Revolution Lullabye

August 2, 2012

Brent, Rogerian Rhetoric: An Alternative to Traditional Rhetoric

Brent, Douglas. “Rogerian Argument: An Alternative to Traditional Argument.” InĀ  Argument Revisited, Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition Classroom. Eds. Barabara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Beborah Tenny. Sage, 1996. 73-96. Web.

Brent argues that Rogerian argument, a way to structure and conceive of argument based on psychiatrist Carl Rogers’ theories, is most beneficial for students not because of its form but because it introduces them to principles of invention and inquiry that help them construct more effective and ethical arguments. Rogerian argument asks students to read and argue with empathy, considering how alternative perspectives from their own may be valid and then constructing their arguments to account for their validity in a larger, holistic context.

Brent surveys Carl Rogers’ theories (grounded by his research in psychology) and the history of Rogerian argument’s adoption (and criticism) by the field of composition and rhetoric. Rogerian argument rejects the traditional adversarial and even evaluative approaches to argument. Instead, the theory is connected to the psychiatric principle of “saying back”: of restating the situation and sides of the position. It is not really argument – it is more of a method of communication that underlines the importance of understanding all perspectives on an issue as a tool for reaching a consensus. Scholars, though, have criticized Rogerian arugment for being manipulative, idealistic, detached from emotion, or not emphasizing understanding of the self.

Rogerian argument was introduced to the field by Young, Becker, and Pike, and it has been useful in negotiations about highly charged and emotional issues (Camp David, Northern Ireland.) It is based on the principle that reducing threat or vulnerability is critical in having conversation and encouraging sides to listen to one another.

Brent explains how he uses principles of Rogerian argument in his classroom to give students a new way to see how their arguments are situated in a larger context. Argument isn’t a straightforward statement of claims and evidence; it has to address the slippery grayness of human issues. Rogerian argument principles help students uncover assumptions under their arguments and the perspectives they might be arguing against.


Notable Notes

big difference between rebuttal and genuine re-stating of the opposition’s viewpoint.


Quotable Quotes

“But we certainly cannot make informed ethical choices without being able to explore other points of view.”


“Rogerian rhetoric is a broad rubric for a way of seeing, not just a specific technique for structuring a text.”


“It is still possible for students to learn how to apply a form of Rogerian principles in writing. To do so, they must learn how to imagine with empathy and how to read with empathy.”


“The challenge for the composition teacher, of course, is how to teach students to put Rogerian principles into practice. Rogerian rhetoric is often tried and dismissed as impractical, too difficult for students to use, too difficult to teach, or too easy for students to misinterpret as a particularly sly form of manipulation.

I believe that some of these problems stem from a failure to recognize just what Rogerian rhetoric really is. The basic model of Rogerian argument, particularly when abstracted from the rich context of heuristic techniques in which Young, Becker and Pike originally embedded it, looks like a form of arrangement: a recipe for what to say first. But arrangement is only part of the business of any rhetorical system. Logically prior to arrangement–and as I will argue, embedded in the process of arrangement, not separate from it–is the process of invention. In Rogerian terms, this means exploring an opposing point of view in sufficiently rich complexity that it is possible to reflect it back convincingly to an audience”

May 18, 2009

Kuipers, The Anthology as a Literary Creation

Kuipers, Christopher M. “The Anthology as a Literary Creation.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 122-132.

Kuipers questions the nature of the authorship of anthologies, drawing connections to the acts of selection, arrangement, and presentation that all authors must do. He describes the authoring moves anthology editors make: the deliberate arrangment and order of texts (what is first? last? sections?), the titling of untitled poems and stories, and the claim of copyright over the arrangement, not the texts themselves (which are repeated and borrowed from other anthologies.)

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

March 8, 2009

Sirc, Box-Logic

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 111-146.

