Revolution Lullabye

February 17, 2016

Bacon, Review Essay: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Style

Bacon, Nora. “Review Essay: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Style.” College Composition and Communication 67.2 (December 2015): 290-303.

In this book review, Bacon reviews two recent popular style manuals: Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Bacon points out the strengths and flaws of both books, ultimately arguing that although both Sword and Pinker bring important interdisciplinary perspectives to teaching style, neither of them (but particularly Pinker) draw on or engage thoroughly enough in the research and theories of composition studies. Bacon calls for more public scholarship by compositionists on writing and style, pointing out that in its absence, other scholars and fields have taken our place.

Bacon uses Patrick Hartwell’s taxonomy of grammars from his 1985 article to construct a parallel taxonomy of style: style 1 (individual style), style 2 (house style), style 3 (usage), style 4 (plain style), style 5 (elaborated style.) She uses this taxonomy to analyze the arguments and advice promoted in both Sword’s and Pinker’s books.

Sword’s book is written to academics about academic prose, and one of Sword’s central arguments is that academics don’t need to write in a boring, stiff style. Sword conducted an empirical study of academic writing in 10 disciplines, and she uses her analysis of the data (over 1000 journal articles) to suggest specific strategies academic writers can use to write better, more reader-friendly and engaging prose.

Pinker’s book is written from the perspective of a cognitive scientist and a linguist, and Bacon points out the main flaw that she sees in it: Pinker’s arguments are detached from composition studies and seem to assume that a person who understands grammar will be a better writer. Bacon disagrees and argues that the relationship between knowing linguistics and sentence structure and being able to write with a clear, dynamic style is complicated. Describing language is different than using it.

 

Quotable Quotes

“Moving too hastily from linguistics to writing, Pinker makes the mistake that generations of back-to-basics school reformers have made, imagining that the way to improve writers’ sentences is to teach them grammar. Composition scholars know that the relationship between an understanding of grammar and an ability to write healthy sentences is not so simple” (300).

“Gaining metalinguistic knowledge is one thing; learning to write well is another. Confusing the two leads to misguided instruction” (301).

“In classrooms and books, we talk about the rules of usage, the virtues of plain style, and the pleasures of the elaborated style in the hope that the discussion will help writers achieve more effective individual styles” (292).

May 25, 2011

Greenbaum, Talmudic Rhetoric

Greenbaum, Andrea  “Talmudic rhetoric: Explorations for writing, reading, and teaching.”  In Judaic perspectives in rhetoric and composition studies. Greenbaum, Andrea; Deborah Holdstein (Eds.), Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press (2009).  151-169.

Greenbaum explains some key features of Talmudic rhetoric (which has Greek influences) and points to ways Talmudic rhetoric can be used by teachers of writing as an alternative mode of rhetorical instruction in the writing classroom. Talmudic rhetoric points to deep philosophical and religious beliefs in the Judaic tradition – it is a cultural rhetoric.

Notes and Quotes

Rhetorical devices it uses: heteroglossia, metaphor, polysemy, dialogic discourse, discursive critique, imagistic narrative, juxtaposition, associative logic, nonlinearity, social consciousness

The Talmud has no page one – you begin in the middle (in media res) – which contrasts traditional linear Aristotiliean rhetoric. That has a rhetorical purpose – the discussion and studying of the Talmud has not beginning or ending, everyone who does it is part of the conversation.

Heteroglossia: Commentaries on the text are on the page, in the margins – multiple points of view on one page; multiple languages (Hebrew and Aramaic primarily, but influences with Greek, French, German) that gives the Talmud a complex cultural and linguistic identity

Highlights the contrast between faith and reason: it is rich in metaphor, stories, tales, advice, medical cures, philosophy and history. It has to be interpreted on a variety of levels.

