An Introduction to Genre Theory
D.I.Y. Generic analysis
The following questions are offered as basic guidelines for my
own students in analysing an individual text in relation to genre.
Note that an analysis of a text which is framed exclusively in
terms of genre may be of limited usefulness.
Generic analysis can also, of course, involve studying the
genre more broadly: in examining the genre
one may fruitfully consider such issues as how the conventions
of the genre have changed over time.
- Why did you choose the text you are analysing?
- In what context did you encounter it?
- What influence do you think this context might have had on your
interpretation of the text?
- To what genre did you initially assign the text?
- What is your experience of this genre?
- What subject matter and basic themes is the text concerned with?
- How typical of the genre is this text in terms of content?
- What expectations do you have about texts in this genre?
- Have you found any formal generic labels for this particular text
- What generic labels have others given the same text?
- Which conventions of the genre do you recognize in the text?
- To what extent does this text stretch the conventions of its genre?
- Where and why does the text depart from the conventions of the
- Which conventions seem more like those of a different genre
(and which genre(s))?
- What familiar motifs or images are used?
- Which of the formal/stylistic techniques employed are
typical/untypical of the genre?
- What institutional constraints are reflected in the form of the text?
- What relationship to 'reality' does the text lay claim to?
- Whose realities does it reflect?
- What purposes does the genre serve?
- In what ways are these purposes embodied in the text?
- To what extent did your purposes match these when you
engaged with the text?
- What ideological assumptions and values seem to be embedded in the text?
- What pleasures does this genre offer to you personally?
- What pleasures does the text appeal to (and how typical of the genre
- Did you feel 'critical or accepting, resisting or validating, casual
or concentrated, apathetic or motivated' (and why)?
- Which elements of the text seemed salient because of your knowledge of
- What predictions about events did your generic identification of the
text lead to (and to what extent did these prove accurate)?
- What inferences about people and their motivations did your genre
identification give rise to (and how far were these confirmed)?
- How and why did your interpretation of the text differ from the
interpretation of the same text by other people?
- Mode of address
- What sort of audience did you feel that the text was aimed at (and
how typical was this of the genre)?
- How does the text address you?
- What sort of person does it assume you are?
- What assumptions seem to be made about your class, age, gender
- What interests does it assume you have?
- What relevance does the text actually have for you?
- What knowledge does it take for granted?
- To what extent do you resemble the 'ideal reader' that the text
seeks to position you as?
- Are there any notable shifts in the text's mode of address
(and if so, what do they involve)?
- What responses does the text seem to expect from you?
- How open to negotiation is your response (are you invited, instructed
or coerced to respond in particular ways)?
- Is there any penalty for not responding in the expected ways?
- To what extent do you find yourself 'reading against the grain' of the
text and the genre?
- Which attempts to position you in this text do you accept,
reject or seek to negotiate (and why)?
- How closely aligned is the way in which the text
addresses you with the way in which the genre positions you
(Kress 1988, 107)?
- Relationship to other texts
- What intertextual references are there in the text you are
analysing (and to what other texts)?
- Generically, which other texts does the text you are analysing
resemble most closely?
- What key features are shared by these texts?
- What major differences do you notice between them?