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    Draft Assignment

    Dear Students,


    We’ve written about writing and our experiences with writing. Now it is time to re-examine the narrative chapter. A narrative, a story, is an argument. Your narrative arguments have been powerful. Many of you wrote stories that argued that you should be won over, that you are suspicious of the writing classroom, because something you got out of writing before, say, high school writing classes, was taken from you by those classes. Some of you blamed the rules, many of you blamed the teachers. In this course, we should probably focus on some elements of writing education. We will continue to read the brief essays in the Longman Reader, but we will also examine the textbook itself and the particular problems it gives students to write about. Are these the college writing problems? Typically not. What are college writing problems? In other words, what is a subject for college writing? This question is important for those who, like you, need practice writing in the conventional genres in college. In order to be able to produce writing in the conventional genres in college, moving forward from this class, it is essential that this course focus on the following course outcomes.

    In this course:


    Students will learn strategies to critically interpret texts by summarizing, analyzing, extending and/or complicating the original uses of those texts.


    Students will learn to take ownership of their writing and produce insightful arguments in their own voice.


    Students will produce insightful arguments that emerge from lines of inquiry, course texts, classroom discourse, and the student’s own life experiences.


    Students will produce writing that performs detail-oriented textual analysis, namely rhetorical analysis which examines how texts are constructed and how that construction makes the text effective. This requires students to develop awareness in the elements of a rhetorical situation, including audience, author, context, topic, and purpose.


    Students will produce writing that negotiates conventional mechanics and usage to avoid misleading readers.


    Students will learn how to evaluate sources and to cite them using MLA citation style.


    Students will produce writing through a process, including revision and collaboration.



    In order to really achieve these course outcomes, I need to adjust the assignments on the course syllabus. Here are the preliminary revisions:


    Three essays, total, plus one “Reflective Annotated Bibliography.” Each essay will be written in process. That means that students must write at least two drafts of an essay, with significant changes between the formal draft and the final draft, in order to pass the class. This is a curriculum requirement. As the “fourth” essay, you will build a bibliography using the course readings. You will also complete reading journals.


    Here is how the course writing breaks down to a final grade:


    Rhetorical Analysis 15%

    Lens Essay 20%

    Research Essay 30%

    Reflective Annotated Bibliography 10%


    Drafts 5%

    Reading journals 10%

    In-class writing and homework 10%


    Participation will be measured by the writing. If you write in class and I do not collect it, it will become homework that I want you to send typed. Some of the in-class writing will be assigned in the form of reading quizzes. Your reading quizzes will serve two purposes: they’ll keep track of who is doing the reading and who is not, which is especially important in classes with a lot of silent students. They also “get the ball rolling” on rhetorical questions that students should consider when reading course texts.


    You have already begun your rhetorical analysis through your initial narrative description of your writing experience. It is now time to learn to use that to pose a problem and frame an analytical line of inquiry.


    For this, we will need to discuss the rhetorical situationas well as the idea of an academic problem. These concepts will probably be new to you, but these will become familiar once you have written extensively with them. The rhetorical situation is a conceptual framework for performing textual analysis. It is similar to what is called a “close reading” in literature classes, but it offers a vocabulary for analyzing non-creative writing, every day writing, and other kinds of persuasive communication. It will be useful in future classes when students write, because students will be able to identify the elements of a rhetorical situation in any text they encounter, and through that be able to come up with intelligent things to write about those texts. Additionally, by developing an awareness of the elements of a rhetorical situations, students will develop skill in those elements as authors.









    The Rhetorical Situation



    Whereas rhetoric is the art of using language effectively to communicate and/or persuade, the rhetorical situation refers to the particular circumstances in which rhetoric is employed. In other words, whenever we produce or encounter a “text,” we face a rhetorical situation. We have to consider:

    • the author
    • the audience
    • the purpose
    • the topic
    • the context


    By carefully considering the rhetorical situation for texts, we develop into not only more astute readers of texts but also more effective authors of texts.


    The Five Aspects of the Rhetorical Situation


    The authoris influenced by his or her culture, personal characteristics, and interests, which all affect what he or she writes about and how he or she writes it. Other factors that can influence the author include: age, experiences, gender, location, nationality, political beliefs, self-identity, social identity, community, education.


    Every text is constructed for an intended or target audience, even though in reality, many others who are not in the target audience will most likely read and encounter the text. Hence, many of the factors that influence the author will also affect the audience.


    Although all text is created generally to communicate, every text is produced with a specific purposee.g. to persuade, educate, inform, entertain, shock, or call to action. The genre of the text gives insight into its purpose. For example, a novel’s primary purpose may be to entertain; a journalistic article may be created primarily to inform and educate; a print advertisement may primarily aim to persuade and prompt action.


    The topicis simply what a text is about i.e. the matter or issue the text is engaging. The nature and scope of the topic must be appropriate to the rhetorical situation in which an author is writing.


    The contextis the “situation” that generates the need for writing, like a current event, for example. Every text is influenced by and engages various contexts: historical context, geographic context, national context, social context, economic context, cultural context, and so on. Essentially, the author is responding to and engaging with relevant contexts via the text with the intention to impact his or her audience in a particular way.





    Consider the story you wrote to describe your past experience as a writer. In order to define writing and make a claim about how your experience influenced your attitude about writing, you needed to make an argument, and because you described a previous experience, it is highly likely that your argument also took on a narrative form.


    College writers regularly make an opening claim by way of an anecdote, or personal story. The anecdote is carefully chosen to pose a problem, a line of inquiry, that the writer has “solved” with their argument. Your anecdote proposed an argument about your attitude about writing or your definition of it, but a full-length academic essay needs a more productive, engaging line of inquiry. College writers typically pose problems and “go for answers” in material that they study and discuss with their peers in the field. Their familiarity and fluency in the shared subject matter orients them toward posing questions that help them understand the materials they work with, their subject, with greater depth and personal enthusiasm.


    In this class, your peers in the field are thinking about and discussing the essays in The Longman Reader. The three essays we’ve covered most in depth, so far, are “The Sanctuary of School”, “Black Men in Public Spaces”, and “The Fourth of July”. Your next assignment is to consider these texts as the basis of a rhetorical analysis.


    Your problem:


    Your past experiences with writing have prepared you to be the kind of audience you are, whether that is the audience is the one imagined by the authors you read or not. Another way of posing this is to say that authors have such varied experiences, and they typically imagine audiences who have either shared their experiences or had radically different experiences. Within those experiences are attitudes, beliefs, cultural and educational backgrounds, and let’s not forget personalities! You have all of these wrapped into the kind of audience you are and the assumptions and expectations you bring to your experience of reading. This will even affect how you read texts—you probably read popular news online or entertainment paperbacks differently than you read the texts you are assigned in college, because you have different assumptions and expectations about what you will do with them and what you will need from them.



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