Instead of teaching linear texts in our classrooms, composition teachers should encourage an aesthetic sense in their students, asking them to see writing as collection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of elements, much like a curator or artist composes. Sirc relies on the box theories and practices of Marcel Duchamp Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas to construct an argument about the validity of such an experimental method in composition classrooms, highlighting how it reflects the non-linear, non-conclusive writing students do outside the colldge classroom. His assignments draw on technologies from pen and paper to HTML web pages and have students create juxtapositions, research boxes, and arcades projects.

Quotable Quotes

We need to ask “What is essential to composition? What are the inescapable, minimal institutional constraints that must be considered?” (126)

“Mainstream writing instruction too often prefers to put students inot contact zones of heightened cultural import. BUt strong art, we seem can be created out of a collection of well-chosen interesting bits of the everyday.” (122)

“If we (finally) journey away from the linear norm of essayist prose, which the texts of the everyday world implore us to do, where do we go, especially in a composition classroom? What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (114)

“text as box=author as collecter” (117)

“My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The box-theorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgram, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal.” (146).

Notable Notes

arrangement, no clear conclusions, just suggestions

stylistic device of the caesura (123)

highlights two activities in the classroom: annotation and note-taking, search strategies

it seems to hearken back to the individual spirit of expressionism, early process movement

students as designers, artists who experiment with blank boxes, pages, and screens to create meanings, free to capture moods, an element of play

January 12, 2009

Lupton, Thinking with Type

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.

This book, written for both designers and students, gives a broad overview of the histories and theories of typography and broader text design along with specific techniques on how to analyze and create type, text, and entire documents. The book is divided into three major sections – letter, text, and grid – and each section begins with a historical essay followed by several practical examples of the design elements discussed. Lupton focuses particularily on how typography has answered the typographic and layout design challenges of digital media. Design, she argues, has now expanded beyond the printed page, as designers must create transmedia designs, designs that move from web pages to captions to pull quotes to logotypes to album covers. Designers, Lupton also argues, must attend to the needs of the audience, and today, the reader has become the user, whose time and attention is a valuable commodity which must be accomodated in the design of letters, text, and grids.

Quotable Quotes

Typography is…

“a tool for doing things with: shaping content, giving language a physical body, enabling the social flow of messages” (8)

“what language looks like” (1)

“an interface to the alphabet” (75)

“by and large, an art of framing, a form designed to melt away as it yields itself to content” (115)


“is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking” (67) Importance of white space

“has become a ‘transmedia’ enterprise, as authors and producers create worlds of characters, places, situations, and interactions that can appear across a variety of products” (75)

“is the art of situations” (193) Designers respond to a need, a problem.

“The history of typography is marked by the increasingly sophisticated use of space…Space has become more liquid than concrete, and typography has evolved from a stable body of objects to a flexible system of attributes” (68).

Users instead of readers: “searching and finding, scanning and mining” (76).

Notable Notes

Shift in cultural values throughout typographic history: humanist in the Renaissance and 15th century Italy (looked like handwriting), Enlightenment (fluid, fancy, sharp, clean, precise, use of the grid), Industrialization (monster fonts with big, bold faces made from wood-cut type), Arts and Crafts movement (pure, round, balanced, geometric shapes), Post WWII (mathematical, universal language, Swiss grid design), digital revolution (low resolution, bit-map pixel fonts), late 20th century (play with variation with computer capabilities.)

Type family includes regular, bold, italic, bold italic, small caps, lining numerals, non-lining numerals

databases create non-linear structures, space instead of sequence (69)

Barthes, Derrida, Ong, Raskin, Lunenfeld

Style sheets allow designers to think globally about the design of the entire structure instead of just the present page (74).

The computer has saved text – a “digital phoenix” (Lunenfeld quote – 76) because it emphasizes the printed word in a way TV and film do not.

Grids are about control, establishing systems for organizing content. Even the computer screen, which has so many curves and spontaneous elements, is based fundamentally on grids. This was emphasized with HTML tables, and Flash moves away a little bit from that, though it is based on an x and y grid. (113, 132)

for elegant design, do not have more than three visual cues for each level of hierarchy: symbols (A, B, C), indents, line breaks, font change (keep x-height the same), alignment change, bold, italic, color change, underline, small caps

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