Sunday, November 6, 2011

Millers Genre as Applied to Daniel's "Public Secrets"

Reading Miller's essay "Genre as Social Action" motivated me to think of genres as more than just a catagorization, but as situationally defined. Miller states that "genres are typified rhetorical actions based in rhetorical situations" (pg. 158). Her discussion of a eulogy as a genre really hammered home her claims. In class we mentioned that a particular genre is a means to connecting private intentions to social function, or exigence. In thinking about the eulogy as a genre, we must pay attention to the intention of the author and how the writing of the eulogy serves to promote and reaffirm societal beliefs about death and mourning. As a sociology minor, the function of the genre and its rhetorical value within a culture is an important and interesting topic to me.

But what about Daniel's "Public Secrets?" Is it possible to label this piece as a genre that serves as a rhetorical action that occurs within a certain social situation? While "Public Secrets" does not fit as nicely into Millers definition of genre as the eulogy, it does typify genre as something that connects Daniel's private intentions to serve as a social function. Daniel's multimedia project is a look inside the lives of women within a prison. Daniel's intentions seems pretty clear from the introduction and the project itself: to expose the prison system and give voice to the women who have spent time incarcerated within their walls. Connecting this private intention with a public exigence, however, is a more difficult. What rhetorical situation does her project fit in to? Daniel has rhetorically set out to expose the lives of prisoners to her audiences. In doing so, and by producing her piece in an easily accessible format on the internet, she is entering herslef into the conversation about an interesting facet of our society (the institution of prison). The substance of Daniels project, as Miller would define it, is her investigation of the institution and the interviews she conducts of those living as prisoners within. In doing so, she exposes an often ignored part of our society. While it may not be as clearly defined as the eulogy as occuring within a specific rhetorical situation, it is intended to serve a rhetorical purpose and thus, as social action as well.


  1. I'm not sure how to agree or disagree, but I would say that I have the same question. When I talk about "Public Secrets," I can't figure out how to describe it. Do I call it "text," or a "project?" Do I say I "read" it, or I "watched" it? As far as genre, I wouldn't know what to call "Public Secrets." It reminds me of a news article, personally, but that's not what it is. It's a multimedia project, but the intention is so defined that "multimedia project" seems like too broad a label.

    All I did was add a few more questions to yours, but hopefully they are a productive few questions.

  2. I believe it fits perfectly into a "multimedia project." I think the difficulty comes around to the trouble related with coming to a constraining definition of such types of documentary because of the many different types of tools it uses. It is not that the project is lacking a clear focus or how to approaches the subject, it is defining what that approach is called (because electronic hypertext is a fairly new concept when compared to, for example, a novel).


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