Genre studies is an academic subject which studies genre theory as a branch of general critical theory in several different fields, including art, literature, linguistics, rhetoric and composition studies.
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Literary genre studies is a structuralist approach to the study of genre and genre theory in literary theory, film theory, and other cultural theories. The study of a genre in this way examines the structural elements that combine in the telling of a story and finds patterns in collections of stories. When these elements (or semiotic codes) begin to carry inherent information, a genre emerges.
Linguistic genre studies can be roughly divided into two schools, Systemic Functional Linguistics or "SFL", and English for Specific Purposes or "ESP." SFL scholars believe that language structure is an integral part of a text's social context and function. SFL scholars often conduct research that focuses on genres' usefulness in pedagogy. ESP also examines the pedagogical implications of genre, focusing in particular on genre analysis as a means to help non-native English speakers to use the language and its conventions. ESP genre analysis involves identifying discourse elements such as register, formation of conceptual and genre structures, modes of thought and action that exist in a specific discourse community.
A third approach developed from scholarship in New Rhetorics, principally Carolyn R. Miller's article "Genre as Social Action" and is called Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS). RGS has found wide application in composition studies, whose scholars insist that the textual forms that are usually called "genres" are only traces of a recurring social action. The social action itself, in other words, is the genre, not the document or text that it leaves behind.