Archive for the ‘Genre’ Category

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Multimodal Mondays: Using Listicles to Help Students Engage with Sources

posted: 5.18.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Caitlin L. Kelly, a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she teaches multimodal composition courses using 18th– and 19th-century British literature and serves as a Professional Tutor in the Communication Center. Alongside work on the intersection of religion and genre in British literature of the Long Eighteenth Century, she is also interested in exploring applications of a multimodal approach to composition to traditional literature pedagogy.

One of the most difficult assignments to teach is the one at the heart of most college composition courses: the research project. Taking students from brainstorming a topic to a polished argument over the course of a semester is daunting; in the composition classroom, we are tasked with teaching—under very inorganic circumstances—a research process that should evolve organically. And one of the most challenging parts of that process for many students is learning how to engage with sources once they have found them. This is where the listicle comes into play in my courses. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Assignment Idea, Digital Writing, Genre, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays, Peer Review, Teaching with Technology, Uncategorized, Visual Rhetoric
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Star Wars Forever

posted: 4.30.15 by Jack Solomon

In my last blog post I wrote about Mad Men, a pop cultural sensation that is now winding down.  This time I want to reflect a bit on the Star Wars franchise, a pop culture phenomenon for which the word “sensation” is wholly inadequate, and which, far from winding down, is instead winding up in preparation for the release of its seventh installment (The Force Awakens), with at least two more “episodes” in the works. [read more]

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Categories: Genre, Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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The Movie Review as a Claim-of-Value Essay

posted: 2.13.15 by Donna Winchell

Because my son Jonathan is a film scholar, I am probably even more aware than most that this is awards season. The Academy Awards ceremony each year is for our household what the Super Bowl is for others. Jonathan recently posted on Facebook that in his lifetime he has seen 2,502 movies. The fact that he knows that speaks volumes about his obsession, along with the fact that he was watching classic silent movies before he could read the subtitles. I came naturally to use the movie review as a means of teaching the claim of value, but my approach can be adapted to other types of evaluative writing as well.  [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Donna Winchell, Genre, Popular Culture, Rhetorical Situation
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Communicating to Non-Literate Audiences with Comics

posted: 2.2.15 by Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander

In the United States comics generally appeal to those who already know how to read and write, but in other contexts sequences of images with relatable characters and stories convey important information to the illiterate about how to avoid danger or pursue opportunities.

For example, Mudita Tiwari and Deepti KC of India’s Institute for Financial Management and Research are distributing comic books about financial literacy in the slum of Dharavi in Mumbai to discourage women from relying on vulnerable hiding places in their homes to squirrel away cash. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Audience, Elizabeth Losh, Genre, Purpose, Rhetorical Situation, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Online Genres

posted: 3.21.11 by archived

I just gave a talk about rhetoric for a group of prospective university students. The students, with their parents, were visiting my school on their spring break and attending “mock lectures,” one of which was mine. Wow, did I feel sorry for these kids: not only were they forced to spend their spring break listening to lectures, they were accompanied by their over-enthusiastic parents. While in the adults’ eyes was a look that said, “this is fun!,”  the students looked either deeply embarrassed or deeply asleep.

The talk was an effort to look at conversations that happened in Athens 2,500 years ago, and then casually relate them to modern culture, especially to social media. I’m not sure I did such a great job with the talk, but in preparing the lecture, I did come upon some interesting points. I’ll share them here, where I have a slightly less divided audience!

In the talk, I discussed Aristotle’s three basic genres for rhetoric: deliberative, forensic, and epideictic. Deliberative speeches try to convince people to take actions; forensic speeches examine what has happened in a given situation, and are a lot like legal proceedings today; and epideictic speeches assign praise or blame.

I then suggested we use Facebook as an example. Deliberative rhetoric tries to convince people to take actions: we post on Facebook to get people to vote on American Idol, or to tell people to go and see a movie or download an album. Forensic speeches examine what has happened in a given situation: there are a million such posts about Charlie Sheen—is he scary and off-the-handle, or is he secretly genius? Epideictic speeches assign praise or blame: today, we have the “Like” button to help us with this. If I had been given the time, I would have loved to have asked students to categorize their own writing on Facebook according to these three categories. [read more]

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Categories: Genre, Jay Dolmage, Rhetorical Situation
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Highlights: “Mistakes are a Fact of Life”

posted: 10.13.10 by Nedra Reynolds

It’s already October, and work continues on the seventh edition of the Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing. Jay Dolmage and I have learned so much from reading the books and articles suggested by the consultants!

