Thoughts on genre, language, grammar, and other
rhetorical and linguistic norms
rhetorical and linguistic norms
After a wonderful conference, I’m now sitting in a house on the Oregon coast looking out at an incredible expanse of ocean, waves, beach, and clouds. It’s quiet, and I’m quiet, and I’m thinking about the contrast between the two experiences and their genres/language/silence.
Much of the language I used at the conference came not from the formal genres that I wrote about last week as making the community. It came instead from the informal genres, the conversations before and after a presentation--chatting with a stranger sitting near me, greeting a slightly known colleague as we pass on the way to the next session, catching up warmly with a former student spotted outside a meeting room. And the longer conversations—a working breakfast with a co-author, lunch with old friends, drinks or dinner with colleagues and friends that range widely from sharing ideas heard in that day’s presentations to catching up with news of families to deeper reflections about careers and lives.
Those create community, too. Communities of colleagues in the field, networks of current and former students and alums of a program (shout-out to the incredible 33 KU folks who made our KU gathering so special), and families of friends who have known each other for twenty years or more.
And now I’m in a house with one other person, coming no closer to other people than the ones we can see walking on the beach. The separation from community is as intense as was the involvement in community. From 18 hours a day of presentations, discussions, and conversations to 15 hours a day of minimal talk and maximum watching or walking along the ocean (and, you may have noticed, many more hours of sleep).
There was some transition time. Driving to the coast, we listened to KU’s men’s basketball game in the NCAA tourney until we reached our town, where we stopped to watch the second half on TV with friendly locals in the perfect roadside tavern (thanks to the folks at Relief Pitcher). I chatted with the clerks in a grocery store and servers in a restaurant. And I sent a few early vacation photos to a few family members and friends.
But now we’re tucked in for a while for much needed rest and quiet. And I wonder—where did the genres go? Gone with the language? Oh, there were the formal genres to get us here—rental agreements and maps and such. But here, now, there’s quiet and non-busyness. Is a walk by the ocean a genre? Does reflection in my head count? Do tidal patterns make a genre if I don’t look them up to put a tidal chart to them?
I disrupt this non-languaged moment with this post—a reflection I found myself wanting to write in the moment instead of the vacation placeholder I had planned. But rather than intellectualize about it more or draw conclusions about language, genre, and community, I leave it as is. An observation. A contrast. A reflection.
Perhaps you’d like to continue this post for me, commenting with your own observations and reflections. (I'll add a photo later this week when I can work on my laptop. )
Until next week, may you enjoy both community and quiet in the proportions you most need.