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


March 29, 2009

Cope and Kalantzis, Designs for Social Futures

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis. “Designs for Social Futures.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 203-234.

Cope and Kalantzis foreground three important concepts or ideas in literacy pedagogy: 1. that literacy is a matter of design that depends on the exercise of human agency 2. that all literacy is multimodal and increasingly nonlinear due to digital 21st century technology and 3. that no one literacy is better than another; the many discourses and identities of cultures and subcultures  necessitate dialogues in literacy learning instead of dogma. Inherent in any act of designing are both the concepts of a unique individual voice and hybridity (synthesizing of many identities, discourses, and experiences), both concepts that are grounded in agency. They use an example of translating the Bible into an Austrailian Aboriginal language to showcase that naive multiculturalism, a multiculturalism that believes in simple translation without cultural or political ramifications, cannot take into account the effects of globalization on local cultural and subcultural diversity. Globalization and digital technology have simultaneously created spaces for countless small subcutlures but in that fragmentation, there is no common culture and in the “common” global culture left, there is no regional cultural distinctions.

Quotable Quotes

“There is just so much to draw from in the breadth and subltety of Available Designs that every Designing re-creates the world afresh” (205).

“Design is a process in which the individual and culture are inseparable.” (203).

“Culture is no more and no less than the accumulated and continuing expression of agency; of Designing” (203).

Notable Notes

the paradox of digital media – it is cheap and universal and gives space to small subcultures and groups, but it has created dromospheric pollution (no sense of distance between places – Virilio 1997), a sense of transitory and immediate culture, no distinction between virtual and real, fragmentation and loss of common culture, and does not take into account issues of access/bandwidths/disabilities

communication has always been interactive – not just a digital phenomenon

culture, meaning-making must always be shifting and changing – dynamic – because literacies and cultures are never static

three levels of designs – lifeworld (everyday lives, function); transcendental (analysis, reflection, depth, larger scope); universals (human nature, breadth, cross-cultural)

good chart 212-216 about five dimensions and modes of meaning

March 28, 2009

Kress, Multimodality

Kress, Gunther. “Multimodality.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 182-202.

The separation of modes in our theories paralyzes us to talk about and design things appropriate for our technologically and culturally diverse world. We need to develop a theory that can take into account the multimodal nature of all human knowledge, one that encourages multimodal design and creation. Preferring one mode over another disserves some members of society and denies them agency.

Quotable Quotes

Need to “treat all text-like objects as multimodal” (184).

“We have to rethink ‘language’ as a multimodal phenomenon. Our present conception of language is revealed as an artefact of theory and of common sense.” (184).

Notable Notes

Objects (websites, artifacts) have insignt into social practices and are semiotic and communicate meaning. We need to read objects more deeply to understand the cognitive and creative work that goes into creating them.

Gives a sample of a grammar/structure, a way to talk about visual literacy.

human senses never act in isolation

The New London Group, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies

The New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 9-37.

This article, published prior to this collection, lays out the New London Group’s fundamental arguments. They see current literacy education as inadequate for preparing students for full participation in their working, community, and personal lives, arguing that because literacies and discourses are central to these “lifeworlds,” and since those literacies aren’t the literacies taught in schools, literacy curriculum needs to change to take into account the multiliteracies inherent in the 21st century communication technology and the multiliteracies of students’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. They advocate that literacy curriculum be organized around the concept of Design, teaching students the steps of surveying the available designs, going through the design process, and remaking themselves and society through producing the redesigned. In order for literacy curriculum to be changed in this way, educators need a metalanguage to describe the types of meaning and discourse available to design and create with and pedagogical strategies for encouraging their students to expand their literacies (what they deem the “what” and the “how” of a pedagogy of multiliteracies.)

Quotable Quotes

“An authentically democratic new vision of schools must include a vision of meaningful success for all; a vision of success that is not defined exclusively in economic terms and that has embedded within it a critique of hierarchy and economic injustice” (13).

“the proliferation of communications channels and media supports and extends cultural and subcultural diversity” (9).

no “glib and tokenistic pluralism” (19).

