WRD 103: Composition & Rhetoric I: Winter Quarter 2014 Rotating Header Image

11:20 Section Rhetorical Analysis & Conclusions

I Write, Therefore I Am:
A Rhetorical Analysis of David Brooks’s “Engaged or Detached?”

In the New York Times article, “Engaged or Detached?” David Brooks claims that writers need to maintain a detached perspective in order to honestly inform their readers. Brooks defines the differences between a detached writer and an engaged writer as the difference between truth seeking and activism. The goals of an engaged writer are to have a limited “immediate political influence” while detached writers have more realistic goals, aiming to provide a more objective view.

In order to support his claims Brooks uses a variety of rhetorical strategies. For example, he measures the detached writing method against the engaged writing method. Brooks lays out the detached writer’s motivations as the desire to teach or seek out the truth. He then goes on to describe the specific motivations of the engaged writer: energizing the political base, and mobilizing – rather than persuading — the audience that already allies with his ideology.

Brooks’s articles also depends on rhetorical strategies of pathos and logos. The diction triggers emotions while he predominantly employs his logic and reasons to convince his audience. For example, “at his worst, the engaged writer slips into rabid extremism and simple minded brutalism. At her worst, the detached writer slips into a sanguine, pox-on-all-your-houses complacency and an unearned sense of superiority.” His use of “brutalism, extremism, and superiority” evokes an emotional response due to their negative connotation.

Brooks’s own ethos is revealed by writing this article as a detached writer. He encourages writers to stray away from an engaged perspective in order to maintain mental hygiene which is being honest with oneself. “Detached writers generally understand that they are not going to succeed in telling people what to think.” His argument is one for the case of curiosity and humility.

Brooks suggests the style you write can “end up dictating our morals” therefore you are what you write.


Remember that a good conclusion  [1] leaves the reader with a clearer sense of “so what?” — why is this article important? why should we care? — or [2] it raises new questions and issues for the reader to consider, or [3] it provides a rhetorical “call to action”: what should the reader do with this information?

Philip: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers who are assigned to read Brooks and the New York Times? His article is timely in that we are in a oversaturated information age. But how we define information presented is as divisive as the difference between engaged and detached writing. While the New York Times represents a detached ethos for writing, both at it’s best and worst, the media, whether it be print or broadcast, has taken the route of the engaged sensibility, for the most part.  Journalism, like politics, has become a team sport.  Truth comes at a premium, and it is in danger of becoming a luxury rather than a right.  By Brooks’s account, we owe it to ourselves to seek out the truth.

Kaila: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? As young college students, we are in the process of finding ourselves. By reading Brooks article and understanding that writing can dictate your morals ia a good way for a young student to understand who they are. Brooks article goes so much deeper than just styles of writing. It helps find identity. Identity is something that many young college students long for and are in search of when they leave their parents and what is familiar to them for the first time. By reading Brooks article, student can find what their morals are through their writing. Brooks’ article helps students to unleash their idenity and become independent.

Jeremy: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? It means how you present yourself, as a person is how you should present yourself as a writer. Detached writers look at every angle of things and take into account others opinions, being more considerate to others not only in writing but also in life.  Engaged writers are always right and it’s either there way or the highway. They don’t respect others opinions thus don’t respect them as people. Writing is just your thoughts on paper and the way you do it shows everything about you. How do you want to be thought of?

Moriah: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? Brooks’s influence on a class of college writers speaks to his methods more efficiently. He targets a younger audience in order to avoid “life experiences” that cloud judgment and hopes to influence college students to seek out a more honest method of writing rather than simply writing what is expected of them. By becoming a more detached writer, college students have the ability to maintain a life style that is honest and true in relation to this new method of writing. For this reason, the means by which you write effects the type of person that you not only currently are but also who you will become.

Kathryn N.: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? Brooks suggests the style you write can “end up dictating our morals” therefore you are what you write. This article is intended for writers of all ages, as it causes people to question their own rhetoric as a writer; however I believe Brooks’s article is directed predominantly towards college students. College is a time when people figure out who they are, what they want to do with their life, and also a time to test their moral foundation. If they come to college without a solid foundation then it is a time for them to develop a moral compass through college experiences and interactions with people. College students are therefore more vulnerable to becoming an engaged writer. All of these elements impact them as a writer and as a person. Writing and rhetorical analysis are fundamental to any class a college student takes, they are unable to escape it. They are confronted with the realization of whether they want to be a detached writer who seeks the truth or merely an engaged writer who agrees with the status quo. Most college students are engaged writers. They write in a manner that is safe, easy, and attainable. However, Brooks is urging college students to stop this habit of engaged writing now while they can and become a detached writer. By being a detached writer, your writing will personify you as someone who is honest and thoughtful rather than insincere and lazy. 

Cristina: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers who are assigned to read Brooks and the New York Times? College writers who are assigned to read Brooks and the New York Times unconsciously gain perspective of their surroundings and of themselves as well. Brooks is a very realistic and straightforward writer. After reading some of his articles, I personally took a step back and analyzed myself as a writer and as a person. I realized that as a native spanish speaker, there’s a reason as to why I write papers the way I write them. I’ve learned how this may impede my abilities to express myself through writing

College is most often described as the place where students “flourish” and find themselves.The NYT and David Brooks offer the door that opens the opportunities to flourish and find oneself.  Brook discusses engaged and detached writing as well as practical knowledge vs technical knowledge. As a writer himself, he provides the pros and cons of these writing styles but leans more towards being a detached writer, which involves being realistic, open-minded, honest, and a teacher rather than a mobilizer. Because our writing defines the type of person we are or want to become, it is important for us college students to strive to be the smart, realistic and open-minded people we are meant to be.

Kathryn S.: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? This article is extremely important for college students to read and understand.  College is the time for a student to figure out who she is and what she wants to do for the rest of her life.  The expectations and learning from parents, friends, professors, and the information students have access to forms the person she will become.  The information-packed essays students read mold them into believing that engaged writing is the “professional” and knowledgeable way they should write.  College students are and will be the future; we don’t want the future to be only engaged writers.  The world needs more teaching and honesty, not fighting and brutalism. 

Alex Z.:   What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? As a college writer, I am leaning towards identifying myself as a detached writer. I believe I tend to strive towards more realistic goals and writing honesty. I do not write trying to energize the political base, because I am not even sure what that means. Being assigned to read Brooks and the New York Times in class, I think it is important to value detached writing over engaged writing because detached writing cuts out the bullshit and cuts straight to the point.  

Brian Z.: What can all of this mean to a class of college writers? Brooks suggests the style you write can “end up dictating our morals” therefore you are what you write.  This article suggests that there are many different types of writing with their advantages and disadvantages.  Both styles are able to persuade and execute main ideas and arguments which to many college students and young professionals is nessisary. This article can help identify their own style of writing and encourage them to be aware of how they can be effective writers.