Revolution Lullabye

November 5, 2007

CCR 691 Notes for 11/5

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 2:51 am

Berkenkotter. “Rethinking Genre from a Sociocognitive Perspective.”

 Genres, Berkenkotter argues, are situated constructs that develop dynamically over time specific to time and circumstance. Genres are learned inductively through apprenticeship; they are not explicitly taught. In this chapter, Berkenkotter explains the theoretical framework through which he analyzes genre. His perspective is colored by eight years of research of individual writers (language in use) and several crossdisciplinary theories. His theorietical framework has five principles: dynamism (genres develop is response to the users’ needs, which change over time); situatedness (genre knowledge is inherent in daily communicative decisions and life and is picked up “on the go,” not taught); form and content (genres are both and someone with a handle on a genre can determine the appropriate situation to vary form and content); duality of structure (genres both inform and form social structures and relationships); community ownership (genres signal a community’s values and norms.) Berkenkotter argues that community-based knowledge is built on genres – there would be no common pool of knowledge, no way to talk and extend thought without genres to do it in. We recognize knowledge because of genres.

Quotable Quotes

“Genres are the intellectual scaffolds on which community-based knowledge is constructed. To be fully effective in this role, genres must be flexible and dynamic, capable of modification according to the rhetorical exigencies of the situation. At the same time, though, they must be stable enough to capture those aspects of situations that tend to recur” (24).

“Communicators engage in (and their texts reveal) various degrees of generic activity. No act of communication springs out of nothing. In one way or antoher, all acts of communication build on prior texts and text elements, elemetns that exist on different levels, including words, phrases, discourse patterns, illustrations, and so on” (17). All communication is rooted in genre.

“Genres, therefore, are always sites of contention between stability and change” (6). Reference to Bakhtin’s two opposing forces.

“Genre knowledge of academic discourse entails an understanding of both oral and written forms of appropriate communicative behaviors. This knowledge, rather than being explicitly taught, is transmitted through enculturation as apprentices become socialized to the ways of speaking in particular disciplinary communities” (7).

“Genres are the media through which schoars and scientists communicate with their peers. Genres are intimately linked to a discipline’s methodolog, and they package information in ways that conform to a discipline’s norms, values, and ideology. Understanding the genres of written communication in one’s field is, therefore, essential to professional success” (1).

Notable Notes

Interesting discussion on how new journals that balk at the constaining genres of established journals become professionalized and like those established journals over time (22-23)

Kairos – rhetorical timing, appropriate timing. Someone with nuanced genre knowledge has kairos (16).

How do you teach students academic discourse when it can only be acquired over time (a semester isn’t enough.) Undergraduate education cannot require undergraduate students to successfully acquire professional disciplinary discourse. Instead, as Berkenkotter suggests, WAC programs should emphasize the “genres of the undergraduate curricula,” like decontextualized problems, test, reading, experimentation, and writing. The undergraduate experience is classroom-based, not based in the real world (13).

Coherence is achieved through commonly held assumptions that change over time (15).

Berkenkotter. “Gatekeeping at an Academic Convention.”

Berkenkotter investigates, by looking at a sample of 96 CCCC abstract proposals, the genre of the CCCC abstract proposal in order to understand what separates highly rated proposals from lower rated ones, a distinction that points to what the organization of CCCC and the field of rhetoric and composition in general finds to be valuable knowledge. He notices that highly rated proposals are more likely to have a topic that is of current interest in the field and reflects the chair’s call, have an extended description of the problem being tackled, and approach the problem in a novel way. They also emote an insider ethos: they use specific terminology that positions themselves as an active insider member of the field and cite scholarship in the field and scholarship outside the field that has been recently influential to the discipline. They had impressions from first looking at their pool of data and then developed an analysis technique to confirm their hypotheses.

Fahnestock, Jeanne and Marie Secor. “The Rhetoric of Literary Criticism.”

