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

Ronald and Ritchie, Asking ‘So What?’

Ronald, Kate and  Joy S. Ritchie  “Introduction: Asking ‘so what?’ Expansive Pedagogies of Experience and Action.” Teaching rhetorica: Theory, pedagogy, practice. Ronald, Kate; Joy S. Ritchie (Eds.),   Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2006. 1-12.

Ronald and Ritchie are co-editors of the collection Teaching Rhetorica, which was designed to question how our practices are affected by women’s rhetorical practices and to recover women’s rhetorical practices in order to expand our definition of rhetoric. With the resurrgence in scholarship about women’s rhetorical practice and rhetorical theory (both contemporary and historical), Ronald and Ritchie ask scholars the all-important ‘So What?’ question – how does the expansion of rhetoric through the inclusion of women change how we practice as teachers, scholars, administrators, and community members? They claim that features of much women’s rhetoric include using experience to discover truth, a move towards action, and attention to context.

December 30, 2010

Phelps, A Different Ideal and Its Practical Results

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “A Different Ideal – and Its Practical Results.” Modern Language Association, San Francisco, December 1991.

This MLA conference presentation is written in response to the CCCC Statement on Professional Standards, and Phelps questions the ideal teaching community and writing program structure that seems implied by the Statement – one in which the program is staffed entirely of tenured or tenurable teacher-scholars. Arguing (like others) that this homogeneous teaching faculty solution is an impossible fantasy, Phelps uses the Syracuse Writing Program to argue for a different kind of practical solution – one that relies on a heterogeneous teaching community. Phelps points out that the Statement “set off an internal class conflict” within the field, one that the field has largely ignored, between the teacher-practicioners, who make up the majority of those who teach college composition, and the tenured faculty and administrators who oversee writing programs. This divide parallels the “theory/practice” divide pervasive in the field and in English in general. Phelps also points out that the idea that the academy (except for the adjunct professors) is a homogeneous community is a complete myth -the academy is extremely hierarchal, with vast differences in prestige and pay that vary according to discipline, gender, etc. Phelps argues that arguing for a heterogenous teaching community, one where there is a position and value to part-time, non-tenured teaching force, is a practical and ethical goal at the university, one that could value diversity.

Notes and Quotes

“First, I want to object to the principle of solving problems by considering desires independent of realities. This approach strikes me as irresponsible and quixotic. I propose instead that, like engineers and architects, we design workable solutions as a relationship between our goals and reality constraints” (2).

“But my point is that the 4Cs Statement errs in trying to impose a universal answer when what is needed is imagination, flexibility, and fresh thinking about goals as well as means.” (3)

Syracuse Writing Program: creating a hybrid, heterogenous community isn’t easy. There are “difficult moral dilemmas of differential status and rewards” that the Program must deal with, and developed principles to guide decisions. They are:

  • “to distinguish the person and the respect due his or her contributions and personal dignity from level of pay, responsibilities, status, authority, ambition, or influence. These are often mixed in unexpected ways in a given individual.”
  • “to cultivate options for all members through a vigorous program of professional development. Employment is exploitation only where people have no choices. Also, professional development is an intrinsic reward that increases individuals’ marketability and variety of options.”
  • “to make merit rewards of all kinds (beyond decent, fair treatment and support for professional development) commensurate with our community values, which ultimately derive from the aim to offer our undergraduate students the best possible program.” (6)

These rewards include leadership positions, release time, merit pay, summer stipends

It is all about design, working in reality: “combining very hard work with a strategy of turning liabilities into assets to maximize good results in a realistic framework. There is no end point in such a design, only frameworks for progress.” (7)

November 15, 2010

Spellmeyer, Bigger Than a Discipline

Spellmeyer, Kurt. “Bigger Than a Discipline?” .” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Ed. Peggy O’Neill, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 278-294. Print.

Spellmeyer argues that instead of promoting rhetoric and composition as yet another academic discipline, we need to see the discipline for the promise and possibility of it being a metadiscipline, one whose work entails connecting fragmented ideas present at the specialized university and making sense of the vast production and circulation of knowledge that is the hallmark of our contemporary world and economy. He argues that separation from English would help composition and rhetoric take its place as a field that can understand how to connect, understand, and especially produce forms of knowledge that matter in society. He wants composition to be a practical field, its practitioners informed with “a working knowledge of economics, science, politics, history, and any other disciplines impinging on matters of broad public concern” so that we can work on real, actual problems in the world (287). He argues for the discipline to seek out connections with those who have power in the university – medicine, law, business, and science – and publish for public audiences instead of positioning themselves as yet another humanities-based discipline.

Notes and Quotes

“The fact remains that the one inescapable mission of the university is the continuous production of new knowledge, and this requires, in turn, the continuous displacement of knowledge no longer new” (290).

“Increasingly, our whole economy depends on the perpetual creation and circulation of knowledge” (279).

“I am suggesting that our proper concern may lie, not with creating another discipline that can take its conventional place beside the rest, but with the task of making visible the links between one ‘realm’ and another – not transcendent realms of timeless Being but mundane ones of transient information.” (279)

The lack of connection between the university and the real problems in the world “encourage my strong suspicion that the academic humanities have become, if not actually pernicious, then absolutely irrelevant” (283).

June 19, 2009

Dewey, Democracy and Education

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1961.

