1020 Session Four: Scenes, Situations, Genres

Today’s Agenda:

  • Gee’s Discourses
  • Swales’ discourse communities
  • Scenes, situations, genres
Gee Recap

Three key terms popped up in enough blog questions that I feel it’s worth spending a little time with them before moving on in case the definitions impact your application of Gee’s concepts to the Project One.

Dominant and non-dominant Discourse:

Gee writes that dominant Discourses are those that, when we have them, bring us economic or social advancement, and that non-dominant Discourses are those that “bring solidarity with a particular social network” but not status or goods. For me, a dominant Discourse would be the field of composition instructors: my knowledge of this Discourse (and my ability to use it) gives me professional status, access to a job, etc. A non-dominant Discourse for me would be my Doctor Who fandom. I watch the show, talk about the show, know the history of the show, post on Facebook and Twitter about the show sometimes, etc. While fun, this does nothing for me in terms of my social status or acquisition of goods.


While Gee says that Discourse cannot be taught (as in, delivered as content knowledge from teacher to student), what teachers can help students do is develop metaknowledge–or a conscious awareness of what you are doing when you are trying to adapt to a new Discourse.  This relates to  your ability to relate new information to prior knowledge and to adapt that prior knowledge. In our course, we will use our writing about writing (sometimes in projects, sometimes in reflections) and our class discussions to help develop this metaknowledge.


Gee argues that one is either fully in a Discourse or he/she does not have that Discourse, BUT that one might “fake it til they make it” to get through the Discourse practices they need in a situation. He writes, “”Mushfake Discourse” means partial acquisition coupled with metaknowledge and strategies to “make do.” Gee suggests that students can be taught to “mushfake” as a strategy of dealing with partial acquisition leading to full acquisition. (This will tie into discussions of Swales’ expert/novice continuum).

John Swales, “Concept of Discourse Community”

Swales identifies  six characteristics common to every Discourse Community (DC).

You may also visually represent your place within a DC by creating a Discourse Community Map.

So what’s all this talk about Scenes, Situations, and Genres?


Finish the Discourse Community Map.

Read Lessner and Craig’s article “Finding Your Way-In” for brainstorming and drafting techniques

Bring two  printed copies of your Project One rough draft to class on Thursday, 9/11.




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