Revolution Lullabye

May 26, 2011

Fleming, Becoming Rhetorical

Fleming, David.   “Becoming rhetorical: An education in the topics.”   In Bahri, Deepika; Joseph Petraglia (Eds.), The realms of rhetoric: Inquiries into the prospects for rhetoric education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Fleming shows, through an investigation of the topics (topoi), how there is true rhetorical knowledge and how that knowledge can push students to develop in discursive ability. He calls for scholars and teachers of rhetoric to turn back to the heart of rhetoric, which depends upon a multiyear curriculum where students have the opportunity to develop, naturally and deeply, as rhetoricians influenced by ethics and virtue towards civic, responsible ends. He warns against rudimentary definitions of rhetoric  – “checklists” of terms and ideas divorced from a larger ethical base – and also all-encompassing theories of rhetoric that, in their largeness, make rhetoric also meaningless. The goal of rhetoric, Fleming argues, is not so much to transmit a certain kind of knowledge but to develop a certain kind of person, an ethical, productive, civically-minded, knowledgable leader. That development depends on practice, imitation, exercises, and repetition.

Topics depend on understanding the commonplaces of a particular culture – what that culture values, what opinions are generally accepted, the “endoxa”  of a community, what allows people to meet together on the same ground.

Rhetorical education, Fleming argues, can’t hope that students will absorb a rhetorical sensibility through mere exposure to many different disciplines and ways of knowing, the foundation of liberal arts education. Rather, rhetorical education needs to help students develop a rhetorical self-consciousness, flexible but still concrete in vocabulary and purpose, “an art that, once learned, confers on students a genuine practical and ethical ability” (105).

Fleming, with this goal in mind, proposes a richer, teachable theory of the topics that includes five broad categories of rhetorical knowledge: 1. circumstantial knowledge; 2. verbal formulae, 3. common sense; 4. models of textual development; and 5. logical norms.

Notes and Quotes

“The topics we organize this way shuold be infinitely malleable, capable of being adapted and used in multiple ways in different situations. What I am after, in other words, is a theory that can accomodate diverse kinds of resources, one that is focused on situated practice in particular communities, and one that sees the words and things of those communities as practically plastic in the hands of its speakers, hearers, writers, and readers” (104).

rhetoric can’t be taught in one course – it needs to be infused into an entire curriculum

“Where classical rhetoric took a remarkably precise language and dedicated it to an ambitious political-ethical project, the new rhetoric takes a highly elastic vocabulary and puts it to rather trivial ends” (93).

topics: “an ancient set of pedagogical resources designed to help speakers and writers invent arguments for public debate” (94): “My appraoch will be to see the topics as a species of political knowledge that, through theory and practice, can be made part of the student’s very character” (94)

“Rhetoric is at once overburdened and underburdeded with content” (94) – the challenge is to find a place between particularilty and generality (95)

the topics are commonplaces – places to go to discover arguments, a set of heuristics to help invention

connection between Toulmin’s warrants and Aristotle’s topics.

modern rhetorical theory has taken out the content and context of the original topics in order to create a more universal form of rhetoric.

Problem: “A theory of argument situated at the intersection of politics [specificity] and logic [generality] will always elude us; the best we can do is choose one path or the other and stick to it, hoping that our students, at least, will learn to merge the two in their practical lives” (103)

need something more substantial than the rhetorical triangle

Fleming’s theory of topics:

  • circumstantial knowledge – context, history, people, places, familiarity
  • verbal formulae – discursive resources and languages of the community, through wide reading and listening
  • common sense – values, truths, preferences that exist in that community
  • modes of textual development – the structures of everyday arguments in the community, patterns, modes, things that direct and shape thought in that community
  • logical norms – the norms that authorize arguments, warrants, inference

The problem of the paper cycle in typical freshman composition classes: (110)

  1. they are too long for close work but too short to do real work: “they are neither the kind of discursive chunk that constitutes an utterance, a move in written or spoken discourse, nor the kind of project that results from weeks, months, or even years of active engagement with real intellectual or practical problems.
  2. they aren’t sequenced developmentally, to build off each other
  3. students work on them too slowly, tediously drafting over and over again

Draws on the ideas of the New London Group: inquiry into a specific text or situation, recursive thinking and writing. Gives example of Brown vs Board of Education  sourcebook


June 10, 2009

Ritter, Yours, Mine, Ours

Ritter, Kelly. “Yours, Mine, Ours: Triangulating Plagiarism, Forgery, and Identity.” JAC 27:3/4 (2007) 731-742.

