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Earning Activism through Literacy Education
A New Framework for University Writing Instruction
Composition research consistently demonstrates that the social context of writing determines the majority of conventions any writer must observe. Still, most universities organize the required first-year composition course as if there were an intuitive set of general writing "skills" usable across academic and work-world settings.
In College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction, Anne Beaufort reports on a longitudinal study comparing one student’s experience in FYC, in history, in engineering, and in his post-college writing. Her data illuminate the struggle of college students to transfer what they learn about "general writing" from one context to another. Her findings suggest ultimately not that we must abolish FYC, but that we must go beyond even genre theory in reconceiving it.
Accordingly, Beaufort would argue that the FYC course should abandon its hope to teach a sort of general academic discourse, and instead should systematically teach strategies of responding to contextual elements that impinge on the writing situation. Her data urge attention to issues of learning transfer, and to developmentally sound linkages in writing instruction within and across disciplines. Beaufort advocates special attention to discourse community theory, for its power to help students perceive and understand the context of writing.
Hannah Arendt's Rhetoric of Warning and Hope
Renowned in the disciplines of political theory and philosophy, Hannah Arendt’s searing critiques of modernity continue to resonate in other fields of thought decades after she wrote them. In Communication Ethics in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt’s Rhetoric of Warning and Hope, author Ronald C. Arnett offers a groundbreaking examination of fifteen of Arendt’s major scholarly works, considering the German writer’s contributions to the areas of rhetoric and communication ethics for the first time.
Arnett focuses on Arendt’s use of the phrase “dark times” to describe the mistakes of modernity, defined by Arendt as the post-Enlightenment social conditions, discourses, and processes ruled by principles of efficiency, progress, and individual autonomy. These principles, Arendt argues, have led humanity down a path of folly, banality, and hubris. Throughout his interpretive evaluation, Arnett illuminates the implications of Arendt’s persistent metaphor of “dark times” and engages the question, How might communication ethics counter the tenets of dark times and their consequences? A compelling study of Hannah Arendt’s most noteworthy works and their connections to the fields of rhetoric and communication ethics, Communication Ethics in Dark Times provides an illuminating introduction for students and scholars of communication ethics and rhetoric, and a tool with which experts may discover new insights, connections, and applications to these fields.
Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement explores the critical practice of intercultural inquiry and rhetorical problem-solving that encourages urban writers and college mentors alike to take literate action. Author Linda Flower documents an innovative experiment in community literacy, the Community Literacy Center in Pittsburgh, and posits a powerful and distinctively rhetorical model of community engagement and pedagogy for both marginalized and privileged writers and speakers. In addition, she articulates a theory of local publics and explores the transformative potential of alternative discourses and counter-public performances.
In presenting a comprehensive pedagogy for literate action, the volume offers strategies for talking and collaborating across difference, for conducting an intercultural inquiry that draws out situated knowledge and rival interpretations of shared problems, and for writing and speaking to advocate for personal and public transformation. Flower describes the competing scripts for social engagement, empowerment, public deliberation, and agency that characterize the interdisciplinary debate over models of social engagement.
Extending the Community Literacy Center’s initial vision of community literacy first published a decade ago, Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement makes an important contribution to theoretical conversations about the nature of the public sphere while providing practical instruction in how all people can speak publicly for values and visions of change.
Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop
With these words, written long before his Iowa Writers' Workshop became world famous, much imitated, and academically rich, Paul Engle captured the spirit behind his beloved workshop. Now, in this collection of essays by and about those writers who shared the energetic early years, Robert Dana presents a dynamic, informative tribute to Engle and his world.
The book's three sections mingle myth and history with style and grace and no small amount of humor. The beginning essays are given over to memories of Paul Engle in his heyday. The second group focuses particularly on those teachers—Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Kurt Vonnegut, for example—who made the workshop hum on a day-to-day basis. Finally, the third section is devoted to storytelling: tall tales, vignettes, surprises, sober and not-so-sober moments. Engle's own essay, "The Writer and the Place," describes his "simple, and yet how reckless" conviction that "the creative imagination in all of the arts is as important, as congenial, and as necessary, as the historical study of all the arts."
