English 700: Introduction to Composition and Rhetoric (Fall 2012)

Drill

Photo Credit: "Drill" by NVinacco

This course introduces students to scholarship in rhetorical theory and composition studies by working backwards or “drilling down." Each unit begins with a contemporary work in rhetoric and composition scholarship and then drills down through portions of that text’s citational chain. This approach introduces students to contemporary research in rhetoric and composition while also providing a method for conducting research in medias res. The course puts students into the middle of current research and provides them with strategies for negotiating and mapping scholarly terrain.

Syllabus

English 700: Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition

Professor: Jim Brown
Class Meeting Place: 7105 Helen C. White
Class Time: Wednesday, 1:00pm-3:30pm
Office: 6187E Helen C. White
Office Hours: M/W 11:30am-1:00pm [Make an Appointment]
Email: brownjr [at] wisc [dot] edu
Website: http://courses.jamesjbrownjr.net/700_fall2012

Course Goals:

  • Cultivate strategies for analyzing and synthesizing scholarly arguments
  • Understand the theoretical underpinnings of contemporary debates in rhetorical theory and composition studies
  • Develop sustainable reading and writing processes

Required Texts:

  • Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Trans. George Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
  • Emig, Janet A. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. Natl Council of Teachers, 1971. Print.
  • Fleming, David. From Form to Meaning: Freshman Composition and the Long Sixties, 1957-1974. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. Print.
  • Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press, USA, 2007. Print.
  • Plato. Plato: The Republic. 1st ed. Ed. G. R. F. Ferrari. Trans. Tom Griffith. Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.
  • Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. Print.
  • Wysocki, Anne. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Utah State University Press, 2004. Print.

Texts Available for Download via Dropbox:

  • Crowley, Sharon. Composition In The University: Historical and Polemical Essays. 1st ed. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998. Print. (excerpt)
  • DeKoven, Marianne. Utopia Limited: The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern. annotated edition. Duke University Press Books, 2004. Print. (excerpt)
  • Greenbaum, L. “The Tradition of Complaint.” College English 31.2 (1969): 174–187. Print.
  • Harris, J. “After Dartmouth: Growth and Conflict in English.” College English 53.6 (1991): 631–646. Print.
  • Marwick, Arthur. The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, C.1958-c.1974. First Edition. Oxford University Press, USA, 1998. Print. (excerpt)
  • McHale, Brian. “1966 Nervous Breakdown; or, When Did Postmodernism Begin?” Modern Language Quarterly 69.3 (2008): 391-413. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
  • Poulakos, T., and D. J Depew. Isocrates and Civic Education. Univ of Texas Pr, 2004. Print. (excerpts)
  • Shor, Ira. Culture Wars: School and Society in the Conservative Restoration. University Of Chicago Press, 1992. Print. (excerpt)
  • Smit, David William. The End Of Composition Studies. SIU Press, 2004. Print. (excerpt)
  • Trimbur, John. 2000. "Composition and the Circulation of Writing." CCC 52: 188-219.
  • Yancey, Kathleen Blake. 2004. "Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key." CCC 56: 297-328.

Course Work
All writing for this class will be submitted via shared folders in Dropbox.

  • Weekly Microthemes (500 word maximum)
    These short papers are turned in 48 hours before class meets and are shared electronically with all seminar members. Seminar members spend time reading these short papers prior to class, and the papers provide fodder for class discussion.

  • Weekly Microtheme Synthesis (750 word maximum)
    Each week, one student will be responsible for synthesizing these microthemes, presenting their synthesis at the beginning of class, and launching class discussion. This synthesis should locate common questions and topics raised by the microthemes and should serve as a launching point for the week’s discussion.

  • Book/Article Review (1000-1500 words)
    Once during the semester, each student will review an article or book that is cited by the central text of a unit (for instance, during Unit 2 a student would choose a text that is cited in Davis’ Inessential Solidarity). Reviews are 4-6 pages and are shared with seminar members. Each week, two seminar members presents a review in class. Presentations are informal and should be brief (no longer than 5 minutes). Reviewers are not required to complete a Microtheme, but they are expected to read both the assigned text and the text they are reviewing.