“Judaic hermeneutics emphasizes what cannot be seen” as opposed to the highly visible ideas and rhetorics (and idea of God) in Christian or Greek rhetoric. (158)

The power of language – words do things (Let there be light), people change their names to reflect new identities, concept of “nomancy” – “the ability to create an alternative reality and identity through language” (161)

Talmudic rhetoric is not utilitarian – its purpose is to seek the truth (162) It has connections to Aristotle’s mythos

“Acts of kindness are inherently related to literacy” (167)

May 23, 2011

Micciche, Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar

Micciche,  Laura. “Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar.” CCC 55.4 (June 2004): 716-737.

Micciche argues that teaching grammar rhetorically prepares students to be effective rhetoricians and communicators, and that explicitly teaching students how language functions and constructs realities is in lines with the goals of liberating education. Micciche breaks down the binary between formal, overt grammatical instruction and inventive thinking and composing, arguing that grammar should not be a consideration for the final draft but one that spurs thinking and writing. Rhetorical grammar leads to questioning relationships between people and ideas and the cultural and ideological foundations upon which knowledge is made.

Micciche used Kolln’s Rhetorical Grammar and Crowley’s Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students as anchor texts to teach her students rhetorical grammar.

Notes and Quotes

Rhetorical grammar underscores the purposeful use of language – that people’s grammatical choices do make a difference.

A closeness to language

“The chief reason for teaching rhetorical grammar in writing classes is that doing so is central to teaching thinking. The ability to develop sentences and form paragraphs that serve a particular purpose requires a conceptual ability to envision relationships between ideas. Such relationships involve processes of identification with an imagined or real reader and reflection on the way our language invites and/or alienates readers. The grammatical choices we make, including pronoun use, active or passive verb constructions, and sentence patterns- represent relations between writers and the world they live in. Word choice and sentence structure are an expression of the way we attend to the words of others, the way we position ourselves in relation to others. In this sense, writing involves cognitive skills at the level of idea development and at the sentence level. How we put our ideas into words and comprehensible forms is a dynamic process rather than one with clear boundaries between what we say and how we say it.” (719)

“When we broaden the goals of rhetorical grammar, it’s possible to see how the intimate study of language it encourages has enormous potential for studying language as central to constructions of identity and culture.” (721)

Sentence-level choices give clues to an author’s ideas about power, identity, culture

Pedagogy, commonplace books: “My course is based on the assumption that learning how to use grammar to best effect requires lots of practice and a good deal of exposure to varied writing styles. To this end, students maintain a commonplace book throughout the semester in which they imitate and record passages of their own choosing.” (723-724) Gives students the opportunity to reflect on the relationship between how something is said and what is said and also gives them the chance to practice identifying and using grammatical terms and structures. – gives students a framework and vocabulary

February 7, 2009

Jarratt, Feminist Pedagogy

Jarratt, Susan. “Feminist Pedagogy.” 113-131.

Feminist pedagogy in composition is made manifest in several ways and rose out of the 1970s women’s movement (second wave feminism.) Some scholars in composition focus on the differences between men and women writers while others take a broader theoretical approach to feminism, looking at how gender is created and determined within society, through language and discourse, and to whose benefits and ends. Composition as a discipline is also interested in the work of feminism, as the field, populated by many women and heavily involved in both teaching and service, has faced difficulty in the larger, white, male-dominated academy. Feminist pedagogy is a practice, not a subject or content, that believes in decentering classroom authority, recognizing the knowledge of students, emphasizing process over product, viewing society as both sexist and partriarchal, and whose classroom practices include collaborative learning, discussion and talking, and dialogue between the teacher and students. It asks students to pay close attention to their words and style (their effects and meanings) and expands its study beyond gender to ask how race and class and other social differences affect a person’s language.

Quotable Quotes

Feminist pedagogy “is not about forcing all the students to subscribe to a particular political position but rather engaging with students on the terrain of language in the gendered world we all currently inhabit” (118).

