i. the theory part of theory & practice, feat. Grad School

Well, goodness me. First blog post for Writing Theory. This deserves a party. Or it should, but I’m running on fumes from a concert I went to last night (all hail Sir Ed, lads) so we’re gonna settle for a less-than-exuberantly raised fist and a halfhearted huzzah. I hope you understand.

Regardless! I’m hyped! It’s already the third full week of grad school, and it only just feels like I’m settling in. Which is fine. It’s a change. New Laptop, New Phone, New Schedule, New Responsibilities… Doesn’t feel like too big of a change, though, since it’s the Same Campus, Same Professors, Same(ish) Job… So I almost feel an uneasy sense of … ease? It’s like… I’m chill and taking things in stride right now… but I’ve got a feeling that’s gonna come back to bite me at some point.

Yay!

Anyway, for the time being, I’m okay. No word on Christina of Three Weeks From Now, though.

Ominous looming foreboding-ness, aside. Let’s move on to last week’s class.

 

Last Week’s Class

We participated in a Twitter Scavenger Hunt that really functioned as Twitter 101. Served as a cool little ice breaker between us and the rest of the Equity Unbound crew, too.

It was fun–posting mystery pics and guessing others’. (Truth be told I feel a little bad mine was difficult to guess, and also because the lighting kinda threw people off.)

I’m better-versed on Twitter nowadays than I was back in my #NetNarr days, so the learning portion of it wasn’t particularly difficult. What was out of my comfort zone was actually participating in the conversations going on. I’m more of a lurker, I suppose? Sneak in a RT and a Like now and then, but I’m trying to get better at putting myself out there. So! This should help! Right?!

(God help me and my mute internet self.)

Alright, let’s move on to the reading we were assigned last class.

 

The Reading We Were Assigned Last Class

Here’s where the title of this post comes in, because wowie That’s a Lot of Theory. Janice Lauer’s “Rhetoric and Composition” was… daunting to get through. But I did it! Did I understand and comprehend all of it? Nah!

Real talk, it’s not that drastic. I was able to parse a good portion of the thing, relating to more than I thought I would. There were some really interesting bits in there, scattered among the walls of text that sounded a bit like a manual on theorizing quantum physics. I made notes, even! I know I won’t be able to get to everything I found interesting, but. … Yeah, there’s no “but,” just know I’m not gonna wax poetic on everything.

Overall, the text was a comprehensive history of the teaching of writing and writing theory, albeit in more… complex terms.

(Honestly, the term rhetoric always kind of eluded me. I didn’t take the Rhetoric class Writing majors were required to take in undergrad, so I’m still kinda like ?? ?? ? Curse of a Lit major, I guess. But! That will surely change this semester. Pretty sure I have no choice. And like, I have some knowledge of rhetoric considering I’ve helped many a freshman with Rhetorical Analysis papers in the writing center… Hmm.)

ANYWAY. There has been a lot of debate regarding what and how to teach students. From what I gathered, the reigning agreement among the more progressive sort of the academic elite was that teaching should be more individualized and considerate of students’ particular voices–utilizing journals, meditation, analogies, etc. to achieve some sort of self-actualization–something I can definitely get behind (Lauer 117). I’m all for showing personality through writing. It’s my jam.

I suppose the remaining arguments are the “ok how do we do that while keeping up the ability to actually Judge student writing on a standardized basis” ones. To which, I reply with a groan. Particularly @ standardized. It’s understandable how you need a basis to be able to build up, but it got to a point that the basis was all the students gained from the regimented teaching style (114). Professors were caught up teaching kids how to recognize good writing and not how to go about making their own. Like, okay, here’s how you build a boat. Know how to build a boat now? Great! Here’s a degree.

I’m not bitter. I promise. I say as I hide my literature degree behind my back.

(Am I saying that my literature degree doesn’t prepare students for the writing aspects of the senior courses? That the writing classes are optional for them and that I took as many as I was allowed, aka, like 2-3? Is that what I’m saying? Hmm? Am I calling for a union of the majors with just a difference in concentration between the two and a balance between writing and literature aspects of it? Hmm? Mayhaps I am. Also: see p.126–the section regarding part time instructors with no benefits. Hmm.)

Anyways, long story short, I agree that standardized grading is stupid (see p.119) and professors should consider their students, just like how students should consider their audiences when writing. BAM. 

That was going to be a segue but it’s cancelled because I want to talk about something else instead: how a lot of the points made around p.120-128 (and throughout the whole text, honestly) are pretty much ideals of the Writing Center, or allude to things and concepts I’ve learned while working there: Writer ownership, utilization of the writer’s own voice in writing (and how academia seeks to destroy it), writing in the disciplines and the differences therein, ESL and cross-cultural writing (a topic I just might want to focus a thesis on? Maybe?)…

I suppose there was a lot in this text that spoke to me… And I am hoping to focus specifically on several of the issues brought up throughout the semester. On a second look, though, it’s a good introduction to this class. I believe so, at least.

And so, I’ll leave you with one, final, small point, courtesy of p.128, where Lauer brings up scholars’ distaste for picking apart the “superficial” issues of a student’s work. We try to look at the High-Order Concerns (HOCs) over the Low-Order Concerns (LOCs), but I’m a stickler for grammar, so I tend to point out the LOCs like grammar and formatting even if a HOC is organization. In the end, though, I just preach consistency. For example, if you neglect the Oxford Comma, friend, you’d better neglect it all the way through–(Please don’t neglect the Oxford Comma, I beg you). Or, if you format dialogue a certain way, it’d better be the same throughout.

