Rhetoric & Composition I: Autumn Quarter 2013 Rotating Header Image

Jimena’s Multimodal Project

New York Times, remixed.
Photo by Sam.

Thanks, Jimena!
Thanks, Sam!

December 4, 2013

Reflecting on non-cognitive attributes …

Remember the story about the student who left her mother’s birthday party on a Sunday afternoon, took a bus and two trains — 90 minutes of travel time each way — to come in for a proofreading session. How would you characterize that attribute?

November 21, 2013

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year: Selfie

Via The Week
Via Oxford Dictionaries

November 20, 2013

Wortham on Facebook

We’ve read Jenna Wortham a few times this term — My Selfie, Myself and last week’s Page A1 article on Snapchat — and today she has an interesting article on Facebook (I was initially drawn to the accompanying illustration):

November 18, 2013

Experimenting with the NYT highlight tag

Instructions for highlighting — scroll down to “Deep-Linking and Highlighting”

November 17, 2013

Concluding thoughts

“One purpose of a liberal arts education is to make your head a more interesting place to live inside of for the rest of your life.” —Mary Patterson McPherson, President, Bryn Mawr College

“I thought that the future was a placelike Paris or the Arctic Circle. The supposition proved to be mistaken. The future turns out to be something that you make instead of find. It isn’t waiting for your arrival, either with an arrest warrant or a band; it doesn’t care how you come dressed or demand to see a ticket of admission. It’s no further away than the next sentence, the next best guess, the next sketch for the painting of a life’s portrait that may or may not become a masterpiece. The future is an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, and if you have the courage of your own thought and your own observation, you can make of it what you will.” —Lewis Lapham 

“It ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at!” —KRS-ONE, Ruminations

“Your love is a delicate flower” — (from the Jon Lovett video that we watched)

November 15, 2013

Word for the day

Get some.

November 14, 2013

Typography & typeface choices

I already raised this in the 1:00 section, and we’ll get to it in the 2:40 section today: typeface choices. 

The size and shape of fonts affects reading and comprehension to a much greater extent than most of us give them credit for — thus making them deeply rhetorical choices. We’ll talk about some of those differences in class and look at examples, including default fonts in your favorite word-processing program and in Digication.


Creating banners for Digication

You can use Pixlr.com to create custom banners:

  • Go to Pixlr.com
  • Open an image from your computer
  • Resize for appropriate Digication dimensions: 779 x 200 pixels
  • Add effects and/or text
  • Save banner to your computer
  • Insert your new banner via Portfolio Settings > Customize
  • Scroll down and Save

November 13, 2013

Brainstorming how to theorize your writing and yourself as a writer

  • Can you perceive of rhetoric as an ongoing negotiation between people, texts, and issues — i.e., as a way of seeing and being in the world? Can you theorize your writing from that perspective? Recall: ethical appeals based on credibility and character; logical appeals based on data and deduction; emotional appeals based on emotions; and “identification” with readers. Are you getting to a place where you can identify those appeals when reading, the writer’s attitude toward the topic, toward you, and why all of this might matter? 
  • Are you a serendipitous reader and thinker, open to discovery and willing to follow where your thinking and learning take you, or are you a hierarchical, confirmation-biased reader and thinker? Can you theorize your writing from that perspective?


How to embed SoundCloud files in Digication

After you have your SoundCloud URL ready:

> Create a new module: Image/Video/Audio
> Select “Replace this Media”
> Select “Media from the Web (new)”
> Paste in Sound Cloud URL
> Publish

These would’ve come out better with a camera phone

But here they are:


November 12, 2013

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
— Arthur Miller

Toward perfection

November 11, 2013


November 8, 2013

From “Logical Coherence” to “Transgressive Freedom”?

Can we apply this to academic discourse, too, and to your own self-sponsored writing?

From Harper’s, October 2013: “Content and Its Discontents.”

Multimodal Letter to the Editor

“… something new in our experience: a 15-foot-long scroll to the editor, below.”

Efferent vs. Aesthetic Reading Practices

This will be helpful as we plan Technology & Literacy Projects, especially for those of you planning to explore the print/digital reading context:

Louise Rosenblatt [110] explains  that readers approach the text — the New York times, let’s say — in ways that can be viewed as aesthetic or efferent. The question is why the reader is reading and what she aims to get out of the reading. Is the text established primarily to help readers gain information with as little reading possible, or is it established in order to create an aesthetic experience? 

