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How To Do Things With Texts

Joseph Harris

Publication Year: 2006

"Like all writers, intellectuals need to say something new and say it well. But unlike many other writers, what intellectuals have to say is bound up with the books we are reading . . . and the ideas of the people we are talking with."

What are the moves that an academic writer makes? How does writing as an intellectual change the way we work from sources? In Rewriting, a textbook for the undergraduate classroom, Joseph Harris draws the college writing student away from static ideas of thesis, support, and structure, and toward a more mature and dynamic understanding. Harris wants college writers to think of intellectual writing as an adaptive and social activity, and he offers them a clear set of strategies—a set of moves—for participating in it.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. 1-12

My aim in this book is to help you make interesting use of the texts you read in the essays you write. How do you respond to the work of others in a way that is both generous and assertive? How do you make their words and thoughts part of what you want to say? ...

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1 Coming to Terms

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pp. 13-33

In his short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” Jorge Luis Borges tells of an obscure modern artist who decides to rewrite a passage from Don Quixote, the famous seventeenth-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes. What makes this goal interesting, and more than a little crazy, ...

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2 Forwarding

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pp. 34-53

Academic writing is often described as a kind of conversation. You read a text, you talk about it, you put down some thoughts in response, others respond to your comments, and so on. Or as the poet, novelist, philosopher, and critic Kenneth Burke once put it: ...

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3 Countering

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pp. 54-72

I recall writing an essay in graduate school in which I did everything I could to rebut the views of a certain scholar. I was determined to prove my opponent wrong, and I seized upon every gap, contradiction, or misstep that I could find in his text in order to do so. After reading my essay, my professor evidently ...

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4 Taking an Approach

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pp. 73-97

The various moves I’ve talked about so far in this book—coming to terms, forwarding, and countering—are ways of marking out your words and ideas from those of the texts you are working with. The very typography of academic writing speaks to this concern, with its use of quotation marks, text blocks, ...

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5 Revising

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pp. 98-123

So far in this book I’ve offered you four moves for rewriting—for making the words, ideas, and images of others part of your own project as a writer. In this last chapter, I propose some ways of using those moves in revising—that is, in rethinking, refining, and developing— your own work-in-progress as writer. ...

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Afterword Teaching Rewriting

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pp. 124-134

I began this book by arguing that academic writing is characterized by a responsiveness to the work of others and went on from there to offer students a set of moves for making strong and generous use of the texts they read in their own work as writers. What I have not tried to do in this book, ...

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pp. 135-136

This is a short book that took a long time to write. A result has been that an unusually wide range of individuals have contributed to the writing of a slim volume—all to my gain, and I hope also to that of my readers. Several years ago, Carol Hollar-Zwick and Tony English helped me start to think about this project, ...


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pp. 137-139

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About the Author

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Joseph Harris directs the independent and multidisciplinary Duke University Writing Program. At Duke, he also teaches courses in academic writing, critical reading, writing and social class, images of teaching in fiction and film, and writing pedagogies. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215397
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216424

Publication Year: 2006