The same can go for a lot of aspects of writing, actually, and even in life, too. (Oops, she’s getting deep.) If you like to do a thing one way–organize, format, eat, sing, draw, write, etc.–as long as you’re not hurting anybody, stick to it. Don’t let academia (read: society) take away your voice, man. You wanna neglect that Oxford Comma, you neglect that Oxford Comma!

(I’m kidding, please don’t neglect the Oxford Comma.)

Alright, I’ve ranted enough this post.

See y’all next week!

— C

 

Response to Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer and Assimilation into Writing Masters

It is with great reluctance that I move forward into the digital age. Our Twitter scavenger hunt, digital syllabus and weekly blog posts are definitely outside of my comfort zone. The public nature of the internet is unsettling for me. I like the boundaries of a good old fashioned hard copy. Generally, I use my computer as a word processor, and to search the internet if and when I want for what I am interested in and that’s it. That being said, I have been enjoying the different people I have come into contact with as a result of Equity Unbound, and that is helping me get my head around the idea of digital literacy. I remain open to the journey.

While I like the idea of open and equitable education, I also appreciate a sense of privacy around my own process. I like a long slow progression of meandering drafts and intense revision. I am very particular with whom I share my work for editing, and then I open it up to other people. I don’t like sharing things in a public forum and creating a digital footprint of undeveloped work. It feels incongruous with my draft and revision process and my own nature as a private person. I hope to be convinced otherwise.

I really enjoyed the reading: Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer, and have had several themes from it dancing around in my head all week. The first was the distinction of rhetorical scholarship and its history as separate from grammar and composition. According to Lauer, when tracing education back to the Greeks and Romans, students were educated in a curriculum that included grammar, philosophy, and rhetoric. She states that by the twentieth century, rhetorical scholarship had almost disappeared and what remained was the teaching of composition. The result in the classroom was a focus centered primarily on grammar instruction and finished products. This point brought my attention to the significance of rhetoric as its own entity and how it impacts both writing and oratory abilities. I would also add that it alters the receptive skills of the audience. The art of rhetoric brings breadth and depth to any communication; both giving and receiving. I went on to do further reading to increase my own understanding of rhetoric at the following website:

https://www.aresearchguide.com/rhetorical-situation.html

I am deeply interested in this idea of crafting an argument and what it means in the everyday act of communication in writing and as a human being. These are some of the things I learned about the importance of rhetoric: including informal reasoning powers as well as appealing to the ethos and the pathos. Ethos is a Greek word meaning character that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. Interestingly, it is also the word the Greeks use to refer to the influence and power that music holds over emotions, behaviors and even morals. I was reminded that Aristotle uses ethos in his concept of the three artistic proofs or modes of persuasion and have made a note to get back to this point in my own studies. The other words I gathered in this exploration of rhetoric were Pathos: A Greek word meaning a quality that evokes pity or sadness. Logos: A statement or argument used to convince or persuade an audience by employing reason or logic. A good argument should be rooted in all three of these places.

Coming from a political science background this exploration really appealed to me, and simultaneously it is shocking that I did not have a better grasp of the pedagogical principles involved. I couldn’t help but wonder how this lack of education in rhetoric impacts the receptive skills of “the audience.” In my limited grasp of rhetoric these days in politics, it seems that the “audience” is vulnerable to easy manipulation by politicians who play on the anticipated one-dimensional reaction from the audience rooted solely in emotion and lacking the roots of ethos, pathos and especially logos. I appreciated on P128 of Lauer’s essay, the mention of theorists arguing against what they felt was an excessive focus on individual inquiry. “Another nettling issue that continues to plague the field is the superficial or even missing the attention to audience or readers in teaching composition.” When the classroom is centered around composition only, the assumption is that the teacher is the only audience.

As an adult student, I long for a little bit of what Lauer refers to as “formalist pedagogy” and maintain the desire for spelling and grammar drills. I can’t help it. I am a product of my generation and cringe when I read incomplete sentences with spelling errors. I recognize the controversy around this topic and do not believe it is all there should be. The reading refers to this as “full-frontal teaching of grammar.” I agree with the idea that an individualized approach to teaching grammar is more effective. While I do not advocate the humiliation-based technique that was implemented in my own grade school curriculum, I do have a deep respect for form and structure as a foundation and hope that this does not get lost.

I look forward to investigating further many of the theorists and ideas that were touched upon, including Walter Ong, Kenneth Burke, Alan Purves, Rohman and Wlecke, Walker Gibson, Slevin, Crowley, and Freire.

I loved the message in Lauer’s summary and hold these thoughts  to be truth’s:
1)The Commitment to developing all levels of literacy, without exclusion.
2)The potential central role of literacy in empowering people to shape contemporary world culture.
3)Education is power and articulation is its vehicle. Helping students to develop their powers of inquiry and communication in order to enrich and re-envision their every day, civic, academic and workplace lives.

 

 

 

Vocabulary list from this reading:

Enthymeme: a rhetorical syllogism (a three-part deductive argument) used in oratorical practice. (Originally theorized by Aristotle) He described four different types of enthymemes.
Epistemology: The theory of knowledge, especially with regards to its methods. It is the investigation of what distinguished justified belief from opinion.
Heuristic: enabling a person to discover or learn something about themselves
Heteroglossia: the presence of two or more voices or expressed viewpoints in a text or other artistic work.
Kairos: the right or opportune moment for certain arguments
Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation
Semiotics and the communication triangle
Trivium: An introductory curriculum at a medieval university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.