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Task #19 - Reading Like a Rhetor

  • Introduction to Writing About Writing by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs (online handout)
  • Miles, Libby, et al. “Interchanges: Commenting on Douglas Downs and Elizabeth Wardles’s ‘Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions.” (online handout)
  • Graff, Gerald.  “Organizing the Conflicts in the Curriculum.” (online handout)

    * In order to understand the assigned essays and parts of this assignment page, you will likely need to look up some of the words.  We have helped you in the assignment page by linking to definitions of some key terms (see the word “curriculum” above, for example).  In the assigned essays, you’ll need to underline and look up definitions of any word or phrase that you don’t understand or whose meaning is less than clear. In order to help you in this work, we have provided a course “Glossary” (found in the “Linkages” section of our course site). However, keep in mind that some of the terms the authors use might not be included in the “Glossary.”  If so, you will need to look those terms up in other reference works.

Due Date:
NLT 11:59PM, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Submit to:
BISTRO thread entitled "Task #19 - Reading Like a Rhetor"
250-300 words

In this new unit, Unit 3, we invite you to begin to investigate the ways in which your professors and other scholars read, think, and write about literature, language and, specifically, rhetoric.  In fact, in Unit 2, you began paying attention to the ways that researchers in the academy think about language.  Would you be surprised to learn that in the study of literature, for example, we don’t always agree about what literature should be read or about how should be interpreted? Nor do we often agree on the ways the evidence is produced, nor about how arguments are constructed.

Pause for a moment and recall the work you needed to do in order to understand the scholarly sources you were required to read for Unit 2.  Consider the “Rhetorical Analysis” handout, for Task 14.  This assignment, useful for reading scholarly works in most disciplines, required that you pay close attention to how the scholars were using language, noting such elements as (but not limited to): the audience for the scholarly work, its genre and original publication, and the situation or occasion for the work.  Additionally, the “Rhetorical Analysis” handout had you make note of the scholars’ use of sources, referencing methods, objectivity or bias, ethical appeals, reasoning . . . and more. 

As you reflect upon the work you did in Unit 2, you will recognize now, if you haven’t already, that your sources took different approaches to the subject you were researching.  Some of them agreed with each other, while others disagreed in part, and even others, perhaps, agreed not at all.  Gerald Graff’s essay points out this fact with regard not only to dis/agreements** in literature studies but also across disciplines.  For example, note his discussion regarding “objectivity” and the student in the art history and political science classes.  Graff argues that the student ended up writing only to please his instructors.  More importantly, according to Graff, students in such a situation can become “confused” and end up trying only “to protect themselves by giving each teacher whatever he or she seems to want” (129).  This situation inhibits students from interrogating the assumptions that the scholars, and even their teachers, make (Graff 129). 

For this task then, read carefully and annotate passages, sentences or words that attract your notice. As somebody who has chosen to be a scholar, there have undoubtedly been times when you wrote “to protect” yourself and your grade. Draft a response of 200-250 words which addresses some or all of the following concerns: What does this “giving the teacher whatever he or she seems to want” look like, from your experience?  With as much accuracy as possible, try to describe what happens when you have attempted to write for a course where you felt a bit like a foreigner or even “confused.” What coping mechanisms did you employ to get through the assignment? What was the end result? How are you making your way "in" to the discipline(s) you are working in?


** In the discipline of English, and some other humanities-based disciplines, when a writer separates a word with the forward slash (/), this symbol signifies a multiple way or reading.  For example, reading “dis/agreement” suggests both “disagreement” and “agreement.”
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