Today, of course, there are hundreds of writers' workshops, many of them founded and directed by graduates of the original Iowa workshop. But when Paul Engle arrived in Iowa there were exactly two. His indomitable nature and great persuasive powers, combined with his distinguished reputation as a poet, loomed large behind the enhancement of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. This volume of fine and witty essays reveals the enthusiasm and drive and sheer pleasure that went into Iowa's renowned workshop.
Alternative Rhetoric in Theory and Practice
David Wallace argues that any understanding of writing studies must include the conception of discourse as an embodied force with real consequences for real people. Informed in important ways by queer theory, Wallace calls to account users of dominant discourses and at the same time articulates a theory base from which to interpret "alternative rhetoric."
“What any body is—and is able to do—cannot be disentangled from the media we use to consume and produce texts.” ---from the Introduction.
Kristin Arola and Anne Wysocki argue that composing in new media is composing the body—is embodiment. In Composing (Media) = Composing (Embodiment), they have brought together a powerful set of essays that agree on the need for compositionists—and their students—to engage with a wide range of new media texts. These chapters explore how texts of all varieties mediate and thereby contribute to the human experiences of communication, of self, the body, and composing. Sample assignments and activities exemplify how this exploration might proceed in the writing classroom.
Contributors here articulate ways to understand how writing enables the experience of our bodies as selves, and at the same time to see the work of (our) writing in mediating selves to make them accessible to institutional perceptions and constraints. These writers argue that what a body does, and can do, cannot be disentangled from the media we use, nor from the times and cultures and technologies with which we engage.
To the discipline of composition, this is an important discussion because it clarifies the impact/s of literacy on citizens, freedoms, and societies. To the classroom, it is important because it helps compositionists to support their students as they enact, learn, and reflect upon their own embodied and embodying writing.
A Contextualist Research Paradigm for Rhetoric and Composition
Cindy Johanek offers a new perspective on the ideological conflict between qualitative and quantitative research approaches, and the theories of knowledge that inform them. With a paradigm that is sensitive to the context of one's research questions, she argues, scholars can develop less dichotomous forms that invoke the strengths of both research traditions. Context-oriented approaches can lift the narrative from beneath the numbers in an experimental study, for example, or bring the useful clarity of numbers to an ethnographic study.
A pragmatic scholar, Johanek moves easily across the boundaries that divide the field, and argues for contextualist theory as a lens through which to view composition research. This approach brings with it a new focus, she writes. "This new focus will call us to attend to the contexts in which rhetorical issues and research issues converge, producing varied forms, many voices, and new knowledge, indeed reconstructing a discipline that will be simultaneously focused on its tasks, its knowledge-makers, and its students."
Composing Research is a work full of personal voice and professional commitment and will be a welcome addition to the research methods classroom and to the composition researcher's own bookshelf.
2000 Outstanding Scholarship Award from the International Writing Centers Association.
Notes toward a Deep Democracy
Composition and Cornel West: Notes toward a Deep Democracy identifies and explains key aspects of the work of Cornel West—the highly regarded scholar of religion, philosophy, and African American studies—as they relate to composition studies, focusing especially on three rhetorical strategies that West suggests we use in our questioning lives as scholars, teachers, students, and citizens.
In this study, author Keith Gilyard examines the strategies of Socratic Commitment (a relentless examination of received wisdom), Prophetic Witness (an abiding concern with justice and the plight of the oppressed), and Tragicomic Hope (a keep-on-pushing sensibility reflective of the African American freedom struggle). Together, these rhetorical strategies comprise an updated form of cultural criticism that West calls prophetic pragmatism.
This volume, which contains the only interview in which Cornel West directly addresses the field of composition, sketches the development of Cornel West’s theories of philosophy, political science, religion, and cultural studies and restates the link between Deweyan notions of critical intelligence and the notion of critical literacy developed by Ann Berthoff, Ira Shor, and Henry Giroux. Gilyard provides examples from the classroom to illustrate the possibilities of Socratic Commitment as part of composition pedagogy, shows the alignment of Prophetic Witness with traditional aims of critical composition, and in his chapter on Tragicomic Hope, addresses African American expressive culture with an emphasis on music and artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Kanye West.
The first book to comprehensively connect the ideas of one of America's premier scholars of religion, philosophy and African American studies with composition theory and pedagogy, Composition and Cornel West will be valuable to scholars, teachers, and students interested in race, class, critical literacy, and the teaching of writing.
Engaging the Dominant Discourse