E24: re:blurb - Genre

In this re:blurb episode, we explore the history and theory of the rhetorical concept of genre. First, we take a tour through the classical genres of forensic, deliberative, and epideictic speech, before moving on to contemporary theories about genres’ profound and complex social functions. In doing so, we describe how genres mediate everyday social interactions through communicative rules and norms, as well as how political power dynamics affect gatekeepers’ decisions about what kinds of practices are allowable within particular genres.

Then, we’re joined by Martha Sue Karnes, a PhD student in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at The University of Texas at Austin, to discuss the genre-based controversy surrounding the hit song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. OTR was notoriously removed from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart because, according to Billboard, it did not adhere to the genre norms of country music. Through this analysis, we take a closer look at the kinds of social actions that Lil Nas X has accomplished through “Old Town Road” over the course of its viral popularity — actions which may help explain why the song has maintained its place at the top of the charts for 17 weeks running.

“Old Town Road” Videos Referenced:

Original version

Remix feat. Billy Ray Cyrus

Remix feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, & Mason Ramsey

OTR Area 51 Video

Works and Concepts Cited in this Episode:

Alvarez, S. (2017). Latinx and Latin American Community Literacy Practices en Confianza. Composition Studies, 45(2), 219-269.

Bawarshi, A. (2016). Beyond the genre fixation: A translingual perspective on genre. College English, 78(3), 243-249.

Berkenkotter, C., & Huckin, T. N. (1993). Rethinking genre from a sociocognitive perspective. Written communication, 10(4), 475-509.

Bhatia, V. K. (1997). The power and politics of genre. World Englishes, 16(3), 359-371.

Caramanica, Jon. (2019, 17 Apr.). “A History of Country-Rap in 29 Songs.” The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/arts/music/country-rap-playlist.html

DeNatale, Dave “Dino”. (2019, 29 May.) “WATCH I Lil Nas X gives performance of 'Old Town Road' for students at Lander Elementary School in Mayfield Heights.” WKYC 3. Retrieved from: https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/watch-lil-nas-x-gives-performance-of-old-town-road-for-students-at-lander-elementary-school-in-mayfield-heights/95-c04e8cdb-41b2-48f5-bb05-b112126a9cf9

Gonzales, L. (2015). Multimodality, translingualism, and rhetorical genre studies. Composition Forum, 31.

Hart, R. P., & Dillard, C.L. (2001) Deliberative genre. In T. Sloane (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (pp. 209-217). Oxford University Press.

Leight, E. (2019, 26 Mar.). How Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was a country hit. Then country changed its mind. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/lil-nas-x-old-town-road-810844/

Lihua, L. (2010). Interpersonal rhetoric in the editorials of China Daily: A generic perspective. Peter Lang.

Miller, C. R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly journal of speech, 70(2), 151-167.

Morrow, T. S. (2001) Forensic genre. In T. Sloane (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (pp. 314-321). Oxford University Press.

Rounsaville, A. (2017). Genre repertoires from below: How one writer built and moved a writing life across generations, borders, and communities. Research in the Teaching of English, 51(3), 317-340.

Sisario, Ben. (2019, 5 Apr.). “Lil Nas X Added Billy Ray Cyrus to ‘Old Town Road.’ Is It Country Enough for Billboard Now?” The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/05/business/media/lil-nas-x-billy-ray-cyrus-billboard.html

Too, Y. L. (2001). Epideictic genre. In T. Sloane (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (pp. 251-257). Oxford University Press.

Alex Helberg