“As curriculum is a design for social futures, we need to introduce the notion of pedagogy as Design.” (19).

“Through their co-engagement in Designing, people transform their relations with each other, and so transform themselves” (22).

“All written text is also a process of Visual Design” (29) – important connection with graphic design, Wysocki, George – desktop publishing

“Designing restores human agency and cultural dynamism to the process of meaning-making” (36).

Notable Notes

working lives and connection with fast capitalism/postFordism, importance of collaboration in schools, sense in society that to be successful is to get to the top even though there’s not enough room up there.

taking diversity and multiliteracies on as a resource in pedagogy and community

people have multiple, overlapping identities because they belong to many different communities and use many different discourses

available designs always include the discoures of those designing and include the grammars of all the semiotic systems and orders of discourse

listening and reading are also productive forms of designing because the listeners and readers make meaning by combining what they are taking in with their own experiences

good graphic of the grammars of the types of meaning on page 26

explains in detail the four methods of the pedagogy of multiliteracies

design requires agency and responsibility (36).

design as both a noun and a verb

children’s childhoods are co-opted by mass gloabl media and invasive global texts (16)

Kress, Design and Transformation

Kress, Gunther. “Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning.” In Multiliteracies. Cope and Kalantzis.  London: Routledge, 2000. 153-161.

Kress explains the importance in literacy pedagogy of teaching students to be designers, not just users, of the many linguistic and discursive resources available to them. Creativity in the Western world has been stunted due to the overwhelming domination of written literacies, a domination which has surpressed synaesthesia, the process by which one form of meaning is transformed into another form, a process increasingly necessary for students to know due to the rapid proliferation of 21st century digital technologies.

Quotable Quotes

synaesthesia – “the transduction of meaning from one semiotic mode to another semiotic mode” (159).

“The single, exclusive, and intensive focus on written language has dampened the full development of all kinds of human potential, throguh all the sensorial possibilities of human bodies, in all kinds of respects, cognitively and affectively, in two-and three-dimensional representation.” (157).

“A semiotic theory which does not have an account of change at its core is both simply inadequate and implausible in the present period” (155).

“Design is thus both about the best, the most apt representation of my interest; and about the best means of deploying available resources in a complex ensemble.” (158).

Notable Notes

emphasis on design (the future) over critique (the past); critique is part of the chain in the process of design but should not be the only goal.

language resources are always being transformed to fit the present needs and circumstances of both the individual and society.

problem with language theories that describe language as separate in terms of form and meaning

no one mode of meaning-making can dominate

March 25, 2009

Cope and Kalantzis, Introduction: Multiliteracies

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis. “Introduction: Multiliteracies: The Beginning of an Idea.” In Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 1-8.

In their introduction, Cope and Kalantzis, both founding members of the New London Group, explain how the New London Group began, what the New London Group’s two basic arguments are, and the purposes of the book, an edited collection. The New London Group, a working group of American, Australian, British, and South African scholars interested in literacy, language, and education, first met together in 1994 and began to work on an article (the first chapter of the collection) that articulated their two major claims centered around the concepts of multiliteracies and design. Their first argument is that the rapidly changing communications venues of the 21st century make teaching one literacy (mostly print-based) outdated and irrelevant. Their second argument is that the rapidly globalizing world make teaching one standard English langauge also outdated and irrelevant. They advocate that educators need to teach multimodal composition that ask students how to communicate, design, and act in shifting linguistic and cultural settings. The book lays out some of their theoretical understandings of the effects of social context on literacy pedagogy and explains how they have translated their ideas into classroom curricula.

Quotable Quotes

“We are both inheritors of patterns and conventions of meaning while at the same time active designers of meaning. And, as designers of meaning, we are designers of social futures.” (7).

Want to create “learners and students who can be active designers – makers – of social futures.” (7)

“The focus was on the big picture; the changing world and the new demands being placed upon people as makers of meaning in changing workplaces, as citizens in changing public spaces and in the changing dimensions of our community lives – our lifeworlds” (4).