  • CCC Article Remix (Various Media)
    In groups, students will remix College Composition and Communication articles. These remixes can take any form, and groups will determine what they want to create (this may or may not involve text), the purpose of the composition, the processes and procedures used, the materials necessary, and the conditions under which the audience should experience that composition. In addition to creating this remix, each group will compose a short explanation of that remix.



Grades
The grade breakdown will be as follows:

  • 15% Attendance and Participation
  • 15% Weekly Microthemes
  • 20% Microtheme Synthesis
  • 20% Book/Article Reviews
  • 30% Article Remix

With the exception of Microtheme assignments, I will provide letter grades on each assignment and a letter grade for your final grade. Microthemes will receive a grade of "Credit" (C) or "No Credit" (NC).

Below are the grade criteria I will use when providing letter grades:

  • A: This is graduate level work. The grade reflects work that is the result of careful thinking. This grade also reflects work that effectively contributes to a scholarly conversation.

  • AB: This is graduate level work, but there are minor problems with your argument and/or with your execution. This grade means that the work would need some revision in order to effectively contribute to a scholarly conversation.

  • B: This is not graduate level work, and there are significant problems with your argument and/or your execution. This grade means that the work has serious flaws or would need significant revision before effectively contributing to a scholarly conversation.

  • BC or below: This is not graduate level work, and there are major problems with the argument and the execution. This grade means that the work does not effectively contribute to a scholarly conversation.

Schedule


Unit 1: From Form to Meaning

September 5

  • Fleming

September 12

  • Fleming (cont.), Greenbaum, Crowley, Smit
  • Book Review: Keith
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Rick

September 19

  • Harris, Emig
  • Book Review: Sunny, Stephanie
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Rebecka

September 26

  • Shor, McHale, DeKoven
  • Book Review: Ruth
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Rachel


Unit 2: Ancient Rhetoric and Civic Education

October 3

  • Isocrates and Civic Education: Depew and Poulakos, Ober, T. Poulakos
  • Book Review: Lauryn
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Sunny

October 10

  • Isocrates and Civic Education: J. Poulakos
  • Gorgias, Encomium of Helen
  • Isocrates, Against the Sophists
  • Book Review: Rick
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Anna

October 17

  • Isocrates and Civic Education: Morgan
  • Isocrates, Antidosis
  • Plato, The Republic, Book 1 and 6-10
  • Book Review: Emma
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Jackie

October 24

  • Isocrates and Civic Education: Depew
  • Aristotle, Rhetoric, Kennedy's Introduction and Book 1
  • Book Review: Jackie
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Leigh

October 31

  • Isocrates and Civic Education: Garver
  • Aristotle, Rhetoric, Books 2 and 3
  • Book Review: Rebecka
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Ruth


Unit 3: Toward a Composition Made Whole

November 7

  • Shipka
  • Book Review: Anna
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Emily

November 14

  • Latour
  • Remix Workshop
  • Book Review: Rachel, Leigh
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Lauryn, Stephanie

November 21

  • Groups choose CCC article to remix and develop at least two plans for remix project

November 28

  • Wysocki
  • Book Review: Emily
  • Microtheme Synthesis: Keith, Emma
  • Remix workshop

December 5

  • Remix workshop

December 12

  • Remix workshop

December 19 (10:00am-12:00pm)

  • Remix showcase

Rules of Engagement

What is the purpose of a graduate seminar, and how does one use such a space to usefully engage with texts? I offer this document as an answer to that question and as a kind of constitution for our class.

The military root of the phrase "rules of engagement" is unfortunate because we are actually interested in something as nonviolent as possible. Of course, any interpretation of a text will do violence to it. This is the nature of interpretation. We fit a text or a set of ideas into a pre-existing framework that we already have. This is unavoidable. But we can try our best to forestall that violence or to at least soften the blow. In the interest of this kind of approach, I offer the following rules:

1. Disagreement and agreement are immaterial.

Our primary task is to understand, and this does not require agreement or disagreement. The only agreement the seminar asks of you is this: I agree to read, consider, analyze, and ask questions about these texts.

