american dialogues: let’s take it from the top

The first thing I’m going to do, after basic introductions, is introduce them to the concept of rhetoric as the study and practice of the art of persuasion, not the common definition of “empty or insincere speech.” [See, for example, the intro to Andy Cline’s online Rhetoric Primer, or Jack Lynch’s much more brief definition.] We’ll go over the importance of audience: writers write for readers. I’ll discuss the three divisions of rhetoric identified by Aritostotle, sometimes referred to as deliberative, forensic, and epideictic. [See this section of Aristotle’s On Rhetoric.] Our first focus will be on epideictic rhetoric: the rhetoric of praise or blame. [See this section of On Rhetoric.] Praise or blame is something we’ll be hearing a lot in the months leading up to the 2004 election, so I figure this is a good place to start. Students will choose a candidate, a campaign proposal, or an event and write (probably as an in-class essay) an encomium, a vituperation, or an apologia for a specific audience of their choice.

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2 thoughts on “american dialogues: let’s take it from the top

  1. Are you familiar with _The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing_? It’s edited by Cheryl Glenn, Melissa A. Goldthwaite, and Robert Conners? If not, I suggest it as something to have on hand. The back of the book has a collection of essays that all composition instructors should be familiar with, in my mind, because it lays out the “field” quite nicely. One of these essays is Linda Flower’s “Writer-based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in Writing.” After having reviewed the article, I really was better prepared for teaching reader-centered writing. It explains in a practical way the problems with writer-based prose as “reflect[ing] the associative, narrative path of the writer’s own confontation with her subject” (304). It discusses the origins of writer-based writing as “inner speech” and positions reader-based prose as part of cognitive development. By understanding where my students were cognitively, I was better able to make my own appeals in teaching how to become reader-centered writers.

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