Giltrow (2002) introduced the term "meta-genre" to describe "situated language about situated language" (p. 190). More generally, she describes meta-genres as “[A]tmospheres of wordings and activities, demonstrated precedents or sequestered expectations" that surround a genre and indicate how readers and writers should appropriately take it up" (Giltrow, 2002, p. 195).


Giltrow, J. (2002). Meta-Genre. In R. Coe, L. Lingard & T. Teslenko (Eds.), The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre: Strategies for Stability and Change (pp. 187–205). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.


Examples could run a continuum from the highly explicit (e.g., procedures for completing a form) to very tacit (e.g., a disposition acquired through years of immersion in a profession).  Giltrow (2002) lists "genres" of meta-genre (if you will): "rules, silences, gestures, collocates, complaints, habituated up-takes, warnings, homilies" (p. 202). "The most conspicuous candidates for meta-genre are guidelines: . . . regulations for the production of a genre" (p 190).

Other Notable Uses: 

Giltrow, J. (2003). Legends of the center: System, self, and linguistic consciousness. In C. Bazerman & D. Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/writing societies. Colorado State: WAC Clearinghouse, 2003. 363-92. Here, however, Giltrow confines the term "meta-genre" here to a footnote.

In the context of media studies, Jensen (2011) suggests the concept of "meta-genre" to help conceptualize the developing range of new media possibilities: meta-genres "are not so much media or communication in themselves but preconditions of a specific range of communications and other actions" (p 18).

Original Use: 

Ruth Mirtz first used this word (unhyphenated) to describe student writing:  "a kind of experimental, knowledge-building writing which contains many other kinds of writing" (p. 194). Giltrow does not seem to have been aware of this coinage.

Mirtz, R. (1994). The territorial demands of form and process: The case for student writing as a genre. In W. Bishop & H. Ostrom (Eds.), Genre and writing: Issues, arguments, alternatives. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook,190-98.  

Contributed by: 

Dylan Dryer, Carolyn Miller

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