In his essay "The Rhetoric of Hitler's Battle," Kenneth Burke presents us with a succinct encapsulation of this first rule of engagement:

The appearance of Mein Kampf in unexpurgated translation has called for far too many vandalistic comments. There are other ways of burning books than on the pyre - and the favorite method of the hasty reviewer is to deprive himself and his readers by inattention. I maintain that it is thoroughly vandalistic for the reviewer to content himself with the mere inflicting of a few symbolic wounds upon this book and its author, of an intensity varying with the resources of the reviewer and the time at his disposal. Hitler's "Battle" is exasperating, even nauseating; yet the fact remains: If the reviewer but knocks off a few adverse attitudinizings and calls it a day, with a guaranty in advance that his article will have a favorable reception among the decent members of our population, he is contributing more to our gratification than to our enlightenment" (The Philosophy of Literary Form, 191)

Of course, we will not be reading anything like Mein Kampf, but the principle still stands. We are more interested in enlightenment than gratification.

2. An argument is a machine to think with.

This is another version of I.A. Richards's claim that “a book is a machine to think with." The "with" here should be read in two different ways simultaneously. We read "with" an argument by reading alongside it. We "tarry" with it. We get very close to it and join it during a long walk. Notice that this requires that we stay with the author rather than diverging down a different path, questioning the route, or pulling out our own map. But "with" here also means that the argument is a tool that we must first understand before using. Our job is to learn how this tool works. It has multiple moving parts and purposes. It has multiple audiences. We need to understand all of this before we make any attempt to use the argument, and we certainly need to do all of this before we can even think about disagreeing with it.

3. Ask that question sincerely, or the principle of "generous reading."

Why the hell would s/he argue that? If you find yourself asking this question, then take the next step by answering your own question. Why would s/he argue that? If I am indignant about the argument, does this suggest that I am not the audience? If the argument seems ridiculous, is it relying on definitions that I find foreign? If I think the argument is brilliant, is it because I am in fact the target audience, so much so that I am having a difficult time gaining any kind of critical distance?

The principle of "generous reading" has little to do with being "nice." Instead, it is more about reading in a generative way, in a way that opens the text up rather than closes it down. This requires that we read a text on its own terms, understanding how an argument is deploying certain concepts and ideas (see Rule #2).

Assignments

The links below provide descriptions of assignments for this course.

Weekly Microthemes

Microthemes are 500-word papers that serve as your "talking points" for that week's discussion, and they will be graded on a credit/no credit basis. Papers are due 48 hours prior to class, and late papers will receive no credit. Your work on these papers will account for 15% of your final grade. These papers must not exceed 500 words

If we are reading multiple pieces during a given week, please devote some space to each of the readings. However, you can devote more space to one of the readings if you'd like.

These papers need not be completely polished prose, but they should provide evidence that you've read the week's readings carefully and that you've developed some ideas for our discussions. They should be devoted to finding connections amongst our readings and to raising questions. They should not focus on whether or not you agree with the author(s).

Some questions that might guide a Microtheme paper are (this list is not exhaustive):

  • What definitions of rhetoric and/or composition are assumed or outwardly stated by the author?
  • What is the relationship of this text to others that we've read?
  • How has the author constructed his or her argument? Why?
  • Who are the possible audiences for this piece?
  • What kinds of evidence are being used? Why?
  • What possible counter-arguments could be raised? Who would raise them? Why?
  • What scholarly problem is the author addressing? How have others addressed this problem?
  • What body of scholarship is the author engaging with? What other scholarly conversations might we connect this piece to?

When writing these papers, remember to follow the rules of engagement

Microtheme Synthesis

Each week, one student will provide a written synthesis of the submitted microthemes. This synthesis should locate common questions and topics raised by the microthemes and should serve as a launching point for the week’s discussion. The paper is due at the start of class, and the author will read the paper at the beginning of the class period. This paper will account for 15% of your final grade. This paper must not exceed 750 words.

When grading these papers, I will be looking for the following:

  • Does the paper locate common questions and trends in the microthemes?
  • Does the paper tell a coherent narrative of the textual conversation?
  • Does the paper raise questions and concerns that should be addressed during that week's discussion?
  • Have you followed the rules of engagement
  • Is the paper written effectively and coherently with very few grammatical errors?
  • Has the author observed the 750-word limit?

