Multi-Genre Fiction Assignment

My juniors don’t know it (unless they read this blog, in which case, hi students! Surprise!), but they are going to begin a multigenre research project in a couple of weeks.

I first learned about multigenre research papers from Buffy Hamilton—I had heard of multigenre research papers before I attended Buffy’s session at the annual GCTE conference, but I hadn’t learned about them. In that session, she recommended Tom Romano’s book Blending Genre, Altering Style, which is still the gold standard for multigenre research writing. I walked out of the session very excited to try this kind of writing with my students, but I needed some time to figure out how to do it and what I wanted it to look like.

Buffy exemplifies what is best about Web 2.0 in her willingness not only to share her presentations, but also her materials with teachers who might not have been fortunate enough to attend her presentation (and, of course, those who were). Here is a link to her wiki page with her presentation and materials. I adapted the materials, and in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license under which Buffy shared her materials, you can download mine under the same license. Note: These files are PDF’s. If you just want to print, click the link and click Print. If you want to save the files, right click and save the link (save link as, save target as). You should be able to download them that way. If not, let me know.

The twist on the assignment for me, and the main way I changed Buffy’s materials, is that I want my students to share their projects using a Google Site. Our school has Google Apps, and I think using Google Sites will be a good way for students to learn a little bit about online publishing but still maintain control over who sees their work—Google Sites can be shared only with others on the network.

You can create multigenre research projects on anything, but I want my students to research a British author. Because I think a model is essential in undertaking an assignment like this one, I created a model for the assignment. Here is my Jane Austen multigenre research project. My angle is that in the last fifteen years or so, we’ve seen Jane Austen’s impact on pop culture grow, well, I don’t want to say exponentially because it might not be quite that profound, but you get the idea. Math folks? Exponentially or not? Anyway, I attribute a lot of this growth to the 1996 BBC film of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth (congratulations, Colin Firth!) and Jennifer Ehle.

Feel free to download and adapt the materials I shared, though original portions of the Jane Austen project are copyrighted by me (portions of the work owned by others are cited on the Works Cited page). You can share the project with your students, but please do not duplicate it on your own website.

photo credit: Tim Riley 澳大利亚

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Multigenre: An Introduction

by Lisa Langstraat

"A multigenre paper arises from research, experience, and imagination. It is not an uninterrupted, expository monolog nor a seamless narrative nor a collection of poems. A multigenre paper is composed of many genres and subgenres, each piece self-contained, making a point of its own, yet connected by theme or topic and sometimes by language, images, and content. In addition to many genres, a multigenre paper may also contain many voices, not just the author's. The trick is to make such a paper hang together."
~~ (Romano, Blending Genre, Altering Style i-xi)

Multigenre writing projects respond to contemporary conceptions of genre, audience, voice, arrangement and style by enabling students to tap into their knowledge about new media literacies, rich rhetorical situations, and the multiple perspectives that are inherent in any writing activity.

In short, multigenre projects entail a series of generic documents that are linked by a central premise, theme, or goal. They may forward an argument, trace a history, or offer multiple interpretations of a text or event. They are rigorous forms of writing, involving all of the elements of a traditional research paper: research and citation, coherence and organization, purpose and aim of discourse, audience awareness, and conventional appropriateness. Thus, while multigenre projects certainly teach students valuable, transferable strategies and expectations for writing, they go further. As Nancy Mack explains, multigenre writing:

  • Presents multiple, even conflicting perspectives of one event or topic.
  • Provides a rich context for an event or topic.
  • Demonstrates sophisticated understanding of audience needs and interests.
  • Permits meaning to dictate form, rather than vice versa.
  • Demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of various genres and uses of language.
  • Integrates factual information into a meaningful text, verses copying or simply recall.
  • Permits the author to highlight personal interests and special expertise.
  • Stimulates critical analysis and higher-level thinking skills.
  • Makes coherence and unity a genuine rhetorical problem to be solved.
  • Requires research skills and knowledge of source documentation.
  • Can make full use of new media literacies.
  • Is almost impossible to plagiarize.
  • Results in an interesting, engaging product.
  • Demands careful reading and response.

Multigenre writing is thus informed by a multitude of rhetorical considerations including a complex understanding of genre theory. Teachers who engage in multigenre assignments must be prepared to sequence assignments/project pieces carefully, to engage in new kinds of response and evaluation strategies, and to learn to trust their students’ abilities and creativity. The results of this preparation, engagement, and trust are consistently surprising, heartening, and rhetorically sophisticated.

Additional materials:

For additional information, see the following links:

Multigenre Projects Main Page  ¦  Introduction to Multigenre ¦ Multigenre Projects Table of Contents  ¦  Return to Writing Gallery

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