  • Efferent reading: reading to “take away” particular bits of information.  Here, the reader is not interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of information.  Rosenblatt suggests that, “the reader’s attention is primarily focused on what will remain as a residue after the reading — the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem, the actions to be carried out.” An example would be a deep sea fishing guide to decide where to go fishing, or a textbook to learn about the economic causes of the Great Depression. 
  • Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and oneself. Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading, itself.  Rosenblatt states, “In aesthetic reading, the reader’s attention is centered directly on what she is living through during her relationship with that particular text.”  An example would be reading Hemingway’s Old Man and The Sea to live through a deep sea fishing adventure, or the Grapes of Wrath to plumb the emotional depths of living through the Great Depression. One would not read the Old Man and The Sea to learn how to deep sea fish, nor the Grapes of Wrath to examine the economic factors that caused the Great Depression.

Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading — and meaning-making? — happens only in the reader’s mind; it does not take place on the page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading. 


November 5, 2013

How’s that for a concluding paragraph?

Kelly’s Op-Ed Essay in The DePaulia

November 4, 2013

Just in time for our Technology & Literacy Projects …

The November issue of Scientific American includes this article: “Why the Brain Prefers Paper.” (If you are logging in from campus, you should be able to access the PDF online by logging in; if not, let me know.)

The entire article is interesting and timely for us. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Some digital innovators are not confining themselves to imitations of paper books. Instead they are evolving screen-based reading into something else entirely. Scrolling may not be the ideal way to navigate a text as long and dense as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN and other media outlets have created beautiful, highly visual articles that could not appear in print because they blend text with movies and embedded sound clips and depend entirely on scrolling to create a cinematic experience. Robin Sloan has pioneered the tap essay, which relies on physical interaction to set the pace and tone, unveiling new words, sentences and images only when someone taps a phone or a tablet’s touch screen. And some writers are pairing up with computer programmers to produce ever more sophisticated interactive fiction and nonfiction in which one’s choices determine what one reads, hears and sees next.

When it comes to intensively reading long pieces of unembellished text, paper and ink may still have the advantage. But plain text is not the only way to read.

November 3, 2013

Depaul’s Definition of literacy

DePaul’s Definition of literacy

“We are helping students become more literate. By literacy, we do not mean merely learning to read and write academic discourse, but also learning ways of reading, writing, thinking, speaking, listening, persuading, informing, acting, and knowing within the contexts of university discourse(s) and the multiple discourses in the world beyond the university.”

This definition might be worth reflecting on at some length before, during, and after your Technology & Literacy Projects.

Can you compose an argument without alphabetic text?

Frank Bruni: “The Tumbling Boundaries of Gay Rights”

It’s complicated

November 2, 2013

Review: some purposes for argument & advocacy

9a Arguing for a purpose — page 186

To win
The most traditional purpose of academic argument, arguing to win, is used in campus debating societies, in political debates, in trials, and often in business. The writer or speaker aims to present a position that prevails over or defeats the positions of others.

To convince and persuade
More often than not, out-and-out defeat of another is not only unrealistic but also undesirable. Rather, the goal is to convince other persons that they should change their minds about an issue.

To reach a decision or explore an issue
Often, a writer must enter into conversation with others and collaborate in seeking the best possible understanding of a problem, exploring all possible approaches and choosing the best alternative.

To change yourself
Sometimes you will find yourself arguing primarily with yourself, and those arguments often take the form of intense meditations on a theme, or even of prayer. In such cases, you may be hoping to transform something in yourself or to reach peace of mind on a troubling subject.

