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2017 Conference - Memoir, Blog, and Selfie: Genre as Social Action in Self-Representations
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Carolyn R. Miller is SAS Institute Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Technical Communication, Emerita, at North Carolina State University, where she taught from 1973 to 2015. She received her Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1980. Her research interests include genre studies, digital rhetoric, rhetorical theory, and rhetoric of science and technology. This work has explored rhetorical concepts of invention, agency, kairos, ethos, and community and the polis, and her work in genre has been foundational to North American rhetorical genre studies. Her professional service includes terms as president of the Rhetoric Society of America and editor of its journal, Rhetoric Society Quarterly. She was named a Fellow of the Rhetoric Society of America in 2010 and Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing in 1995. At NC State, she initiated and served as founding director of the Ph.D. program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media, established in 2005 as a collaboration between the Departments of Communication and English; she also proposed and served as founding director of the M.S. in Technical Communication, established in 1988. She has been a member of the university’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers since 1984 and in 1999 was named Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor. She was Visiting Associate Professor at Michigan Tech and Penn State in 1988, Visiting Professor at Georgia Tech in 1991, Visiting Professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil in 2007, and the Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Louisville, Fall 2013. She has lectured and taught in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, and South Korea.


A rhetorical approach to genre can offer insight into the socio-cognitive dimensions of memoir and autobiography: what do we (in different times and places) expect from such works? why and how do they appeal to us? by what recurrent social exigences are they motivated? what rhetorical actions do they perform? The elaboration of a specifically rhetorical approach to genre over the past 30 years adds these questions to those that have driven linguistic and literary approaches to genre. The advent of multimodal digital media has reinvigorated genre studies, not only in rhetoric, linguistics, and literature but also in film and media studies. The energetic and experimental vernacular uses of the new media invite the extension of rhetorical approaches to genre into the visual realm. This presentation will survey the rhetorical approach to genre, review its application to traditional old-media genres of self-representation, or life-writing, and extend it to new media phenomena, blogging and "selfies.” In doing so, it addresses and illustrates new challenges for genre theory: multimodality, methodology, and interdisciplinarity.

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