Revolution Lullabye

July 6, 2009

Berlin, Rhetoric and Reality

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Carbondale, Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Berlin traces the history of writing instruction in American colleges through three epistemological categories that have dominated rhetorical theory and practice since 1900: objective, subjective, and transactional. There is no one rhetoric – the rhetoric that informs a particular practice instructs students with a particular epistemology, a way of knowing and understanding the world. He surveys the dominant rhetorics in chapters that span twenty years (1900-1920; 1920-1940; 1940-1960), concluding with two chapters (1960-1975; 1975-1985) that try to capture the state of the emerging field of composition and rhetoric. His last chapter argues that all three epistemologies are present in composition and rhetoric research, but transactional rhetorics – ones that take into consideration the interplay between subject and object, the individual and society – lead the field.

Notable Notes

Objective – reality is in the external world and material objects, positivistic, current-traditional, language distorts truth, Scottish Common Sense realism, arrangement and correctness in writing, science

Subjective – truth exists within the subject and is discovered within, Plato, Emerson, Freud, cognitive psychology, romanticism, idealism, private, peer editing, therapist, voice, personal vision

Transactional – truth is at the intersection of subject and object, mediated by audience and language. Three kinds: classical (concerned with speaker, audience); cognitive (concerned with mind and nature, development); epistemic (concerned with speaker, audience, language, material reality; rhetoric is in all human behavior)

his history is written through articles, texts on rhetorical instruction history, textbooks

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June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

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