Genre Commentary

The Assignment


The overarching question to the Genre category of required commentaries might be stated broadly as follows: What role does genre play in textual production, reception, or criticism, for both literary texts and texts not considered “literary”? In other words, issues of genre may be addressed from a literary approach or from a rhetorical approach. When critics of texts address issues of genre, how do they do it? What are the possible methodological ways of relating genre issues to texts and vice versa?

More specifically, you may choose to write a genre commentary if you have completed a course project that raises questions like these:

  • How did issues of genre influence the production/reception/criticism of the text treated in your artifact?
  • What are the characteristics of a particular genre? What does “genre” or a particular genre term such as “drama,” “narration,” or “romance” mean?
  • How would a genre critic—or other critic adopting a genre critical approach—interpret the text treated in your artifact?
  • How have critical methods for dealing with genre evolved?
  • How does your artifact not address issues of genre, but possibly might (or should)?

The Commentary Assignment

Your commentary should not attempt to be a comprehensive study of issues of genre. Rather, it should identify a relevant issue or issues of genre that are present in—or implied by—your artifact. The artifact may or may not use the term “genre,” but your commentary should use it, or related terms, and use that term or terms with accuracy and appropriateness for students of literary and non-literary texts.

Your commentary should contain two sections: a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead “On Genre in General,” and a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead, “On Genre in [Your Artifact].” These sections may be presented in either order—i.e., the general exploration first, followed by the specific treatment of your artifact, or vice versa. Whatever the order, the general part should provide your understanding of some aspect of the role of genre in literary and/or rhetorical studies. The artifact commentary should provide a brief description of your artifact and then some analysis of that artifact in terms relevant to the material in the general section. In other words, the two sections should have some connection.

The object, once again, is not to be comprehensive in your analysis of genre, but rather to be authentic in using/defining terms, making references, and identifying ideas and traditions, as you choose to raise them in your general statement about genre and your specific application of those ideas to your artifact.


  • Before writing your commentary, you should consult the evaluation rubric for this assignment.
  • Structurally, your commentary may contain just two sections (i.e., the general disciplinary category section and the specific artifact section)—or, as you wish, may contain additional sections, like an introduction and conclusion. Please note: The goal of the project is to provide a working definition of the general category (or at least part of it) and an illustration of that definition by way of your artifact. The commentary as a whole may not have the traditional “beginning-middle-end” structure of typical critical or course essays, but some of those features may be embedded in the two main sections. Also, the two main sections should mutually set up and refer to one another. That is, each section should not be filled with random, unconnected observations, but rather they should share a common context to some degree.
  • The artifact section of your commentary requires a summary of the artifact. But instead of composing a full, detailed summary of the artifact (which itself could take pages), you should compose a purposeful summary—i.e., a summary that sets up the definitions and illustrations in the two main sections.
  • Your commentary should be 2-4 pages, double-spaced, in length.
  • You should follow your instructor’s requirements for submission procedures and due dates of commentaries in your course.