Amy J. Devitt

Amy Devitt
  • Professor Emerita
  • Chancellors Club Teaching Professor


I study writing—how people write, why they write, what they write—and the social and cultural contexts that create writing and that writing creates. With a background in both English language studies and Rhetoric and Composition, I tend to focus on texts of all kinds. I’m especially interested in the ways writers work within and against conventions and constraints, whether Standardized Edited English or genres. 

I study everyday genres—student’s academic analysis papers, tax accountants’ letters to IRS agents, citizens’ letters to the editor. I also write theory, working to understand how people take action through genres, how genres change, and how they work for power and prestige. And I apply my research to teaching: writing textbooks, designing courses, and arguing for more effective ways to teach writing. I have also directed the First- and Second-Year English program and the Writing Across the Curriculum program, so I am interested in such administrative topics as assessment, curriculum design, and mentoring.

In addition to the publications listed below, I have been invited to present my research and conduct seminars and workshops for scholars, students, and teachers at universities in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and Brazil, as well as universities in the United States, including Syracuse, Florida State, Michigan, UNC-Greensboro, Brigham Young, and Rochester, among others.


Rhetoric and Composition and English language studies, writing and writing pedagogy, genre studies, variation and standardization, Standardized Edited English.

Selected Publications


Landmark Essays On Rhetorical Genre Studies (co-edited with Carolyn R. Miller). New York and London: Routledge, 2019.

Writing Genres.  Carbondale IL:  Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

  • Finalist for CCCC Outstanding Book Award 2006.
  • Reissued in paperback 2008.

Scenes of Writing:  Strategies for Composing with Genres (with Anis Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff).  New York NY:  Pearson/Longman, 2003. 

  • Reissued 2018 through Amazon.

Standardizing Written English:  Diffusion in the Case of Scotland 1520-1659.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989. 

  • Reissued in paperback 2006.

Selected Articles and Essays

“Genres-In-Use: Blurred Boundaries and Fuzzy Edges." Studies in the History of the English Language VIII: Boundaries and Boundary-Crossings in the History of English, edited by Peter J. Grund and Megan E. Hartman

"Genre for Social Action: Transforming Worlds Through Genre Awareness and Action."  Genres of the Climate Debate, edited by Sune Auken and Christel Sunesen

"Genre: Permanence and Change" (with Carolyn R. Miller and Victoria Gallagher).  Rhetoric Society Quarterly (Rhetoric Society of America). 48:3, 269-277. Published online May 15, 2018. doi:10.1080/02773945.2018.1454194

“Uncovering Occluded Publics: Untangling Public, Personal, and Technical Spheres in Jury Deliberations.” Genre and the Performance of Publics. Eds. Mary Jo Reiff and Anis Bawarshi. Boulder CO: Utah State University Press, 2016. 139-156.

“Translating Practice into Theory in Genre Studies.” Genre Studies around the Globe: Beyond the Three Traditions. Eds. Natasha Artemeva and A. Freedman. Edmonton, AB, Canada: Canadian Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning/Inkshed Publications, 2016.   387-401.

“Genre Performances: John Swales’ Genre Analysis and Rhetorical-Linguistic Genre Studies.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes. 19 (2015): 44-51.

"Motives and Habits: Some Thoughts on What Linguists Can Gain from Rhetoric and Composition." Journal of English Linguistics.  December 2015. 1-7.

“Crossing the Boulevard: The Action of ‘Genre as Social Action.’” Composition Forum. 31 (Spring 2015).

“Genre.” Keywords in Writing Studies. Eds.Peter Vandenberg &Paul Heilker. Utah State UP, 2015. 82-87.

“Genre Pedagogies.” Guide to Composition Pedagogies. Eds. Amy Rupiper Taggart, Kurt Schick, and H. Brooke Hessler.  Oxford University Press, 2014.146-62.

“Reproducing Genres: Pattern-related Writing.” (with Mary Jo Reiff). Handbook of Writing and Text Production. Eds. Daniel Perrin and Eva-Maria Jakobs. De Gruyter Mouton, 2014. 263-84.

“Written Language In Use: An Essay on Returning Language to Writing Studies.”Contours of English and English Language Studies. Eds. Ann Curzan and Michael Adams. University of Michigan Press, 2011.

"Re-fusing Form in Genre Study." Theories of Genre and Their Application to Internet Communication. Eds. Janet Giltrow and Dieter Stein. John Benjamins Publishing, 2010.

“Teaching Critical Genre Awareness.” Genre in a Changing World. Ed. Charles Bazerman. Parlor Press, 2009.

“Transferability and Genres.”  The Locations of Composition.  Eds. Christian Weisser and Christopher Keller.  State University of New York Press, 2007. 215-27.

“Where Communities Collide:  Exploring a Legal Genre.”  Individually authored section of co-authored article “Materiality and Genre in the Study of Discourse Communities” (with Mary Jo Reiff and Anis Bawarshi).  College English 65 (May 2003): 541-58.

  • Reprinted The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing. 7th ed. Eds. Cheryl Glenn and Melissa A. Goldthwaite. Boston MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 365-80.
  • Reprinted in Readings on Writing, Van-Griner Publishing, 2014.

“Creating Community, Collaboration and Consistency:  The Use of Teaching Teams in Writing Program Administration” (with Angela Jones and Mary Jo Reiff).  Issues in Writing11 (2000).  28-63.

“Integrating Rhetorical and Literary Theories of Genre.”  College English 62 (2000).  696-718.

“Generalizing About Genre:  New Conceptions of an Old Concept.”  College Composition and Communication  44 (1993): 573-86.  

  • Reprinted Concepts in Composition.  Ed. Irene Clark. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003.
  • Reprinted Relations, Locations, Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers. Editor(s): Peter Vandenberg, Sue Hum, Jennifer Clary-Lemon. NCTE 2006.

“Intertextuality in Tax Accounting:  Generic, Referential, and Functional.”  In Textual Dynamics of the Professions:  Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities.  Eds. Charles Bazerman and James Paradis.  Madison WI:  University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.  Pages 336-357. 

“Genre As Textual Variable:  Some Historical Evidence from Scots and American English.”  American Speech 64 (1989), 291-303.

Awards & Honors

Chancellors Club Teaching Professor, 2007-present

Frances L. Stiefel Teaching Professor, 2012-2015

CTE Celebration of Teaching, English faculty member honored by Department graduate students, Spring 2009.

Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship, named 2007.

Mabel Frye Teaching Award, 1994, 2007.

Finalist for CCCC Outstanding Book Award 2006.Writing Genres. Carbondale IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

Conger-Gabel Teaching Professorship, 2001-2004.

Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, 1996.

Byron A. Alexander Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award, 1996.

Edward Grier Award for excellence in incorporating scholarship into teaching, 1996.