Ritter’s essay is responding to an article from the previous issue of JAC, “Toward a New Content for Writing Courses: Literacy, Forgery, Plagiarism, and the Production of Belief,” by Amy E. Rollibard and Ron Fortune. Rollibard and Fortune argue that forgery and plagiarism are connected by the central idea of belief, and when students whole-text plagiarize, they do so not as an act of anti-writing but as an act of writing to forge certain authorial identities and to produce belief in a Bourdieuian way (through cultural capital legitimization.) Ritter unpacks their argument and draws connections between how Robillard and Fortune position college student acts of forgery and plagiarism (read by the culture as criminal) and younger student acts of forgery and plagiarism (read by the culture as mimicism, imitation, and part of the learning process.) College students, Ritter argues, must negotiate the slippery slide between the expectations of the college classroom and academic community and what they have relied on throughout their childhood. Ritter goes on to argue that students whole-text plagiarize not because they want to forge an authorial identity in individual assignments, but rather, they place value in the end result of all those assignments – the degree – and the identity that the degree forms. Ritter also contends that neither process pedagogy nor portfolios can prevent students from deliberately, knowingly plagiarizing.

Quotable Quotes

“how students resitst authorship vis-a-vis whole-text plagiarism” (741)

Notable Notes

how do we construct student plagiarists? What labels do we give them? What’s behind those names?

Ritter: whole-text student plagiarizers aren’t always just lazy – they are smart, industrious, purposefully drawing on the identites and cultural capitals of other authors, imitating those they admire and want to be connected to

simulation is more than copying

student texts already have little cultural value – plagiarism and forgery make them have a negative value

June 1, 2009

DeSana, Preventing Plagiarism

DeSana, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2007.

DeSana, a high school English teacher and part-time writing instructor at NYU, argues that students need to learn how to do original, subjective, interested research, not just retell what their sources say. She relies on an literature-based writing assignment sequence that begins with freewriting responses to a primary source, then analyzing and adding secondary sources. Her goal is for students to be the dominant voice in their thesis-driven researched arguments, controlling their source use with effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. She believes that this kind of assignment sequence, coupled with a range of plagiarism-proof topics that dissuade students from relying on online cheat sources and recycled papers, will teach students to respect the research process and not plagiarize. She has a two-part definition of plagiarism: source of language plagiarism and source of information plagiarism, both equally important to address and curtail through the proper use of citation systems and explicit instruction in paraphrase. She gives teachers seven tools and steps for identifying plagiarism in their students’ papers, often positioning the students as savvy, lethargic, potential cheats who try to pull one over on the teacher because of their Internet expertise.

Quotable Quotes

“For those of us who are vigilant, we will enter the library as dectectives on the trail of a more intelligent theif” (97), on the importance of checking print-based sources in libraries (like secondary sources, CliffsNotes) for student plagiarism attempts

“Individuality self-destructs in endless mirroring” (111), doesn’t see much good in imitation

“We must begin to teach them how to exert control over the chaos – how to shape and academic argument” (7).

“We have to require the higher level of thinking that is achieved through the simultaneous processes of analysis and synthesis” (6).

The retelling that happens in a book report “is useless for several reasons – foremost among them is that it is a shabby mimicking of the original. No one can write Poe’s ‘The Fall of the Usher’ as well as Poe, nor should another writer attempt to” (4).

“Reporting is a retelling of ideas found; it is not an analysis of ideas found” (1)

“As educators, we must teach students to realize that they are required to have their own insights into source materials. They must engage in a dialogue with the sources they consult. Without this dialogue their research is meaningless and becomes a mere exercise of collecting and organizing” (1)

Notable Notes

absolute binary between research and retelling

works cited only includes one thing from rhet/comp, a article from Written Communication about text/source use and ESL students

one of her plagiarism prevention techniques she dubs “non sequitor approach” – having students turn in copies of online study guides to provide them for comparison with their essays

prescriptive writing process and sequence = freewriting, notetaking, outlining, writing

retelling (summaries) are not, in DeSana’s opinion, objective pieces of writing, not subjective researched positions

focus is on how to teach students to write thesis-driven, argumentative, taking-a-stand research essays

May 20, 2009

Bloch, Plagiarism across Cultures

Bloch, Joel. “Plagiarism across Cultures: Is There a Difference?” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 219-230.

