Key Concepts in Writing and Rhetoric II

On this page, you will find a discussion of how two of the key concepts—field and genre—might be studied in Writing and Rhetoric II. You will also find quotations from sample student work that was done in WRII as well.

Writing and Rhetoric II instructors and students should look for ways to apply all of the other key concepts to the work they’re doing in WRII. Different concepts might be more or less relevant at different points in the semester, but they are all useful.


In our study of Field, we learned that “[...] without sustained instruction, [a student] will not be able to write like a professional who understands how the field works.” In some instances, this means discovering which texts are crucial to a field, which texts are a part of the evolving conversation. Eventually, as we become members of a field, we help shape this conversation ourselves.

This WRII student was already living in Lakeview when he engaged in research regarding how masculinity is defined by gay men in his Chicago community. He surveyed members of his field about their own definitions of masculinity, ran a tinder experiment to gauge perceptions of masculinity based on sight alone, and he interviewed a clinic director regarding victims of violence in his community.

Here is the shape his research took. Overtime, it would likely evolve even more:

“The LGBT community as a whole prides itself on the ability to overcome any set of discrimination and stand together, arms linked and chins up, and combat the evils that society throws at us. Unfortunately that’s not the case when it comes to protecting our own community members, and it even falls short when it comes to standing behind men who are in fact the most vulnerable socially and physically. My research concluded that many inside the gay community have this sense of the “ideal man” and that anyone outside of the range of personality traits is someone that would ostracized and pushed away. So in understanding how masculinity affects the gay community and how that ideology of what the “perfect man” should look like, we begin to see definite negative effects that this has on the people inside that community itself; how it further perpetrates a stigma of acceptance towards a slim margin of overly fit white gay men is essentially the root of internalized homophobia amongst gay men.”

Marcus, a student in Amanda Marbais’ spring 2016 class, has taken bold steps toward adding to a larger conversation. He did so with knowledge of the field of Gender Studies. Judith Butler, known in her field, had already given us the idea that “behavior creates your gender”. Marcus hasn’t completed the conversation, but he’s added to it.


We’ve read a great deal about genre. “Genre refers to a category or classification of something.” Often we’re concerned with how a genre “functions in society.” How does a classification of film impact a culture, for example? We could further refine our discussion to focus on how a genre has evolved over time. We might ask what are the “specific features that the texts in that category share.” This can help us enter into a conversation about the limits and influence of genre on our culture.

This WRII student wanted to investigate the lasting impact of his favorite directors on contemporary audiences and current student filmmakers at Columbia. He wondered about the future relevance of these directors. He had a big topic. Sometimes as we enter into individual research for our writing, we need to make space for our initial idea to radically change. Initially, this student focused his research on Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and David Fincher.

Here he draws comparisons.

“Much like Kubrick, “Fincher’s style has been described as cold and clinically precise.” (Chan) Fincher’s films are also very meticulously crafted, and some of the most mainstream films today. Each shot in his films are perfected and composed very specifically towards the story.”

As his research progressed he discovered that each director, while having similarities in technical approach and aesthetics, worked in different genres. The discussion of their influence  on audiences often needed to include a discussion of genre.

Here’s Wes Anderson on how his initial idea for Moonrise Kingdom organically developed into a Young Adult film, a genre with specific constraints and themes.