Rhetoric, identity, and presentation in the first year

Adam Webb
Department of Rhetoric & Writing Studies
Before I begin, I would like for us to answer these two
questions below:
 What is writing?
 What is research?
During the course of the presentation, let us see if our
answers, responses, and concerns can provide a
framework for future discussion…
I am actually proposing a new approach for
composition and writing instructors that involves the
teaching of primary research techniques, centered in a
community-based and career/professional framework
of writing activities and assignments. My argument is
centered in the idea that writing is a social and
collaborative act. By participating in a “culture of
writing,” where writing is viewed as a situated and dynamic
activity, students create discourse and are also created by
that discourse.
Four factors to consider…
 A focus on primary research strategies (rhetorically
 An emphasis on teaching more of a social sciences
and hard sciences approach to research and writing
(discourse identity)
 Writing as a “performing” act (“knowledge
 Writing and technology (social networks)
Rhetoric(s) is (are)…
 Persuasion?
 Flattery?
 Art?
 Craft?
 Skill?
 Style?
 Strategically, situated discourse? (George E.
Marcus, 1995, ethnography; Helen Foster, 2009,
rhetoric and writing studies)
“In short, rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application
of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality
through the mediation of thought and action” (Lloyd F. Bitzer, 1968, p. 4)
“The study of how people use language and other symbols to realize
human goals and carry out human activities . . . ultimately a practical study
offering people great control over their symbolic activity” (Charles
Bazerman, 1988, p. 6)
“...rhetoric is the process of using language to organize experience and
communicate it to others. It is also the study of how people use language
to organize and communicate experience. The word denotes…both
distinctive human activity and the ‘science’ concerned with understanding
that activity” (C. H. Knoblauch, 1985, p. 29)
 Individually constructed?
 Socially constructed?
 Digital/Virtual persona?
 What goes into an “identity?”
“Academic writing, like all forms of communication, is an act of identity:
it not only conveys disciplinary ‘content’ but also carries a
representation of the writer” (Ken Hyland, 2002, p. 1092)
“[Roz] Ivanic admits that identity can be seen as ‘the outcome of
previous experiences’ or as the way individuals ‘position themselves in
an act of (discourse),’ she argues that ‘there can be no evidence for
(the former) other than (the latter)’” (Julia Menard-Warwick, 2005, p.
264 after Ivanic, 1998, p. 105)
 Of knowledge?
 Of information?
 Of images?
 Of texts?
 Of self?
Peter Storkerson’s (2003) model of “Knowledge Presentation:”
Model retrieved from Google Images, 2010.
Rhetoric, identity, and presentation…
 Rhetorics – Plural, challenges the Western idea of how to
form and structure an “argument” … definitely challenges
the notion of what “academic writing” is and methods of
 Identity as fluid and multiple-disciplinary, extends beyond
the classroom and the academy
 Presentation of knowledge – Students as “knowledge-
makers” is central to their forming and using language in
making arguments and in their writing (Deans, 2006,
preface, xxi)
Suggestions, research needed…
 Look at writing and research taught outside of the English
Department (i.e. Possibly have rhetoric and writing majors
“train” in how to teach writing and research from a multidisciplinary perspective)
 Examine writing and research activities and assignments
taught from a multi-disciplinary perspective (i.e. how primary
and secondary research methods are taught, what activity and
assignment sequences are used, etc.)
 Examine writing and research activities and assignments
taught from a multi-disciplinary perspective (i.e. how primary
and secondary research methods are taught, what activity and
assignment sequences are used, etc.)
Suggestions, instructors needed…
 Encourage more collaboration and involvement from
individuals from other disciplines to inform and influence
the way in which writing and research is taught (i.e. offer
interdisciplinary workshops)
 Train composition and writing instructors how to do their
own “in-class” (action) research (i.e. Anne Ruggles Gere,
1985, “Empirical Research in Composition,” pp.110-24)
 Allow/incorporate individuals outside of English Studies
to teach writing and research in the First-Year Program
(i.e. Composition, technical writing, advanced
composition, etc.)
Suggestions, pedagogy needed…
 Look at designing and developing more interactive writing and
research activities and assignments (i.e. “multi-layered” writing
assignments that require students to shift modes of research and
writing strategies within the same assignment)
 Incorporation of more writing and research activities and
assignments that focus on the students’ careers or future professions
(i.e. various kinds of disciplinary writing and research strategies,
reflective writing assignments)
 Increased use of technology (i.e. computers, but also the use of
other technological devices and programs) in the teaching of
research and writing
 Incorporation of service-learning projects into the curriculum (i.e.
hands-on approach, applying what the students are learning in the
classroom to real life)
Final suggestion, future needed…
 Develop “writing and research” courses outside of
the First-Year Program as an option for students (i.e.
a true “writing-in-the-sciences research and writing
course” … develop new courses centered around
research and writing)
Factors for consideration
 Primary and secondary research strategies
 Social sciences and hard sciences approach to
research and writing
 Writing as a “performing” act
 Use of online programs (social networks)
Thank you!

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