loader from loading.io

Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

Mere Rhetoric

Release Date: 11/14/2017

James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.” show art James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

Mere Rhetoric

Some time ago, I was asked by listener Sarah Rumsey to do a podcast on composition theory. That’s a doozy of a topic, so I read a lot, I poked around, even pulled together a couple drafts, but couldn’t find the balance of breadth and depth to do this subject justice. So I gave up.   Ah, clever listener, you know I didn’t really give up, because this is Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history and I am Mary Hedengren and instead of trying to capture the entire depth of rhetorical theory thought I...

info_outline
The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt) show art The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere R the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary H and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, like I did, then you might remember a series of posters in your school and public library. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker,A-Rod and, of course, Lavar Burton would be posed with a book, smiling, encouraging you to read. They were all readers, and so should you, because being a reader was a worthy identity.     Deborah Brandt, in her decades of interviews with people of all walks of life,...

info_outline
The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon show art The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’d like you to think a little about the types of writing you’ve done in the past, oh, let us say, year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written breezy email, stern syllabi, obscure academic texts and pun-based posts on Reddit that didn’t get nearly the number of upvotes as they deserve. Now what if a random, oh, say 12% of what you wrote was preserved and no one who knew you was around to testify you wrote it...

info_outline
The Meaningful Writing Project show art The Meaningful Writing Project

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history   It’s the start of another semester, which, for me, means a season of wonder. I wonder about who my students will be. I wonder whether my schedule will be crushingly busy. Mostly, though, I wonder how my students will react to the syllabi and assignments that I have lovingly crafted. Will they understand the instructions? Will they learn what I hope they will? Will they find it meaningful?   Many compositionists have wondered these same questions and have...

info_outline
Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power show art Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family...

info_outline
Inventing the University--David Bartholomae show art Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

Mere Rhetoric

[intro] Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20...

info_outline
The Other Eight: Andocides show art The Other Eight: Andocides

Mere Rhetoric

Andocides (An-DOS-id-dees) Do you remember in the 90s when there was this huge “thug life” thing going on? Shady types getting money doing shady things. Andocides, the 5th century BCE rhetor, would have fit fell into that world. Even though he may have been acquainted with Socrates, he was more interested in roving with his friends of rabble-rousers. He was born to wealth and lived as what one editor called “a hot-headed young man-about-town with more money than sense” (321).   His carefree life came to a hard stop after a significant act of vandalism. Andocides was accused of...

info_outline
College Composition and Communication show art College Composition and Communication

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Uh, I guess including recent history, because today we’re going to talk about the February 2017 issue of College Composition and Communication as our “journal of the month” summary. This issue, as editor Jonathan Alexander points out, “takes up the notion of the ‘personal’ in a variety of ways” (436), departing from what we might think of as “composition as usual.” The articles in it include thinking about students who are full-time...

info_outline
Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast show art Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and every semester, I feel like it’s New Year’s Day. “This semester,” I say, “everything’s going to be different.” I revise my classes, everything from switching two minor assignments to rehauling the entire curriculum. I try to create assignments that will catch my students’ attention, prepare them for their other classes, and, because I teach dozens of students, be interesting to grade.   But how do I know if the...

info_outline
Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Mere Rhetoric

Weeeeellllcommmme to Meeeeeereeee Rhetoooooric! It’s our annual Halloween episode, which means a little bit of the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetorical history, but mostly a ghost story. This year, we’re going with our first not-MR-James story. Don’t worry--there are still intials--but first--to business.   If you’re going to talk about ghost stories and influential thinkers, you won’t dig long until you come across Freud’s contribution, a little piece called “The Uncanny.” You might not peg Sigmund Freud as a connoisseur of boogeymen, but he was...

info_outline
 
More Episodes

[intro]

Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20 minutes; why do my students take hours and still fail the project?

