Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)




The genre of the five paragraph essay (5PE) is familiar to many US high school and middle school students because it is often included in the teaching of literary analysis and general argumentation. Learners of the 5PE participate in its social life consisting of its learning, change, and spread. In this paper, I present a description of some of the online social life of the 5PE. Examining online metapragmatic commentary under theoretical frames of speech genres (Bakhtin, 1986), enregisterment (Agha, 2007), and language governmentality (Flores 2014; Pennycook 2002, 2006), and with the new methodology of citizen sociolinguistics (Rymes & Leone, this volume), I show how numerous instances of metapragmatic commentary on the 5PE, regardless of their positioning, reinforce a governmentality that constructs the 5PE as a practice totally dependent on authoritarian specifications.