With more articles and books coming out each month, you might be wondering what will give you the most insight into the current state of the field, or to choose for your limited reading time. The Bedford Bibliography serves exactly this function. It offers a concise summary of each article or book—without judgment or evaluation.

However, having written so many summaries lately, I wanted a chance to state my opinion, to read an article and say “hey, I just really like this one!”  So, if you’re interested in the everyday work of teaching writing, I’d recommend Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford’s, “Mistakes are a Fact of Life: A National Comparative Study” (CCC June 2008) [PDF]. [read more]

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Categories: Genre, Handbooks, Teaching with Technology
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Helen Vendler: Close Reader In Action

posted: 9.28.09 by archived

by Andrew Flynn

Helen Vendler is famous for reading poems closely. Her skills are certainly on display in this discussion with master interviewer Christopher Lydon a couple of years ago. It appeared on his Internet radio show Open Source.

Vendler talks about her then-new book on W. B. Yeats, Our Secret Discipline, offering thought-provoking analysis of a number of poems, including the famous “An Irish Airman Forsees His Death”:

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My county is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

Vendler makes many illuminating observations (the discussion of the poem begins at minute 5:12)—about the poem’s history, its form, and its content—but I was particularly struck by her analysis of time and place. Vendler notes:

The thing that Yeats does that to me is astonishing in this poem is that he makes the airplane take off. When the Irish airman begins speaking, he’s on the ground, saying “I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above”—so he’s looking up to the clouds in the sky, the clouds are above. Later, he says, “A lonely impulse of delight/ Drove to this tumult in the clouds”—this tumult that he is now experiencing in the clouds, where he is surrounded by the clouds and is up in the air. And, somehow between line two and line twelve the plane has gone up into the air and he is speaking from the air, where he began speaking from the ground. And that seems to me one of the sort of amazing things Yeats could do in a poem, without telegraphing it, without saying, “First I will show him speaking on the ground, then I will show him aloft in his plane.” He doesn’t say a word. He just makes it happen. It’s all show and no tell with Yeats.

I’d read this poem a dozen or so times before, but I’d never noticed this major shift in time and place. Her analysis makes for fresh reading of this well-read poem, though I’m still trying to figure out what happens between lines two and twelve.

The quality of Vendler’s reading is that it reveals both subtleties that benefit academic debates on interpretation and also make the act of reading more pleasurable.

In her Poems, Poets, Poetry text, Vendler includes “An Irish Airman Forsees His Death” in chapter 6 on “Constructing a Self.” The chapter focuses on space and time, testimony, typicality, and motivations—considerations that help readers understand how poets create their speakers. Vendler advises:

As you read a poem, ask yourself question about the speaker constructed within the poem. Where is he or she in time and space? Over how long a period? With what motivations? How typical? Speaking in what tones of voice? Imagining life how? Resembling the author or different from the author? The more you can deduce about the speaker, the better you understand the poem. If you think about what has been happening to the speaker before the poem begins (if that is implied by the poem), you will understand the speaker better.

Helpful advice—and the entire Open Source interview with Christopher Lydon is well worth a listen.

Take a favorite poem that you think you know well. Then consider Vendler’s advice quoted above. How do these considerations about the poem’s speaker change the way you read? How does it change your understanding of the poem’s meaning?


Andrew Flynn is an editorial assistant at Bedford/St. Martin’s. He graduated from Columbia in 2008, with a BA in history and philosophy. Before coming to Bedford he interned at the Paris Review.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Critical Reading, Discussion, Genre, Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature
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Rebutter in Chief

posted: 8.12.09 by Nick Carbone

This post by Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly blog features excerpts from a New Hampshire Town Hall conducted by President Obama.