Notable Notes

Important Sources for feminism: Betty Friedan; Angela Y Davies, Women, Race, and Class

Historical studies of feminism and women writers: Reclaiming Rhetorica (Lunsford), With Pen and Voice (Logan), Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (Hobbes)

Composition field: Schell, Holbrook/Miller, Phelps/Emig, Fontaine/Hunter

Men teaching feminist pedagogy: Connors, Villanueva, Bleich, Kraemer, Schilb, Tobin

3rd wave feminism: bell hooks (Talking Back), Anzaldua (Borderlands), The Bridge Called Me Back (Morgan/Anzaldua)

Jarratt/Worsham, Feminism and Composition Studies; Culley/Portuges’ Linda Alcoff; Laura Brady; Elizabeth Flynn; Joy Ritchie; Pamela Annas (Style as Politics), Bauer (The Other ‘F’ Word); Faludi

gendered pronouns Spender Man-Made Language good for classroom exercise

student backlash against feminism

January 31, 2009

Lindemann, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers

I’m beginning to see the value (you would hope!) in reading through all these guides for beginning teachers of composition. I now know the basic issues that new teachers face, what the field (in general) thinks that it’s important for them to learn or know about (and in turn what their students should learn and know about.) The same common theories and many of the same texts are referenced in both, both in the book and in attached bibliographies, creating sort of a “canon” for important texts for beginning composition teachers (I’ll be reading some of them next.) But, most importantly I think, from an administration point of view, I now know a lot of the approaches taken to instruct beginning teachers about the teaching of writing, and I can draw on these texts in creating a syllabus for that kind of course (or for less formal, less intensive teacher-training.) I like the theoretically-grounded approach Lindemann takes in this text, and I think the one-author (rather than anthology) approach makes the text more coherent and cohesive, a more intimate and straightforward guide for new teachers, but one with a lot of meat and nuances.

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

This guide for writing teachers, in its fourth edition, approaches the teaching of writing from a rhetorical perspective, emphasizing teaching a rhetorically and theoretically-grounded concept of writing to students and seeing the act of teaching (and all that is part of that job) as a rhetorical enterprise. The book is divided into three major sections. The first, “The Composing Process,” defines key terms like context, code, and message, and explains the stages of the writing process, highlighting the social nature of writing. The second, “Rhetorical Theory and Practice,” offers three chapters about the fundamental concepts in rhetoric, linguistics, and cognition that writing teachers must know, citing major names and theories, and goes on with other chapters about invention and revision strategies and the study of discourse and style (paragraphing, sentences, and words.) The third section, “Teaching as Rhetoric,” has chapters on assignment creation, response, evaluation, course design, and writing with computers (added for this edition.) Lindemann points out why writing instruction is so important for students – for economic power, social necessity (to live and interact with others in society), and for personal meaning-making – in the introduction of the text. She sees students and their instructors as writers both struggling to make meaning and urges teachers to have the “courage” to give up some of the control and authority those teaching other disciplines might have in order to meet and interact with their students as writers.

Quotable Quotes

“Theories give coherence and direction to the practical. They demonstrate the complexities of the writing process and the importance of teaching it well” (9).

Inspiration from Donald Murray: We, like our students “wrestle with the difficult process of creating meaning through language” (305).

“What is truly basic to composition – a person communicating with another person” (305).

Notable Notes

end of the book contains an extensive timeline of important dates in rhetoric and composition and a bibliography of selected texts

January 29, 2009

Newkirk, To Compose

Newkirk, Thomas. To Compose: Teaching Writing in High School and College. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990.

This, an expanded edition, contains essays by both compositionists and teacher-practicioners (high school and college) about teaching the writing process. It focuses on seeing students as writers and working as teachers to give them latitude to work as writers do, experimenting with style, finding entry points for starting to write, using journals to practice and learn knowledge, and developing their own critical lens through which they can revisit and revise their own writing.

