Response to Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer and Assimilation into Writing Masters

It is with great reluctance that I move forward into the digital age. Our Twitter scavenger hunt, digital syllabus and weekly blog posts are definitely outside of my comfort zone. The public nature of the internet is unsettling for me. I like the boundaries of a good old fashioned hard copy. Generally, I use my computer as a word processor, and to search the internet if and when I want for what I am interested in and that’s it. That being said, I have been enjoying the different people I have come into contact with as a result of Equity Unbound and that is helping me get my head around the idea of digital literacy. I remain open to the journey.
While I like the idea of open and equitable education, I also appreciate a sense privacy around my own process. I like a long slow progression of meandering drafts, and intense revision. I am particular with whom I share my work for editing and only then do I open it up to other people. I don’t like sharing things in a public forum and creating a digital footprint of undeveloped work. It feels incongruous with my draft and revision process and my own nature as a private person. I hope to be convinced otherwise.
I really enjoyed the reading: Rhetoric and Composition, by Janice Lauer, and have had several themes from it dancing around in my head all week. The first was the distinction of rhetorical scholarship and its history as separate from grammar and composition. According to Lauer, when tracing education back to the Greeks and Romans, students were educated in a curriculum that included grammar, philosophy and rhetoric. She states that by the twentieth century, rhetorical scholarship had almost disappeared and what remained was the teaching of composition. The result in the classroom was a focus centered primarily on grammar instruction and finished products. This point brought my attention to the significance of rhetoric as its own entity and how it impacts both writing and oratory abilities. I would also add that it alters the receptive abilities of the audience. The art of rhetoric brings breadth and depth to any communication; both giving and receiving. I went on to do further reading to increase my own understanding of rhetoric at the following website:

I am deeply interested in this idea of crafting an argument and what it means in the everyday act of communication in writing and as a human being. These are some of the things I learned about the importance of rhetoric: including informal reasoning powers as well as appealing to the ethos and the pathos. Ethos is a Greek word meaning character that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. Interestingly, it is also the word the Greeks use to refer to the influence and power that music holds over emotions, behaviors and even morals. I was reminded that Aristotle uses ethos in his concept of the three artistic proofs or modes of persuasion and have made a note to get back to this point in my own studies. The other words I gathered in this exploration of rhetoric were Pathos: A Greek word meaning a quality that evokes pity or sadness. Logos: A statement or argument used to convince or persuade an audience by employing reason or logic. A good argument should be rooted in all three of these places.
Coming from a political science background this exploration really appealed to me, and simultaneously it is shocking that I did not have a better grasp of the pedagogical principles involved. I couldn’t help but wonder how this lack of education in rhetoric impacts the receptive skills of “the audience.” In my limited grasp of rhetoric, these days in politics it seems that the “audience” is vulnerable to easy manipulation by politicians who play on the anticipated one-dimensional reaction from the audience rooted solely in emotion and lacking the roots of ethos, pathos and especially logos. I appreciated on P128 of Lauer’s essay, the mention of theorists arguing against what they felt was excessive focus on individual inquiry. “Another nettling issue that continues to plague the field is the superficial or even missing attention to audience or readers in teaching composition.” The assumption that the teacher is the only audience.
As an adult student I long for a little bit of what Lauer refers to as “formalist pedagogy” and maintain the desire for spelling and grammar drills. I can’t help it. I am a product of my generation and cringe when I read incomplete sentences with spelling errors. I recognize the controversy around this topic and do not believe it is all there should be. The reading refers to this as “full-frontal teaching of grammar.” I agree with the idea that an individualized approach to teaching grammar is more effective. While I do not advocate the humiliation-based technique that was implemented in my own grade school curriculum, I do have a deep respect for form and structure as a foundation, and hope that this does not get lost.
I loved the message in Lauer’s summary and hold these thoughts to be truth’s:
1)The Commitment to develop all levels of literacy, without exclusion.
2)The potential central role of literacy in empowering people to shape contemporary world culture.
3)Education is power and articulation is its vehicle. Helping students to develop their powers of inquiry and communication in order to enrich and re-envision their everyday, civic, academic and workplace lives.

I look forward to investigating further many of the theorists and ideas that were touched upon, including: Walter Ong, Kenneth Burke, Alan Purves, Rohman and Wlecke, Walker Gibson, Slevin, Crowley and Freire.

Vocabulary list from this reading:

Ethymeme: a rhetorical syllogism (a three- part deductive argument) used in oratorical practice.
(Originally theorized by Aristotle) He described four different types of ethymemes.
Epistemology: The theory of knowledge, especially with regards to its methods. It is the investigation of what distinguished justified belief from opinion.
Heuristic: enabling a person to discover or learn something about themselves
Heteroglossia: the presence of two or more voices or expressed viewpoints in a text or other artistic work.
Kairos: the right or opportune moment for certain arguments
Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation
Semiotics and the communication triangle
Trivium: An introductory curriculum at a medieval university involving the study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.


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