It occurs to me, on reading Benen’s summary and having listened to some of Obama’s press conferences and speeches, that Obama’s legal training combined with his writing ability make him a master of rebutting the critiques of his policies and positions through explicit counter-arguments, no matter–in the case of the illogical and demagogic claim that the health plan under debate in Congress calls for “death camps”–how disingenuous and dishonest the criticism is.

Compare, for example, Obama’s response to the “death panel” claim to one of the most prominent assertions of that claim, Sarah Palin’s.

Palin wrote in Facebook:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.

What is the logic of her paragraph? What is the train of thought? Can it be mapped by students? Are her claims fair? Is there a “death panel” clause in any of the proposed bills now in Congress?

What is the purpose of the final two sentences? They are statements no one will disagree with; is she using them to assert that the plans in Congress don’t care about dignity?

With those questions in mind, now look at Obama’s explicit rebuttal of this argument as represented by Palin. Obama said in New Hampshire:

“The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for ‘death panels’ that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we’ve decided that we don’t — it’s too expensive to let her live anymore. And there are various — there are some variations on this theme. It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready, on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything. This is I guess where the rumor came from.”The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican — then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia — who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people’s options. And somehow it’s gotten spun into this idea of ‘death panels.’ I am not in favor of that. So just I want to clear the air here.”

Obama first categorically rejects the charge that he wants “death panels,” and then looks to the bill in question, to the item in the bill his opponents have distorted, and explains its origins.

How does the use of logic and evidence in the two arguments compare? Which statement is more factually accurate?

Questions such as these make the current debate on health care in our country a useful one for studying and analyzing argument and rhetoric. It might also lead to a good discussion of civil discourse and how to tell it from inflammatory discourse and violent discourse.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Genre, Popular Culture, Rhetorical Situation
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The Shape of the Thing

posted: 6.6.07 by Barclay Barrios

The one is coming straight from the trenches, Bitsters!

This summer I’m teaching a grad class on Monday and Wednesday evenings, which means I have class tonight, which means I am thinking about what the heck I’ll be doing. The first thing I learned when teaching grad students is that in many ways they’re just like students in my FYC classes: they too are learning new ways of writing, they too are encountering new kinds of difficult readings, and they too don’t always do their homework. What that means for me is that all the tools I use in FYC I use in my grad classes and when I find a new tool in my graduate teaching, I get to put it in my big ol’ pedgaogical toolbag.

The new tool, in this case, is the shape of the thing.

The course I’m teaching right now is titled Principles and Problems of Literary Study, “P&P” for short. It’s a basic introduction to graduate research and writing, which makes it all the more like FYC. Tonight we’ll be looking at some standard academic genres: the proposal/abstract, the conference paper, and the seminar paper/proto-article. I was hoping to find some way for the students to get a general feel for the shape of these rhetorical forms, a sense of what they look like. I have samples of each for us to read, but I already stressed that our goal is not to read them for content but for form (aye, a sticky wicket there I know).

I’ve decided that tonight I’m going to adapt an exercise I’ve used to great success in FYC. That exercise is drawing an author’s argument and if it’s not somewhere up here in Bits-land it will be soon enough. But so far I’ve only used it to have students draw the content of an essay. Tonight I will ask them to draw the form by asking them, in small groups (which, thankfully, work as well with grad students as any students), to draw the shape of each of the genres. Then each group will put these on the board for discussion.

WARNING! This is an as-yet-untested, available only in beta version tip. But I have a hunch it will work. Here’s why. First, I find that all students respond well to anything that smacks of arts and crafts. I think it taps into some deep near-genetic memory of early schooling, when they could put the books away and have fun with macaroni, glitter, and glue. Second, I like switching registers–from the written to the visual–because it offers literally a new perspective on the object of study. Third, in getting them to focus on shape I’m hoping to get them away from the specific arguments of the samples papers we’re reading.

If this works tonight (and I will let y’all know how it goes) then I’ll bring it into my FYC classroom too. I can imagine asking students to draw an outline, draw a paper, draw the shape of the essay and not just its argument. Hmmmm…. possibilities. Me likes possibilities…

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Genre, Learning Styles, Teaching Advice, Visual Rhetoric
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