Here’s an overview of the sections and the notable (to me) essays in each one:

1. Prologue: Arthur Daigon, comparing the writing process to current-traditionalist model of writing instruction (product-based)

2. Getting Started
2 essays about writers and their own individual writing process, emphasizing trusting your own instincts (Stafford and Cormier)
Donald Murray – the forces that help a writer get started: finding more information, caring more about the subject, having a audience waiting, and having a deadline
Sondra Perl – the recursive nature of writing, how writers negotiate through the forces of retrospection and projection, moving by felt-sense between the two

3. Responding
Donald Murray – the teacher’s job is to help students devleop the “other self,” teaching them how to critically analyze and understand their writing from outside themselves. We model this through our own writing and by responding to students in conferences, in class, and in discussions.
Linda Flower – the importance of writer-based prose at the beginning of the writing process, allowing an intimate personal connection to the writing and opportunities for invention and conscious thinking about writing. The shift then must happen to reader-based prose, as writers must concern themselves with how their writing is received and understood by the audience.

4. Writing and Literature – four essays about using writing as a driving force in teaching literature, making the learning of literature not just about reading texts.

5. WAC
Bryant Fillion – Canadian school survey that showed skills like reading and listening are emphasized over productive activities like speaking and writing in classrooms, the need for a shift to using language for productive ends – learning through writing across the curriculum
Toby Fulwiler – how student journals can be used across the curriculum as a commonplace notebook for students to gather and mine ideas for both personal and academic growth.

6. Style and Grammar
Tom Romano – a unit about teaching students to explictily break “Grammar A” (referencing Winston Weathers) rules and encourage the conscious development of style through innovation and experimentation.

January 28, 2009

Tate, Teaching Composition

This blog entry is a comparison of the table of contents across two editions of Gary Tate’s bibliographic essay collection, Teaching Composition. I’m looking at a couple of these composition guides intended for beginning composition teachers and/or entering graduate students in the field to see how they change over different editions and to correlate the publication dates with major movements and trends in the history of composition pedagogy. I see the table of contents and the terms that the chapter titles use as a map that can suggest these transformations in how we view the field of composition and its pedagogy.

Tate’s collection pulls together bibliographic essays that scan the literature written about different parts of the field. Each is written by an “expert,” and it’s interesting to see what constituted different areas and specialties in the field in 1976 and in 1987. There hasn’t been an edition published since, probably due to the sheer number of articles, books, reviews, and other scholarship published in rhetoric and composition since 1987. Plus, there are more databases and other ways of finding relevant scholarship now that weren’t in place in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Ten Bibliographic Essays. Forth Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1976.

Young, “Invention: A Topical Survey”
Larson, “Structure and Form in Non-fiction Prose”
Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
D’Angelo, “Modes of Discourse”
Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Comprone, “The Uses of Media in Teaching Composition”
Winterowd, “Linguistics and Composition”
Korder, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Writing”
Kinneavy/Kline, “Composition and Related Fields”
Giannasi, “Dialects and Composition”

Tate, Gary, ed. Teaching Composition: Twelve Bibliographical Essays. Fort Worth: Texas Christian UP, 1987.

Richard Young, “Recent Developments in Rhetorical Invention”
Richard Larson, “Structrue and Form in Non-narrative Prose”
Edward P.J. Corbett, “Approaches to the Study of Style”
Frank D’Angelo, “Aims, Modes, and Forms of Discourse”
Richard Lloyd-Jones, “Tests of Writing Ability”
Mina P. Shaughnessy, “Basic Writing”
Andrea Lunsford, “Basic Writing Update”
Jennifer Giannasi, “Language Varieties and Composition”
W. Ross Winterowd, “Litearcy, Linguistics, and Rhetoric”
Joseph Comprone, “Liteary Theory and Composition”
Jim Corder, “Studying Rhetoric and Literature”
James Kinneavy, “Writing across the Curriculum”
Hugh Burns, “Computers and Composition”

Some things I notice: “dialects” turns into “language varieties;” the “basic writing update;” Winterowd’s chapter now includes literacy and rhetoric in the title; “media” becomes specifically computers; addition of writing across the curriculum as an area of interest and research; introduction of the term “rhetoric” in two of the chapter titles; “modes” of discourse becomes “aims, modes, and forms”; new chapter on assessment with “tests of writing ability.”