Bloch questions the simplified dichotomy between Chinese and American attitudes toward plagiarism and argues for a pedagogy that is centered on the concepts of intertextuality and remixing, complex ways of understanding composing and source use. He discusses Chinese education’s use of memorization and imitation as forms of invention.

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.)

Pugh, Instinctual Ballast

Pugh, Christina. “Instinctual Ballast: Imitation and Creative Writing.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 114-121.

Pugh, a teacher of poets, explains how she structured a creative writing course around imitation, an approach widely discouraged in contemporary creative writing pedagogical practices. She cites the importance of writers being avid readers who can read as writers and claims that her students were able to expand their ability as writers in her course, in which students only read and did imitations. She argues for imitation and apprenticeship to become a more intregal part of writing curriculum, as mimesis is with other creative arts (dance, fine arts.)

Quotable Quotes

“An imitation course thus refines the boundaries of what we categorize as ‘the creative.’ It requires a student to do something more dangerous than to trust his own experience or to tell the story she thinks she wants to tell. Imitation unmoors the writer from her comfort zone.” (119).

Notable Notes

it’s perfectly OK to publish an imitation – it is still your own.

Donahue, When Copying Is Not Copying

Donahue, Christiane. “When Copying Is Not Copying: Plagiarism and French Composition Scholarship.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 90-103.

Donahue describes the differences between how American and French writing teachers address the use of sources in writing. While American writing teachers focus on plagiarism and its punitive threats, the French educational system, which sees a deep connection between reading and writing, encourages students to play with other texts, borrowing, quoting, and imitating them without citation. Citation practices are not taught until late in the undergraduate or in the graduate years, as it is discipline-specific. Donahue argues that American teachers of writing should adopt this open, educational attitude of the French, which focuses on teaching students to manage many voices in their papers.

Quotable Quotes

“Effective quoting and citing are treated, in the scholarship, as an art; the goal is working from an author-based world (an author’s text, words, ideas) toward one’s own” (97).

French students are encouraged “to enter into relationships of equality and play with other texts, and that this leads them to a different understanding of the already-said” (91).

Copying: “a complex and culturally defined intellectual action, Bakhtinian to the core” (99).

Think about mentoring students into a discipline “rather than the moralistic, legalistic, or otherwise shame-filled act we like to call plagiarism” (100)

Notable Notes

French discourage paraphrase (Donahue argues that this distaste should be reconsidered.) Grounded in an aesthetic tradition, they don’t like “dilution” of the original text. French students are taught to summarize nonliterary text but to keep key phrases and frames, quote without quotation marks or citation

polyphonic writing (very Bakhtin) – it is difficult for students to figure out how to insert their voice in the mix

think about imitation as translation

paraphrase as reprise-modification, very dynamic becuase an utterance always changes when uttered

gives examples of student papers

Bawarshi, Genres as Forms of In(ter)vention

Bawarshi, Anis. “Genres as Forms of In(ter)vention.” In Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism. Eds. Eisner and Vicinus. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008. 79-89.

Blanket accusations of plagiarism don’t account for the complexities of genre, culture, and discipline: the knowledge of how much is appropriate to imitate, recontextualize, and cite is local and contextual. This knowledge is something Bawarshi describes as “uptake” –  the space, actions, and relationship between invention and imitation. Bawarshi advocates teaching students about source use by addressing it locally: discipline by discipline, genre by genre. He gives two examples – the uptake of writing prompts to student essays and the uptake of the testimonio I, Rigoberta Menchu – as situations when there was a misread of the uptake and the understanding of the space between imitation and invention.

Quotable Quotes

“Imitation and invention exist on a genre-defined continuum and thereby have a variable relationship that we must acknowledge if we want to understand imitation’s inventive power – that genre-differentiated point of transformation where imitation becomes invention” (80).

