“This is Water” [Churness]

One might think that a genre only relates to a type of book or a style of song, but they are used in our lives much more than we think. Genres range from how you tell a joke to your friends to how you write an email to your professor at school. In “Navigating Genres”, author Kerry Dirk expands on what a genre is. He explains that genres come in many different forms, but they have similar characteristics. Dirk states that the writer must know who their target audience is and must “consider the context in which it is being used” (255). How successful the writer does this will reflect on how well the audience reacts to the information given. This can be seen in David Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.”

Wallace’s commencement speech is being presented in front of the graduates of Kenyon College. Knowing that graduations tend to be long and boring, Wallace keeps his speech entertaining to both the students and everyone attending. Wallace utilizes anecdotes to educate the students instead of saying the lesson they should be learning. For example, Wallace uses the story about the two men at the bar to show that one shouldn’t hold on to their own beliefs so much that they listen to other people’s opinions. Saying this through an anecdote keeps the students engaged instead of just saying the lesson.

As said in the first paragraph, Dirk states that when writing in a specific genre, the writer must know “the context in which it is being used.” Graduation speeches must inform the audience of what they should know for the next chapter of their life. It should give them advice and motivation that will help them. This can be seen in “This is Water” when Wallace tells the students that they shouldn’t ignore what’s around them, like the fish did as they swam through the water. He suggests that they should be conscious of everything so they don’t miss out on the beauty of what’s around them. 

One thought on ““This is Water” [Churness]

  1. Specifically engage with Dirk’s definition of genre, and analyze Wallace’s speech from that frame of reference. Even though Wallace uses the word “guy”, it’s too colloquial for academic writing, unless you’re quoting him directly.

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