  • What is the purpose of your argument—to convince others? to make a good decision? to change yourself? (9a)
  • Is the point you want to make arguable? (9b)
  • Have you formulated a clear claim and given good reasons for it? (9c and d)
  • Have you formulated a strong working thesis, and have you qualified it sufficiently? (9c)
  • How have you established your own credibility in the argument? (9e)
  • Have you considered, and addressed, counterarguments? (9e3)
  • How have you incorporated logical appeals into your argument? (9f)
  • How have you used emotional appeals in your argument? (9g)
  • [WRD104] How have you used sources in your argument, and how effectively are they integrated into your argument? (9h)
  • Is your argument clearly organized? (9i)
  • What design elements have you considered in composing your argument? How effective is your design? (9j)
November 1, 2013

October 31, 2013

It kind of does look like that …

Proofreading: commas

Looking for examples in the NYT

Commas in a non-restrictive clause (St. Martin’s 44c):

  • “Groups like Teach for China, which hosted the Teach for All network at village schools here, are too new to determine whether they can make a difference in helping their lowest-performing schools succeed.” (Friedman, 10/30)
  • “But this year, even before Halloween, more women seem to be finding ways to wear Gothic-influenced makeup: a look of dark lips and pale skin that has been seen on recent runways including Badgley Mischka, Yohji Yamamoto, and Louis Vuitton.” (Syme 10/29)
  • “The social network, which has been built around 140-character snippets of text since its founding in 2006, has added photo and video previews to the feed of items that users see when they log onto the service from the Web or mobile applications.” (Goel 10/29)

Commas after introductory elements (44a):

  • Over all, Black Flag’s Caribbean archipelago is a nice place to be, if you don’t mind the killing.” (Totilo 10/29)
  • To put it to the test, I set out in my rental car Sunday, the day of Game 4 of the World Series, between the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox, and headed south, the radio tuned to 1120 AM, to see if I could I outdrive the signal before the end of the game.” (Waldstein 10/29 — five commas)

“The Most Comma Mistakes” — NYT

October 30, 2013

“Particularly intriguing is that when the algorithm fails …”

October 29, 2013

Is it possible to remix the New York Times?

Banksy’s Op-Ed:

Banksy in NY.
Background on the “rejected” Op-Ed.


October 28, 2013

The purpose of art?

October 26, 2013

“Biography of an idea”

“Well, sometimes I use my inexperience or lack of knowledge as the drama of the essay. The essay becomes a kind of biography of an idea — how it reveals itself and comes to a fullness. The essay can begin with inexperience, and as it teaches the reader, so also it teaches the writer. There’s something very exciting about that kind of progress.”

— From an interview with Richard Rodriquez

The quote made me think about some of your exploratory essays, where some of you are starting from scratch, and where the reader is learning along with you. 

Rodriquez was one of my favorite writers in college:

— Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
— Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father
— Brown: The Last Discovery of America
— Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography


October 25, 2013

Our word for today: synthesis

From a profile of Heidi Nelson Cruz in the New York Times:

By the time she arrived at Claremont McKenna College, friends and professors knew her as a whip-smart economics and international relations double-major who would graduate Phi Beta Kappa and a driven and ambitious young woman who was already planning a professional career.

In Mr. Cruz, friends and colleagues say, she finally met not just her match, but also her intellectual equal.

“Heidi is a synthesizer, whereas Ted tends to blow ahead on one line of reasoning,” said Lawrence B. Lindsey, the chief economic adviser on Mr. Bush’s 2000 campaign. Mrs. Cruz pulled together “different points of view,” he said, and Mr. Cruz is “more of a hard-charger on one point of view.”

From the OED:

Sense 6. a. In wider philosophical use and generally: The putting together of parts or elements so as to make up a complex whole; the combination of immaterial or abstract things, or of elements into an ideal or abstract whole. (Opposed to analysis.) Also, the state of being put so together.

From your St. Martin’s Guide:

When you read and interpret a source—for example, when you consider its purpose and relevance, its author’s credentials,its accuracy, and the kind of argument it is making—you are analyzing the source. Analysis requires you to take apart something complex (such as an article in a scholarly journal) and look closely at the parts to understand the whole better.

For academic writing you also need to synthesize—group similar pieces of information together and look for patterns—so you can put your sources (and your own knowledge and experience) together in an original argument. Synthesis is the flip side of analysis: you already understand the parts, so your job is to assemble them into a new whole. [see 3.12e — Synthesizing sources — for examples.]


October 23, 2013

Reading assignments: verbs

  • Compare two book-length studies of Malcolm X
  • Discuss the controversies surrounding the use of genetic engineering to change characteristics of unborn children
  • Analyze the use of headlines in a group of twenty advertisements
  • Describe a favorite spot in your hometown
  • Explain the concept of virtual reality
  • Synthesize three essays by David Brooks
  • Argue for or against immigration reform
  • Interpret Walt Whitman’s “This is what you shall do”
  • Reflect on your writing process
October 22, 2013


From previous classes.