Book/Article Review

Once during the semester, each student will review an article or book that is cited by one of our central texts. Reviews are 4-6 pages and shared with seminar members. Your primary task in this review is to explain how the argument works and how it engages with other scholarship. You should not focus your efforts on an evaluation of the argument or on whether or not you disagree with the author. See the grading criteria below for some tips about how to approach these reviews, and please feel free to ask me questions.

While the review author will not read the paper aloud, s/he will give a brief (no more than 5 minutes) presentation explaining the text, its argument, and its relationship to the texts we've read in class. Papers are due at the beginning of class and will account for 15% of your final grade. Do not exceed 1500 words.

Note: Reviewers are not required to complete a Microtheme, but they are expected to read both the assigned text and the text they are reviewing.

When grading these papers, I will be looking for the following:

  • Have you provided an adequate summary of the text and its argument?
  • Do you explain the text's significance, its most important features, and its contributions to a scholarly conversation?
  • Have you explained how this text connects with the texts we're reading for this class?
  • Do you provide evidence for your claims?
  • Have you avoided a discussion of whether or not you disagree with the author? Have you avoided a discussion of flaws or shortcomings in the argument?
  • Have you followed the rules of engagement
  • Is your paper written effectively and coherently with very few grammatical errors?
  • Have you observed the 1500-word limit?

CCC Article Remix

Wikicomp is a project that aims to allow scholars in rhetoric and composition to remix existing articles from College Composition and Communication. It describes its mission in this way:

We all know that composing is a collaborative process. But until very recently, our scholarship has been frozen in fixed products attributed to “authors.” Using Wiki technology, Wiki-Comp aims to make visible the networked realities of writing and knowledge-production, thereby opening new space to imagine and enact composition’s future. By remixing classic articles from “C’s,” and making them freely available to reshape for our current moment, we hope to show how writing and thinking in the field of Composition happens.

In this project, you will work in groups to remix one of two CCC articles:

Trimbur, John. 2000. "Composition and the Circulation of Writing." CCC 52: 188-219.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. 2004. "Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key." CCC 56: 297-328.

In keeping with our method of "drilling down," both of these articles are cited in Shipka's Toward a Composition Made Whole. But in addition to serving as the central text of our final unit, Shipka's book also presents us with a framework for this final assignment. In chapter four, Shipka argues that a "mediated activity-based multimodal framework" presents a unique composition pedagogy that avoids the pitfalls of courses that focus on "the acquisition of discrete skill sets, skill sets that are often and erroneously treated as static and therefore universally acceptable across time and diverse communicative contexts" (86, 83).

When composing, Shipka suggests, students should be afforded the opportunity to determine the product, purpose, processes, materials, and conditions under which their product will be experienced. We will be putting this approach to the test as we remix these CCC articles. These remixes can take any form, as long as they do what Shipka asks. In groups, you will remix the article by determining what you want to create (this may or may not involve text), the purpose of your composition, the processes and procedures you will use, the materials necessary, and the conditions under which you'd like the audience to experience that composition. During the planning stages, you must "come up with at least two ways of addressing or solving the problem" (92).

In addition to creating your remix, I will ask each group to compose what Shipka calls a statement of goals and choices (SOGC). The SOGC should do the following:

  • Address the three sets of questions listed on page 114 of Toward a Composition Made Whole
  • "List all the actors, human, and nonhuman, that played a role in helping [you] accomplish a given task" (114)

The SOGC will count for half of your grade, and there is no minimum or maximum word-length requirement.

When evaluating these projects and their accompanying explanations, I will be looking for the following:

  • Does the project represent careful and detailed engagement with product, purpose, process, materials, conditions?
  • Have you chosen the representational system that best suits what you wanted to accomplish?
  • Does the project demonstrate a rhetorical sensibility that is attuned to rhetorical situation and audience?
  • Does the project demonstrate that all members of the group have worked through a meaningful revision and design process?
  • Does the project build upon, extend, and reimagine the article in a meaningful way?
  • Does your SOGC present a detailed explanation of your goals, choices, and collaborators (human and nonhuman) according to the questions laid out by Shipka?
  • Have you followed the rules of engagement