thoughts and ask you some questions about it, in an effort to build a bridge between us, students, and…

An Invitation from Colombia, from Julián Felipe Ávila Aguilar

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

To my surprise one morning, I received an email from a teacher in Cali, Colombia, inviting me to have a conversation with students at the university taking a course on Genres in English.

Good morning, Ms. Devitt.

It is my biggest pleasure to be able to write you an email. My name is Julián Ávila, I’m an English teacher in Cali, one of the largest cities in Colombia.

First of all, let me tell you why I am writing to you: I’m teaching at Universidad del Valle, one of the most important public universities in this country, in the Foreign…

Amy J. Devitt

Writer, teacher, researcher, PhD, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use.

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