May 3

Conversation is Promising
The most promising revelation I had after reading Dobrin’s Introduction to Don’t Call It That is that there has been an ongoing conversation about the composition practicum. Therefore, the course (and the program as whole) is worthwhile. If all stakeholders involved just simply agreed on how writing should be taught in the classroom, there would not be as great a need for the field of composition. We could simply record such facts in a book, publish it, and say “Go forth and teach” to those willing to enter the teaching trenches. But by not having everyone agree on all aspects of the practicum, many views, teaching philosophies, ideologies, etc. are able to be published in journals and books by authors who are committed to the composition conversation.
Think about it. Literature departments are run (from what I hear, anyway) in a similar fashion. There is often debate on which authors and works should be included in the curriculum. And if you think about it, literature courses like American Colonial Lit. or Restoration Lit. are no longer evolving or expanding. Each will only cover a certain time period. They are more or less fixed subjects. So if literature courses like the two I mention are prone to discussion and debate when there is no new material being added, it is only fitting that an ever-growing field like composition should be subject to even more discussion and disagreement. Which is, frankly, a wonderful thing. And it is why courses that delve into the history of pedagogy and theory are necessary. We need to understand where we have been before we see where we are going in terms of composition.
Also, I agree with Dobrin (and others) that composition courses cannot just be about how to teach writing. The history of such practices must be covered. Think about all the studies cited by the plethora of authors we read each week. So much work, time, and energy has been put into the field of composition that it would irresponsible to ignore the work compiled by these dedicated compositionists.
Although I do believe certain skills can be taught in the classroom, no class is going to guarantee anyone that they will be able to effectively teach writing – or anything for that matter. It is not until one enters their own classroom with their own students that one truly learns how to teach. The experience and knowledge of how to teach others comes not from a book, notes, or a class, but the time spent in the classroom with students. Certainly texts are helpful in preparing one to teach, and classes offer a more than adequate place to discuss theory and experiences, but teaching (like most skills) is learned through experience.

Rhetorical Pedagogy

Rhetorical Pedagogy

Rhetoric as pedagogy has found its way in and out, then in and out again, and finally back into composition programs.

For now..

In order to create a Snapshot of rhetorical pedagogy, I believe it best (and most helpful) to produce lists and visuals that function to help us recall some of the history (dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome) of this dynamic, process-based pedagogy.

A Return to Rhetoric

James Kinneavy’s Communication Triangle:

  • Encoder (writer)
  • Decoder (audience)
  • Reality (context)

“Rhetoric is a concept that expands and contracts” (39)

Classical Rhetoric

Sophists/Platonists: “writing should always approach ‘truth’ as a contingent phenomenon” (40)

Aristotelian – Rhetorical Triangle

  • Pathos
  • Logos
  • Ethos

Rhetorical Invention – A Process, not product pedagogy (42)

Current Traditional Rhetoric (CTR)

16th Century                                                                               18th and 19th Centuries

Peter Ramus – “objective rhetoric” (44)                               Lockean Empiricism

5 Canons of Rhetoric                                                                4 Modes of Discourse    

  • Invention                                                                            Narration
  • Arrangement                                                                     Description
  • Style                                                                                     Exposition
  • Memory                                                                              Argumentation                          
  • Delivery


Twentieth-Century Rhetoric

Kenneth Burke on Rhetoric

“the use of language as a symbolic means of including cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (45)

Relationships that Inform all Symbolic Action

  • Act
  • Agent
  • Scene
  • Agency
  • Purpose

Terry Eagleton on Rhetoric

“Activity inseparable from the wider social relations between writers and readers” (46)

Sociocultural Dimensions of Rhetoric – Literary Theory: An Introduction

1960s & 1970s

Wayne Booth on Rhetoric

“the whole art of discovering and sharing warrantable assertions” (46)

Shared Values

Information retrieved and adapted from William A. Covino’s chapter, “Rhetorical Pedagogy,” as it appears in the tri-authored text A Guide to Composition Pedagogies.