Sunday Review: “Why We Make Bad Decisions”

Illustration by Wendy McNaughton

October 21, 2013

My Selfie, Myself

“There is a primal human urge to stand outside of ourselves and look at ourselves …”

NYT/“My Selfie, Myself”

October 20, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

The newspaper is itself an outlandish creation: a smudgy, portable, disposable offline data platform made of tree pulp, mass-produced every day on huge printers and trucked for a fee to your home, or sold from the sidewalk. Newspapers are not the societal bulwark they once were; their authority is challenged and ubiquity is slipping. But artists who use and love newspapers do so for good reason.

They are fountains of words, meaning, preliminary history. They are ready-made targets for irony, allusion and commentary, ripe for riffing and manipulation. They are beautiful in themselves, bursting with aesthetic riches — photographic and commercial art, comics, op-ed illustrations. They are also abundant, cheap and rectangular. And you can dip them in strips into flour and water and make beautiful things.

Their place in art, as art, is honored and unshakable, which is reason enough to curse the glowing screens that are relentlessly shoving them aside.

NYT/“The Writing on the Wall”


Click for a larger view.

October 18, 2013

The view from here.

It’s like working in an Apple store.

Context for “College’s Identity Crisis”

Three essays by David Brooks:
“One senior told me she had subscribed to The New York Times once, but the papers had just piled up unread in her dorm room. ‘It’s a basic question of hours in the day,’ a student journalist told me. ‘People are too busy to get involved in larger issues. When I think of all that I have to keep up with, I’m relieved there are no bigger compelling causes.’” 

image title

“In what I think is an especially trenchant observation, Buhler suggests that these disillusioning events have led to a different epistemological framework. ‘We are deeply resistant to idealism. Rather, the Cynic Kids have embraced the policy revolution; they require hypothesis to be tested, substantiated, and then results replicated before they commit to any course of action.’”
“Started at the Bottom” (May 2013) Brooks mentions a DePaul student in this one:
“Most of the students had some trouble gelling with the whiter, richer student body in college and hung out mostly with fellow Hispanics. ‘We love our culture,’ said Reuben. ‘That’s what makes our group stronger and bonds us together.’ Now they seem to flow fluidly across cultural lines.”
“They seemed both hardy and a bit naïve, made more resilient by reality but not jaded by it. Their conversational styles were enthusiastic, grateful, direct and earnest. They seemed to us unself-conscious about how they present themselves — unironic, matter of fact, sincere and un-meta — not tripping in loops of self-awareness. They also have a less methodical sense of the exact steps you have to take to make it in the world.” 


And for those of you writing on “What is the Purpose of College?”
— Brooks again: “The Practical University”
— Tugend: “Vocation or Exploration? Pondering the Purpose of College”

October 16, 2013

Can we use first-person pronouns in our writing? Yes.

It seems to me that if it was good enough for Watson & Crick — they discovered the molecular structure of DNA, the Double Helix — it’s good enough for you:

Watson, J. D., & Crick, F. H. C. (1953) A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). Nature 171, 737–738.

October 15, 2013

What lessons do we learn from Anne Frank?

“What we don’t learn from the diary is what happened after the last entry, on Aug. 1, 1944.”

Playing Cat and Mouse With Searing History


Rhetoric and identification

Something to consider as we think about our Op-Ed essays this week:

“A speaker persuades an audience by the use of stylistic identifications; the act of persuasion may be for the purpose of causing the audience to identify itself with the speaker’s interests; and the speaker draws on identification of interests to establish rapport between herself or himself and the audience.” — Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives.

Identification, Burke reminds us, occurs when people share some principle in common — that is, when they establish common ground. Persuasion should not begin with absolute confrontation and separation but with the establishment of common ground, from which differences can be worked out. Imagining common ground is the point of our work in stasis.


October 14, 2013

Sunday Review, p12

October 13, 2013

Sunday Business Section, p1

They don’t have to be perfect.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.” — Anne Lamott, “Shitty First Drafts” 

October 10, 2013

Stop arguing

Should I?

October 9, 2013

Like an impression …