Conversations about Genre, part 5

A Letter from Ángela, Favian, Daniela and Miguel

Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.
3 min readMay 7, 2021
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 music, and we are foreign languages students from Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. We are writing to you because we read your article “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept”, and we have to say that it was very revealing for us as students and as future teachers. Therefore, we want to share with you some reflections,
insights and questions that emerged while reading your text.

When we very first read your article, we thought it would be another academic text that we had to read in order to pass our course, and to be honest, we didn’t fully understand it after our first reading. It was while discussing the text and during our second reading that we understood what you wanted to say to the world with it. This is very important for us as future
teachers because it allows us to approach genre from this new perspective.

Your text made us reflect about what we have called genres for years and how basic and flat this notion was. It made us learn and relearn about them and comprehend all the background they represent, since it helped us to realize that throughout our academic process we have learned a very limited notion of genre in which there is no room for dynamism, in which writing is something conceived as something static that does not change and that always has a structure that must be strictly followed.

With your article we were able to reflect and gain awareness that it is human being who establish the rules and that we have the right (as a society) to decide how we want to write according to the changes of our social practices. And we agree with this new revolutionary way of conceiving genre.

It was interesting to see through your example about the process of creating a letter how the contexts modify the structure. For instance, when we write to a friend we use a more colloquial language and we do not pay attention to the formal ways of writing and when we write to someone that we do not know this completely change, we tend to be careful with our vocabulary, we want to sound respectful and polite such as us at this moment while writing this letter to you.

Now, we would like to share with you some questions that came up after reading your text. We will be honored to have a response from you at least from one of our questions but if you can answer all of them it would be greatly appreciated. First, we want to know how your approach of genre has impacted your current way of teaching writing and how it has impacted others. Then, we would like to know how this has helped you to change/build/deconstruct society from the classrooms. And finally, we are very curious to know if you have changed your mind about something you wrote in your text in 1993
Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept.

Thank you for having read our letter, we will be excited to have your answer back. And thank you too for having impacted people’s lives with your writing. Greetings from Colombia.

Best regards,

[signed with black-and-white images of a dancer, musical notes, and a film projector]

I’m sorry. not to be able to include the actual images because they were such a fun surprise at the bottom of their helpful discussion of how genres depend on context. The next letter includes students’ description of trying to vary the genre and being savagely slapped as a result!



Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.

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