“New communications media are reshaping the way we use language. When technologies of meaning are changing so rapidly, there cannot be one set of standards or skills that constitutes the ends of literacy learning, however taught.” (6).

“Effective citizenship and productive work now require that we interact effectively using multiple languages, multiple Englishes, and communication patterns that more frequently cross cultural, community, and national boundaries.” (6).

Notable Notes

There is no one stable literacy or language

literacies are always being remade by their users (5)

how would Latour speak to their use of the social? what would Wysocki say about multimodal?

six design elements in the meaning-making process: linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, spatial, multimodal (the connections between the two)

four kinds of practice for these elements: situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice

Big words – design and multiliteracies

March 7, 2009

Wysocki, Opening New Media to Writing

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 1-41.

Pointing out the divide in new media studies between the study of how to design and compose individual texts (through graphic design maxims) and the study of the broad effects of media structures, Wysocki argues that composition studies can fill the gap between the two by focusing on the material and social conditions of the production and consumption of all texts, both textual, visual, and digital. She forwards five major claims: 1. compositionists have the unique pedagogical expertise to teach students how to think critically about their design and composition choices when writing a text because we already highlight the situated nature of writing. 2. we need to think about the specific material circumstances and choices of the texts we produce, consume, and circulate because no technology is a neutral carrier; our texts contain, in their design and construction, our attitudes, beliefs, and values, both individually and as a society 3. new media texts are any texts, digital or not, whose composer thought deliberately about the range of material design choices they had and who, in their design, highlight the materiality of the text 4. we need, as teachers, to move beyond analysis of new media texts and ask our students to craft and produce them in our classrooms, thinking of new media texts not as objects but rather as material practices, and 5. we need to adopt a generous spirit in our reading, knowing that composing these new media texts requires experimentation, patience, and exploration, and in order to appreciate these efforts, we need to realize that texts need not look identical to what we’re accostomed to in order to be useful, that what we might deem mistakes should be thought of in terms of choices. Her chapter ends with numerous activities writing teachers might use in their classrooms, from undergrad to grad students, to have students think more critically of the materiality of producing and reading texts.

Quotable Quotes

Compositionists can help “composers of texts think usefully about effects of their particular decisions as they compose a new media text, to help composers see how agency and materiality are entwined as they compose” (6)

“this materiality – which takes part in the construction of readers – occurs in all texts we comsume, whether print or digital, research essay or technical instruction set. ANd this material functioning occurs when we produce any text as well” (7)

“any material we use for communication is not a blank carrier for our meaning” (10)

“We should call ‘new media texts’ those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text – like its composers and readers – doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that mark as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15).

Technologies do matter because “They are in our worlds and they have weight – but we probably ought not give up our own agency by acting as though technologies come out of nowhere and are autonomous in causing effects” (19)

Notable Notes

classroom activities include writing with crayons, discussing what you need to know to read and produce a “normal” piece of academic text (an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper, double spaced, academic essay – type.) They get at appreciating and being aware of the materiality of writing

use of the word “crafting” about producing academic texts (drawing on Andrew Feenberg)

it’s important in new media texts – defined “in terms of materiality instead of digitality” (19) – that we look to how and why we use digital media, not that we do it. A new media text isn’t new media because it’s online. It’s a greater understanding and attention to materiality.

Materiality draws on Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition (she quotes that long passage from his introduction)

Creating your identity as a writer – when you’re aware of hte materiality, the technology, you can see your own self and identity as situated in a larger world of choices, making your own choices in those structrues in your text (22)

the subtle, silent, quiet, but real effects of the choices that define our existence

the interplay between agency and materiality

interface design (folders, desktop) as a Western-business centric design, intuitive only to some

February 23, 2009

Phelps, Administration as Design Art

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Administration as Design Art.”

