Rhetoric & Composition I Rotating Header Image

Dialogic Reading Journals

Reading Can be an Act of Composition, Too

This is a reading- and discussion-intensive course; you will keep a weekly reading journal and provide regular reading notes that serve as the basis for our discussions and reflections. Your dialogic-reading journal is meant to encourage you to actively engage in a meaningful conversation with the New York Times and other course readings individually and comparatively.

Your weekly reading-journal entries will be on paper, and handwritten — an organized manila folder works fine, as does a bound journal.

As you make journal entries, you should regularly re-read your previous pages of notes and comments, noting any new connections. Writing is a way to produce or possess new knowledge as you attempt to do interpretative phrasing.

Productive uses of a dialogic reading journal:

  • To reflect honestly on our class discussions
  • To think about what you read in the New York Times and other course readings and how you make sense of it
  • To rethink about what you read
  • To argue back
  • To track your curiosity about issues, ideas, and what’s going on in the world
  • To document your reading processes, especially as we engage some differences between print-and-digital literacy practices

I read, but do not judge or evaluate the notes, tone, questions, or reflections during the course. Your dialogic-reading journal grade is based on your willingness to document your reading notes as we proceed, resulting in a record of your intellectual engagement.

Reading Methods & Strategies

Our reading journals will also help us track and make visible different kinds and methods of reading, which we tend to use depending on the context:

  • Reading for comprehension: do you even understand what we’re reading?
  • “Close” reading: word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, weighing the implications of each, especially taking the time to adjudicate ambiguities.
  • Critical & Rhetorical reading begins with previewing, annotating, summarizing, contextualizing. This method of reading is grounded in critical thinking — your ability and willingness to get some critical distance from the text, leaving your assumptions, biases, assumptions, ideologies, and even prior experiences at the door, which is hard to do, and which takes practice, time, and a commitment to critical thinking.
  1. What questions does the text address, explicitly or implicitly?
  2. Who is the intended audience?
  3. How does the writer support her claims with reasons and evidence?
  4. How does the writer invite the reader’s interest and keep us reading?
  5. How does the writer make himself seem credible to the intended audience?
  6. Are this writer’s basic values, beliefs, and assumptions similar to or different from my own?
  7. How do I respond to this text?
  8. How does this writer’s evident purposes for writing fit with my purposes for reading?
  • Generous reading; charitable reading: pretty much the opposite of critical & rhetorical reading — reading writing as writing; that is, as legitimate text, with the assumption that it does make sense, and carries its own internal logic. Generous reading reveals something about the writer as a person in the world, and something about the process the writer is undergoing. If you can perceive the work and value of generous reading as the ability to hear another person’s voice, then you are successfully in dialogic territory. Related to empathetic reading.
  • Phenomenological reading: the experience & effect of the reading on you that you try to capture and describe in the act of reading. “This made me feel …” … “I felt swept right up in the rhythm of that paragraph …” “I’m confused here. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from this …” “This reminds me of …”. In her article on trying to view and use two art history CDs — “Impossibly distinct: On form/content and word/image in two pieces of computer-based interactive multimedia,” Anne Wysocki notes, “Using what would perhaps best be called a phenomenological approach to describe how I understand and respond to what is on the screens before me, I write about the openings and about the screens designed to help me move through the art of the collections; I am also going to write about the screens that present me biographies of the artists.” She adds in a footnote on that page, “By phenomenological approach, I mean that I am trying to reflect on my experience of moving through these CDs at the same time that I move through them.”
  • Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and one’s self. Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading itself — with a text such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, say. Contrast that with reading to “take away” particular bits of information — with “How to Fill out the FAFSA form,” for example — where the reader is not interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of information.
  • Mindful reading: “describes a particular stance on the part of the reader, one that is characterized by intentional awareness of and attention to the present moment, its context, and one’s perspective” (Carillo, “Creating Mindful Readers”)

To be a mindful reader requires that you remain sensitive and aware to the kinds of reading you try to do and asking yourself, which reading approach will I employ first and why?

  • How far does this reading approach take me?
  • What does this reading approach allow me to notice in the text?
  • What must I ignore?
  • What meanings does this approach allow me to construct and what meanings does it prohibit?