Fahnestock and Secor analyzed a small set of literary criticism scholarly articles published between 1978 and 1982 to determine what the rhetoric and genre of literary criticism entails. Using analytical frameworks explained by Aristotle, Cicero, Toulmin, and Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, the authors categorize the stases and topoi most frequently deployed by literary critics in developing their arguments. The stases used are arguing for the existence of something, characterizing it, explaining its cause, and evaluating its quality and value. There were five major topoi used throughout the articles: 1. reality/appearance (what we see on the surface isn’t what is really happening); 2. ubiqutousness (this pattern or thing I found is everywhere!); paradox (collapsing the binary); contemptus mundi (despair in the current state of the world); and paradigm (applying an idea or a concept to a work, like the Oedipus psychoanalysis.) The authors also discuss how literary critics develop their own ethos – through casually referencing other scholarship relating to their own, using elaborate language and metaphor that reflects the complexity of the literature they are discussing, and by promoting the discipline-held value of complexity. They place literary criticism in the epideitic catergory of rhetoric because it promotes cultural values and norms.

Quotable Quotes

“To convince another reader that a work is a ‘classic,’ or simply worth the time it takes to read it, requires appealing to shared criteria of what has value in literature. These criteria certainly change over time, and writers are promoted or demoted from the canon of major works” (83). How canons get formed.

“What is the appeal of the paradox? Why does this violation of Aristotle’s first law of thought surprise and delight us with the impression of discovery and insight that accompanies its formulation? One answer may be that the precise verbal form is itself the attraction, making it seem possible to impose an apparent unity on disparate elements and thus provoke wonder” (88).

“Ultimately all the topoi we have discussed reduce to one fundamental assumption behind critical inquiry: that literature is complex and that to understand it requires patient unraveling, translating, decoding, interpreting, and analyzing” (89).

 Notable Notes

Is literature complex because of literary critics or are literary critics needed because literature is complex? The question to ask! What is the value in seeing literature simply? Does the text take on an authority that the author did not intend? Is it fair to read into a text something that wasn’t intended?

Interesting comparison between literary criticism and religion (94).

Wilder, Laura. “‘The Rhetoric of Literary Criticism’ Revisited: Mistaken Critics, Complex Contexts, and Social Justice.”

Wilder repeats Fahnestock and Secor’s study by investigating the states and topoi used in 28 literary criticism scholarly articles published between 1999 and 2001 from 12 different journals (including the 10 that Fahnestock and Secor used.) She wants to find out how the conventions have changed in twenty years in order both to better understand this discourse community and where it’s going and to assist those who are designing curriculum for introductory courses in literary studies. She finds that the claims in the articles stem from all five of Cicero’s states (F & S saw that most dealt with the first two, existence and definition) and adds three new topoi that the literary critics’ arguments follow: social justice, context, and mistaken critic (hence the title.) The mistaken critic points to an aspect of a text that a previous critic overlooked or interpreted incorrectly, context draws on the sociohistorical situation when the text was written to problematize the text, and social justice finds an aspect of the text that speaks to the current world situation and calls for social action for change (the opposite of the confundus mundi topoi.)

Quotable Quotes

Social justice topoi: “The assumption in this topos is that literature and life are connected – that literature, regardless of when it was written, speaks to our present condition” (98).

Again, social justice topoi: “The rise of the social justice topos may have tipped the balance on which literary critics’ views of history rest: What was once portrayed as modernity fallen from a glorious past is now portaryed as a past and present riddled with problems but reaching toward an improved future” (100).

Notable Notes

Discussion of the influence of cultural studies on literary criticism and the blurry line between literary criticism and theory (88).

This article follows the mistaken critic topos?

Complexity is still the key…How much resolution do we allow now? “But because simple, straightforward explanations of a text are always considered suspect, an interesting tension emerges concerning just how much resolution a critic can provide to a reading of a text” (106). Even goes so far as a celebration of the lack of resolution in the articles.


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