Conversations about Genre, part 2

An Invitation from Colombia, from Julián Felipe Ávila Aguilar

Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.
3 min readMay 7, 2021
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 Languages major. I’m currently teaching a course called “Géneros Discursivos Escritos en inglés”, which could be — poorly — translated as “Discursive Written Genres in English”. Our focus here is to be able to “recognize written genres” and use them appropriately; however, I’ve been trying to approach reading/writing conceiving it not as an “easy-to-follow recipe”, but as a process that involves subjects, context, meaning and active subjectivity.

That said, I came across an article called “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept” written by you and published by the National Council of Teachers of English and I must say it was enlightening. My students were to read it and, given the fact you are just an email away, I thought a great way to start writing practice in this writing course was to provide my class with a real situation type (pun intended) by asking them to write a letter to you where they can tell you how what they knew about genres changed after reading and discussing your text and also ask you some questions or share personal insights on the subject. I would also like to know if you were willing to respond to us, a single letter that proves writing to be an instrument that goes beyond the “classroom walls” — which should be now called classroom screens — , that builds real dialogue and meaning and transforms subjects from passive students into active, self-aware writers.

I would most appreciate it if you replied. even if the answer is no. Very few times have I had the chance to address a scholar whose text has been meaningful to me.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards from Colombia,

Julián Felipe Ávila Aguilar.

BA in Foreign Languages

Universidad del Valle

MFA in Creative Writing

Universidad Nacional de Colombia

It didn’t take me long to decide to accept this invitation. I was a little worried that he might have too many students in the course and I might be overwhelmed. But the teacher and students decided to form groups to compose their letters to me. Read on in this series to see the six letters (on video, audio, and text) and then my response to them.



Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.

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