Conversations about Genre, part 7

Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.
5 min readMay 7, 2021


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 letter. We are a group of students from Universidad del Valle, in Cali, Colombia. We are part of the bachelor’s degree program in Foreign Languages with Emphasis on English and French.

We are sending you this letter because we read your article “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept” in English class, since we are approaching written genres this semester and your article is just suitable for our academic purposes. Also, we made some connections between your article and some previous concepts as, for example, discourse, power and knowledge, and we found out that the writing process is a creation (just as you stated), or that the writer as an individual is immersed in a social context, but he or she is still an individual, and many other ideas that we will bring to this letter eventually.

Here, we must mention that your article has been revised in class simultaneously with other authors and theories, and we came up with ideas and, as we stated before, some connections: talking about discourse from Foucault’s perspective led us to think about the writing process as a construction process. Even if having genres means having a “pattern”, when writing, we have to make decisions that allow us to create, to construct, to shape reality. What should we write? Which genre is more suitable according to the audience, the information, and the field? And that is just the beginning. However, discourse — from Foucault’s viewpoint — involves meaning and action, and determines the way we see the world, objects, even ideas, and how we interact with them, all of this inside a particular context. So, discourse, not us, constructs, builds, creates, and if we take knowledge as a product of genres — when writing, of course — then we can say that discourse (through us) creates knowledge (or, at least, that is a part of what we discussed in class).

Discussing your article in class as part of a collaborative activity showed us that your ideas and conclusions have a lot of implications not only for academic writing, but also for many other scenarios, as society, self-identity, and even reality itself (since writing is also a construction process). Here, writing this letter as a group, we realize that there are a lot of decisions to be
made or, what is the same in terms of your article, we are actually creating; also, we can perceive the dichotomy between the individual and the social, since even though this is a collaborative activity, there are also individual contributions that work together in a single piece.

Even this letter could be a new genre, knowing that usually letters are made just by one person but this time, we are going against the rules, making a five-voice letter and expanding the boundaries of a letter creation, we know we are not the first at doing that, but that is the evidence where we can see the “new conceptions”, and the relevance of your study, because we can see
how genres evolves in the creation process and respond to the needs of the authors.

Reading this article has been an eye-opening experience, especially for us as students and future teachers. We found it extremely accurate, meaningful and constructive, since we have also been taught about genres as a way to present and structure information, (and) having this new perspective lead us to be aware about the influence writing has, how we see texts and how they can become the representation of our reality, how simple this looks but at the end is the spine of our perception and part of our social construct.

Approaching your article was also a challenge since, as we said before, it has many connections and a strong relation with the topics that we have been discussing in class as, for example, the concept of discourse from Foucault’s theory, and its articulation with power and knowledge, and also with our personal perspective of writing and our convictions about it as a process. Your work has made us reconsider a lot of our perspectives when talking about genre; perspectives focused on their definition not as a process within the writing process, which in turn, is located within individual and social practices and reflect the relationship between human beings and language,
but only as a selection criterion to literary texts that had to be established previous to their writing.

While reading and writing, we came up with some questions that we think would complete the panorama exposed in your article. That being said, we would truly appreciate — if you could give us — your appreciations:

How the conception stated in the article changed or have influenced your teaching practices and your performance as a writer?

Is there any difference between your perspective back then when you wrote this article and your perspective nowadays? If so, what made you change it?

Due to the current reconstruction of what a genre is, and the diversity all texts can have, would you think at some point there will be too many genres to be used or to differentiate them?

How does it feel that even though it has been a long time, the prevalent old concept of genre — conveying meaning through form — is still being taught/transmitted?

Finally, we have to thank you for your text and the discussion that your conception of genre made possible. We appreciate your attention and your disposition for reading and answering this letter, and, just for the record, we feel so excited about this letter since we have never had such contact
with an important author: this means a lot to us as students and future teachers.

We wish you the best,

[written signatures over printed names]

Faubricio Trullo Ortega

Maria Stephannie Salazar

Andres Felipe Salas A.

Dick Morales Pulido

Luisa Fernanda Lugo Filigrana

Their astute comments about how these genre ideas challenge what they had been taught become even more real hearing the voices of the real people describing their thinking. The next and last letter goes a step further to create a video letter.



Amy J. Devitt, Ph.D.

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