Sunday, December 31, 2006

Composition IS or could be Rhetoric

Responding to Sharon Crowley's article "Composition is not Rhetoric" from Enculturation 5.1 (Fall 2005), where she argues that most composition classes - especially first year composition classes - are not rhetoric because the students write personal essays, I would like to argue that at Oregon State our WR 121 is indeed rhetoric because we do what she requires:

Any theoretical discourse that is entitled to be called "rhetoric" must at minimum conceive of rhetoric as an art of invention, that is, it must give a central place to the systematic discovery and investigation of the available arguments in a given situation. Furthermore, it must conceive of the arguments generated by rhetorical invention as both produced and ciruclated within a network of social and civic ddiscourse, images, and eents.. As ancient rhetors such as Gorgias and Cicero argued in theory and personifice in practice, any practice entitled to be called "rhetoric" must intervene in some way in social and civic discursive networks.

I would agree with Crowley and argue that the way we teach "entering the conversation" - teaching students how to locate the various stakeholders in an issues - the WHO cares - and finding where these people are discussing the issues (their discourse communities - whether Wall Street Journal or Ladies Home Journal - does help students intervene in a social network.

This is carried out further in my WR 222 course. Social and civic discourse communities are exactly where I want my students to intervene.


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