Writing program administrators should see themselves as designers, the programs and institutions they work in as designs and sites of design, and their work as WPAs as design art. Phelps draws on the work of the New London Group, Gunther Kress, and architects Karl Weith and Stewart Brand to offer a new lens to administrative work to not just see their work as design but to also challenge them to think of their programs as always designable, never concluding in a final design. Writing programs can be sites of institutional change if they continue designing and re-desigining after their initial structure is put into place, and writing programs have the unique complex, contradictory, and improvisational place in the academy to which enact change because they are a managable size with connections, like a sprawling network, across the campus. Phelps shows how crucial it is to reach out beyond one’s own discipline to find design inspiration in all different fields. Phelps also argues that a WPA does much more than design curriculum: the teaching staff, the physical space of the institution, the relationships with different deans and other departments and faculty – these all must be designed.

Quotable Quotes

Object: “to locate administration as design art at the juncture of the practical and productive arts” (7)

“This is the road I advocate for writing programs as transformers: design things that work, but are below the radar, friendly and sprawling, messy and temporary, constantly learning” (26)

“I suggest that it is a mistake to set up a writing program primarily as an instrument to critique or change an institution. It will do that as a consequence of your designing the program to meet the intrinsic goals of its situated design, because writing programs require institutional redesign to locate, support, and implement their characteristic purposes. But theprocess, or rather consequences, should be indirect and ordinary, not grandiose, direct, and instrumentalist.” (26)

Notable Notes

high road/low road of use

designs should not be fixed, they should never end

the challenge of administration is that you cannot design in a bubble: you must jump in and design something that you can’t have complete control, management, or knowledge of. That’s the downfall of the theories presented by Kress and the New London Group

the importance of the feedback loop: remaining sensitive to context, unpredictable, in the moment, temporary – like jazz improv

the importance of construction and building over analysis and critique

Questions: Why is this the way it is? Can it be designed better? Does it have to be this way?

January 19, 2009

George, “From Analysis to Design”

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 54.1 (Sept. 2002) 11 – 39.

George explores how the relationship between the visual and the verbal has been explored and defined through fifty years of composition history, arguing that the visual needs to be more fully incorporated in composition classrooms, not just as a prompt or an aid, but an intregal part of the design of an argument. She discusses three approaches composition teachers and scholars have taken with using visuals in the classroom: as essay prompts, objects for analysis, or as “dumbed-down” versions of more complex verbal arguments (32). Instead, taking the lead from the New London Group and scholars such as Wysocki and Trimbur, compositionists need to see the connection between writing and graphic design and embrace design as an important concept in the teaching of writing. Students interact with visual Web technologies on a daily basis, and in the work place, they will be asked to compose, design, and communicate both verbally and visually, and so our composition classrooms need to shift their notion of what constitutes an argument and teach students how to compose and design with and through visuals.

Quotable Quotes

“I am after a clearer understanding of what can happen when the visual is very consciously brought into the composition classroom as a form of communication worth both examining and producing” (14).

“It is important to point out that thinking of composition as design shifts attention, if onyl momentarily, from the product to the act of production” (18)

“The issue [of incorporating the visual in the composition classroom] seems to be less one of resources than one of emphasis, or, rather, relationship” (32).

“For students who have grown up in a technology-saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them” (32)

Notable Notes

good history of the role visuals played in the composition classroom, from the 1950s to the 1980s to today

Important references include Trimbur, Wysocki, New London Group, Johnson-Eilola, Faigley, Walter Benjamin, J. Anthony Blair.

requires a shift in the thinking of composition and argument beyond printed text – one of design, of broader communication.

what has the Web done to composition? will composition meet that challenge? will it morph? or is it a field designed to meet a specific need and purpose (Harvard, 1890s.)? is digital media destined to remain a subspeciality?


Wysocki. “Monitoring Order: Visual Desire, the Organization of Web Pages, and Teaching the Rules of Design.” Kairos 3.2 (Fall 1998)

Trimbur. “Delivering the Message: Typography and the Materiality of Writing.” Composition as Intellectual Work. Ed. Gary Olson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. 188-202.

Kress, Gunther. “Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning.” Cope and Kalantzis. 153-161.

Bernhardt, Stephen. “Seeing the Text.” CCC (1986) 66-78.

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