In this book, originally published in 1915, Dewey forwards his philosophy of education in a democratic society. Dewey, known as a pragmatist, believes that the purpose of education is growth, and that growth happens as a child interacts with a social environment and continuously reconstructs his or her knowledge through purposeful activities and experiences. He dismisses the binary between the pursuit of pure knowledge and vocational education, arguing that vocations and occupations do not limit a child but rather give them a direction, and organizing principle through which to experience education. Education forms fundamental intellectual and emotional dispositions, which are learned through the social community of school, but no one state should enforce a standard disposition – the strength of democratic societies is intellectual freedom and individual choice. Dewey believes that education within the school should reflect the experiences and learning that takes place outside of school.

Quotable Quotes

“Learning is the accompaniment of continuous activities or occupations which have a social aim and utilize the materials of typical social situations” (360). – continuous readjustment and growth

education = “the continuous reconstruction of experience” (80) and “that reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience” (76).

Notable Notes

classroom as a social learning community

connection to norms (Green)…acquisition of habits (Newman)

February 19, 2009

Scott, “The Practice of Usability”

Scott, J. Blake. “The Practice of Usability: Teaching User Engagement through Service-Learning.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.4 381-412.

Teaching about user-centered design and usability is different from practicing it. This article, categorized as teacher research by the author, centers on the author’s introductory technical writing students, who are asked to enact user-centered design principles in their service learning projects at an Orlando-area HIV planning council (which distributes services to HIV patients in the area.) The students demonstrate knowledge of user-centered design principles, which (like participatory design) integrate the user in the process of design, treating the user(s) not as clients but rather as collaborators. This kind of design process is complex, messy, and complicated, and the author finds that even though students intellectually understand the merits and values of the process, they do not succeed in enacting it. Scott concludes that more time is needed in the classroom – and in the scholarship of the field – dedicated to discussing and talking about the practices of user-centered design. These practical issues, which he describes as metis (flexible intelligence) are breezed over, but they (how to gain access to users, how to communicate with them, how to set deadlines, how to research the institution and the potential users) are the key to implementing a user-centered design and having a successful service-learning experience for both the students and the community organization.

Quotable Quotes

The study shows how his students “gradually came to understand usability as a situated, dynamic, messy, and difficult process and set of practices involving various user-engagement challenges and requiring the flexible adaptation of usability methods” (384).

Our scholarship on user-centered design or service learning “often stop short of foregrounding or even addressing practice-level issues” (406). We need to make “such practices visible” (406)

“By foregrounding the context-specific, complex, difficult, and dynamic practice of usability for students, we can help them develop a flexible intelligence that can serve them as technical communicators and rhetors more generally” (406).

Notable Notes

Cited works: Spinuzzi, Robert Johnson (user-centered design), Huckin (service-learning and technical writing), Linda Flower, JT Grabill

connection between participatory design and user-centered design

data included student assignments, interviews with the students, and pre-and post-course questionnaires, coding responses

25 students from two sections of introductory technical writing in Spring 2005 (research done the following semester)

best to introduce concept of usability in advanced technical writing class or as part of a two-semester sequence because of how much time a complicated service project takes incorportating user-centered design.

ease-based v. user-based design (401)

focusing on practice-level issues is like the classical pedagogical technique of imitation (mimesis) – not straight imitation but rather “a creative process of rearranging and reconstructing rhetorical elements in light of kairos” (404)

February 3, 2009

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

January 23, 2009

Weathers, “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy”

Note: For my major exam in composition pedagogy, history, and administration, I am surveying some of the popular texts used by beginning instructors and TAs. One of them is The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, a collection that, over its four editions, has been edited by Gary Tate, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers. I reviewed the table of contents of all four editions and selected the essays and articles that were repeated across the editions. Only three – Weathers, Ohmann, and Lunsford/Ede – were in all three editions. I will read all the articles that appeared in 3 or 4 of the editions. The following essays appeared in the third edition:

Tate, Gary, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers, eds. The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.

Weathers, Winston. “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy.” 294-299.

Weathers frames his essay around asking how composition teachers can make the teaching of style relevant, viable, and credible for students. He advocates three complimentary approaches for teaching style. First, he argues for explaining to students how style, which can be described as “the art of choice and option” is what allows people to be better communicators by allowing them to express themselves as individuals. This theoretical argument for the importance of style underpins, Weathers hopes, the relevancy of style as a way to exercise freedom of expression in a democratic society. Second, Weathers points out that ideological arguments about why style is important don’t help students enact stylistic techniques in their own writing, so he argues that instructors need to spend practical, hands-on time in the classroom teaching their students how to recognize, imitate, use, and adapt stylistic techniques. Third, Weathers encourages teachers to make a practice of composing in front of their students, such as on the blackboard. This intimate experience gives students an inside view of how writing happens – a perspective they need but don’t often see.

Quotable Quotes

“Style is the proof of a human being’s individuality; that style is a writer’s revelation of himself; that through style, attitudes and values are communicated; that indeed our manner is part of our message” (294).

“Style has something to do with better communication, adding as it does a certain technicolor to otherwise black-and-white language” (294).

“Style, by its very nature, is the art of selection” (294).

“We are an amazing lot of piano players refusing to play the piano” (298) – about not composing in front of our students.

“Believe me, the teacher’s struggle amidst the chalk dust can become the student’s education” (299).

Notable Notes

no reference to social context in constructing style; style as part of a social culture, not just an individual expression

refers to Corbett in discussion of imitation

writing and composition as a practical art

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