“ideological interstices that configure, normalize, and activate relations and meanings within and between systems of genre.”

Notable Notes

takes uptake from speech-act theory: how an illocutionary act is taken up as a perlocutionary effect

Eisner and Vicinus, Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism

Eisner, Caroline and Martha Vicinus, eds. Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2008.

This edited collection, divided into three sections (originality, imitation, plagiarism) draws together scholars from various discipilnary and technological perspectives to talk about issues of plagiarism, teaching writing, copyright, digital technology, and fair use doctrines. The authors argue in their introduction to bring back imitation as a legitimate and powerful pedagogical practice. I will take notes on the essays included in individual posts, marking each as “EisnerVicinus.”

May 12, 2009

Howard, Standing in the Shadow of Giants

Howard, Rebecca Moore. Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors, Collaborators. Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1999.

Howard advances a new theory of authorship that contests current understandings of plagiarism and the construction of the student-plagiarist-criminal. Patchwriting, a term she coins for writer-text collaboration (likened to imitation, mimesis, re(formation)), is not a cheating behavior that should be punished and labeled as plagiarism. Rather, it is a necessary and acceptable way of learning, a method used and endorsed throughout history as a way for novices to learn the langauge needed to enter a discourse community. Students who patchwrite in their essays and papers with the intent of understanding difficult texts, of learning, not deceit, and are doing something all writers do – collaborate with texts – except that these novice students aren’t as adept at covering their traces as professional authors are. Her theory of authorship stands in opposition to the notion of the autonomous, original author and seeks to disrupt the liberal cultural hierarchy that maintains the current power structure that has an interest in keeping students, the masses, from finding a voice. Howard argues for a pedagogy based in summary-writing as a way to teach students what patchwriting is (and to use it towards pedagogical good) and ends the book by calling for a revision of current college plagiarism policies.

Quotable Quotes

definition of patchwriting = “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another” (xvii)

“The inclusion of patchwriting in the category of plagiarism denies students opportunities to become scholars” (xx)

“The prospect of decriminalizing patchwriting causes seismic disturbances in composition studies” (xx).

“We do not write alone, and often it is texts, not people, with whom we collaborate” (8).

Patchwriting is “a discursive operation not against the source author but toward the content in which the operation occurs” (19).

Need to teach students “how to manage their patchwriting in ways that are stylistically sophisticated and academically acceptable and that contribute to the writer’s understanding of the source text” (140)

“Let ‘patchwriting’ describe the act of enthusiasm in which students collaborate with their source texts for the purposes of understanding them and entering their discourse. Let us respond pedagogically to that phenomenon” (166).

Notable Notes

four properties of authorship: autonomy, proprietorship, originality, morality (77)

move from neutral mimesis/originality binary to a hierarchal plagiarist/author binary

do not conflate plagiarism and copyright. Copyright is state regulated, legal norms to protect the individual author. Plagiarism rules are locally regulated, societal norms to protect a community….you can change plagiarism rules without changing copyright law

there is allowable plagiarism – ghost-writing, Teflon, great-wit, postmodern (104) also traditions of African American folk preaching, non-Western education and rhetoric, digital hypertext

long list of theorists, philosophies: Locke, Descartes, Hobbes, Foucault, Addison, Emerson, Wordsworth, Edward Young, Bahktin, Quintilian, Plato, Homer

plagiarism dectection software: “This technology would freeze and reassert the notion of authorship in which writing is unitary, originary, proprietary, and linear, and in which the text is the locus and sole arbiter of meaning” – not allow for meaning in context, in the reader, in the author’s intent (131)

patchwriting has a ton to do with reading comprehension (cognitivist) and entering an intellectual community (social constructivist) (145)

Her breakdown: plagiarism – act of intention for deceit (buying a paper, on-purpose-cheating); failure to cite – failing to cite out of ignorance of academic citation conventions; patchwriting – a transitional stage

both failure to cite and patchwriting are pedagogical opportunities, not occassions to terrorize and punish students.

trying to rid patchwriting from students is asking them to be less complex, polyphonus, and honest & true

Next Page »

Blog at