 

David Bartholomae wondered, as I do, how students approach projects they’ve never been asked to weigh in on before. In my students’ case, they just barely learned what “ethos” is--how are they supposed to assert how it impacts a particular audience? Writing in the early 80s, Bartholomea, like a score of composition scholars like Mina Shanessey and Linda Flower, were interested in the needs of a population sometimes called Basic Writers. Basic writers are those who, in Bartholomae’s words “shut out from one of the privileged languages of public life” in academic writing, although they are “aware of, but cannot control” that language (64). Not having been exposed to reading or writing much of it, they must fall back on what they think academic writing is supposed to sound like. They have to invent what “university writing” is. This is where you have all those errors that make your students sound like robots on the fritz: “utilization,” “the reason for this is because that,” and endless “therefore”s. It impacts big-picture ideas, too. B mentions that commonplaces that many students fall back on: “mistakes are because of a lack of pride,” “creativity is self-expression,” “the text you assignment to read was life-changing and insightful, o teacher mine!” This is where we roll our eyes and feel slightly manipulated, but the students aren’t being malicious when they try to give us what we want--they’re simply not confident at being able to give us what they want, too.

 

And every time the task changes, students can find themselves flummoxed. “A student who can write a reasonably correct narrative may fall to pieces when faced with a more unfamiliar assignment,” Bartholomae points out. A student can write smooth, error-free prose in a form that makes sense to them, but asked to assume new authority, and they panic in the new register. And who can blame them? They’ve never encountered it before. Imagine being asked to give a public speech in Japanese without knowing the language. Bartholomae’s students were exposed to many of the same forms ours are “test-taking, report or summary--work ...where they are expected to admire and report on what we do” (68). Certainly I saw that in the rhetorical analyses I read. The background research on the author was good, relevant and cited appropriately. The articles were summarized fairly, with occasional quotes from the text. But when I ask them to apply their knowledge of rhetorical terms to argue how the articles were working and they fall to pieces, just as Bartholomae says. Many of them have never been asked to defend their own scholarly opinion or assert another’s through conjuncture. They can’t possibly make a scholarly argument, so instead they are made by it. They put on a mask of “scholar”--”They begin with a moment of appropriation, Bartholomae says, “a moment when they can offer up a sentence that is not their as though it were their own” (69).

 

But students who are outside of the academic discourses they write also recognize that it is not fair that they have to be outsiders. Even when they are given supposedly non-academic discourse to write-- “explain kairos to a classmate”--students are thrown into assumed authority: how on earth would they explain kairos--they just learned about kairos! They don’t know anything more about kairos than anyone else in the class! It is, in Bartholome’s words “an act of aggression  disguised as an act of charity” (65). Being put into a position of insider to which they beleive they have no claim, some students doggedly imitate while others also subtly criticize. “The write continually audits and pushes against and language that would render him [or her] ‘like everyone else’ and mimics the language and interpretative systems of the privileged community” (79).

 

What is the solution then? Bartholomae suggests that we meet students on the grounds of their own authority--instead of encouraging them to give tidy, pat answers that imitate what they think the professor is looking for, “well within safe, familiar territory” (80). This can seem quixotic, especially when a grade is on the line. While Bartholomea doesn’t give a comprehensive solution, but he does mention the work of Particia Bizzell and Linda Flower as useful starting points--determining, for example, what the conventions of the discourse community to teach them explicitly. This can mean anything from pointing out the expectations of MLA citation to providing templates of academic discourse. Another strategy is to look broadly at where students are all falling short together--is everyone falling back on summary instead of moving into analysis? Is everyone asserting the opinion of the audience without reasoned conjecture? Seeing where students depart, like a big-picture Error and Expectation, can give insight into where students feel uncomfortable acting as insiders.

 

Because, no matter how frustrated we get when we grade student work, they aren’t dum-dum heads who didn’t understand anything that we taught them. They’re paying attention--they’re writing the way that they think we want them to write and the way that they think we write. Batholomae, however, wants to to consider they way they write and what they want to write about.