What these might suggest: turn away from linguistics and toward rhetoric; beginning of interests in cultural studies and the rhetorical practices of minority groups; seeing composition as an administrative force in the academy (with both chapters on WAC and assessment); move away from traditional notions of style, arrangement, and structural form to a more social approach to the teaching of writing; lots of growth in the reseach in basic writing and literacy.

January 26, 2009

Bartholomae, “The Study of Error”

Bartholomae, David. “The Study of Error.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 338-352.

Instead of dismissing the writing of basic writers as illogical and/or meaningless, Bartholomae argues for using the linguistic strategy of error analysis (often used by second language learners research) to learn the patterns of langauge use that basic writers rely on to think and compose so that composition teachers can track their progress and know better how to help them with their writing. Error analysis isn’t a perfect fit for composition, however, because it was intended for speaking exercises, and many basic writers’ errors come from the actual physical work of writing, the performance of composition rather than the conceptualization of arguments and ideas. However, the technique, which involves students reading back and consciously correcting their own prose, has three positive outcomes for composition instructors: it can help diagnose the problems a student writer is having, it can teach students a method for reading and self-correcting their errors, and it can help teachers see how their students, over the course of a semester, are growing and developing as academic writers.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to refine our teaching to take into account the high percentage of error in written composition that is rooted in the difficultly of performance rather than in problems of general linguistic competence” (349).

Errors that come from the “physical and conceptual demands of writing” and “the requirements of manipulating the print code” (351).

Errors are “stylistic features, information about this writer and this language” (342).

“When a basic writer violates our expectations, however, there is a tendancy to dismiss the text as non-writing, as meaningless or imperfect writing” (339).

“We have read, rather, as policemen, examiners, gate-keepers” (339)

We need to “treat the language of basic writing as language and assume, as we do when writers violate our expectations in more conventional ways, that the unconventional features in the writing are evidence of intention and that they are, therefore, meaningful, then we can chart systematic choices, individual strategies, and characteristic processes of thought” (340)

Notable Notes

All language use is idiosyncratic. The distance between a text and the accepted convention is just greater with a basic writer.

interlanguage/ intermediate system

have a writer read his own text to see what the maning is.

problem with error analysis: people learn correct written English not just aurally, but also visually. Also, the difficulty of intention: written error analysis asks for interpretation and analysis of the reason behind the error. The analyst has to first interpret the text, not just describe what’s there.

January 23, 2009

Ohmann, “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language”

Ohmann, Richard. “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. 310-318.

Ohmann’s essay argues against the writing handbook maxim (specifically Strunk & White) repeated in his title, claiming that the move to push students to replace abstract words and phrases with specific, often sensory details, limits their ability to tackle complex, abstract ideas, which require students to operate in generalities. Students may not easily or clearly write in abstractions, Ohmann writes, but steering them away from this difficult, intelligent work in the writing classroom deprives them of the chance to mature as analytical, abstract thinkers and writers. Ohmann uses examples from three popular current writing handbooks (all published in 1978), pointing out five common consequences of asking students to load their writing with specific adjectives and nouns: ahistoricism (emphasis on the present moment), empiricism (reliance on sensory information), fragmentation (ignorance of social and historical context or relationships), solipism (emphasis on the individual writer’s feelings and experiences), and denial of conflict (absence of questioning or things left up to the reader’s interpretation.)

Quotable Quotes

The maxim to use definite, specific, and concrete language will “push the student writer always to toward the langauge that most nearly reproduces the immediate experience and away from the language that might be used to understand it, transform it, and relate it to everything else” (317).

A student who takes the maxim to the extreme “will lose the thread of any analysis in a barrage of sensory impressions, irrelevant details, and personalized or random responses” (314).

“Abstract nouns refer to the world in a way quite different from concrete nouns” (315) They form chains of relationships in meaning

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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