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Congratulations Christopher (9:40 section) and Ana (1:00 section) !

Christopher in Sunday’s New York Times:

Sunday NYT: Debates on Campus: Readers discuss the controversies over free speech and safe spaces on college campuses.

Ana in Monday’s paper:

Monday NYT Letters to the Editor

November 23, 2015

For Katnissologists (Katnissology?): Hunger Games research

Initial NYT review (2012) — Tested by a Picturesque Dystopia: The Hunger Games,’ Based on the Suzanne Collins Novel:

“It may be that Mr. Ross is too nice a guy for a hard case like Katniss. A brilliant, possibly historic creation — stripped of sentimentality and psychosexual ornamentation, armed with Diana’s bow and a ferocious will — Katniss is a new female warrior …”

2014: Thai Protesters Are Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute

2015‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,’ Katniss’s Final Battle

“Intentional or not, their casting ensured that in the movies, just as in the books, Katniss was never going to be upstaged by a love interest. “The Hunger Games” may have shocked readers and viewers with its child-on-child violence, but even more startling and certainly far more pleasurable has been the girl-woman at its center who can lead troops like a reborn Joan of Arc, yet find time to nuzzle the downy lips of her male comrades before returning to battle. Her desire is as fluid as her gender, whether she’s slipping into froufrou, shooting down enemy aircraft, kissing a boy or taking a punch. Unlike a lot of screen heroines, she has never settled into stereotype, which, despite the whole dystopian thing, makes her a lot like the contemporary girls and women watching her.”

“That has helped make Katniss the right heroine for these neo-feminist times, the you-go-and-fight girl who has led the empowerment charge at the box office and in the public imagination, often while slinging a bow and arrow borrowed from Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. It wasn’t long before Katniss was making more like a latter-day Athena, the Greek goddess of war, even as this very human girl-woman was also suggesting a vibrant new take on the American Adam.”

“The films of a nation reflect its mentality in a more direct way than other artistic media.”
— Siegfried Kracauer, “From Caligari to Hitler.” (quoted in the NYT: No Season for Loners: People (and Penguins) Stick Together in Films)

“I’m actually part of this weird wolf pack.”
— Stu Price, “The Hangover Part II.”

After our Hunger Games discussion last week, I looked to see if I could find any scholarly film criticism on our questions and found this:

The Hunger Games is about the first stirrings of revolutionary consciousness, but its relationship to capitalism is less clear than it might initially appear. Does the Capitol double for capital, or is the form of exploitation in The Hunger Games of a cruder type? Although the Capitol looks at first sight like a metropolitan capitalist society, the mode of power at work in Panem is better described as cyber-feudal. 

Market signifiers are, after all, strangely absent from the Capitol. Commodities are ubiquitous, but there are no corporate logos, shops, or brand names in the city. So far as we can see, the state, under the beady gaze of President Snow, seems to own everything. It exerts its power directly, via an authoritarian police force of white-uniformed Peacekeepers which inflicts punishment summarily, and symbolically, through the Hunger Games and other rituals in which the districts are required to demonstrate their subordination. In District 12, meanwhile, there is a black market, but little indication of legitimate commercial activity. We know that Peeta works in his parents’ bakery, but the overwhelming impression of District 12 is of a society bent double by manual labor, in which shopping is by no means a leisure activity. 

Fisher, Mark.”Precarious Dystopias: The Hunger Games, in Time , and Never Let Me Go.” Film Quarterly. 65 (2012): 27-33. [DePaul Library link]

November 22, 2015

Congratulations, Samantha (9:40 section)!

Samantha’s Letter to the Editor

November 19, 2015

Up late Sunday, late nite reading thru New York Times …

November 16, 2015

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 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

November 14, 2015

DePaulian Yearbooks, 1924-1997

While looking for something else, I found this archive of DePaulian Yearbooks, 1924-1997, maintained by the Digital Collections Department. Fun to look at! 

Saturday’s Page A1 posted Friday night

Eye contact

Via Facebook

Rhetoric in action in Missouri?

Letters to the Editor, in response: At the University of Missouri, the Power of a Football Protest

And this came up in the 9:40 section, in the spirit of asking has this happened before? How is this instance the same or different?:

Via NYT Archives / Twitter

Anthony Ripley, “Negro Athletes Spark Uproar at University of Wyoming,” New York Times, 1 November 1969, 15.

November 10, 2015

Three data points related to critical thinking

[1] Our class’s approach: “Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences.” 

[2] “Beyond Critical Thinking”: “Critical thinking has so thoroughly colonized our idea of education that we tend to think it’s the only kind of thinking.” (American Conservative)

[3] Texas GOP Platform, 2012:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Using précis summary language to write with confidence, precision & authority

It might seem like a small thing in the big scheme of things, but notice how this letter writer integrates — in précis language — both the argument (“propose that“) and how she does it (“reaches into her own personal history“). She’s able to summarize the whole article in just one sentence. It’s not an accident. The result is brisk, direct, clear writing that allows her to continue on and make her case. This is how you can and should use your practice from your précis summary language to write with confidence, with precision, and with authority.

“The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth.”

“Back in 1982, I was working at Time Life in a department called Copy Process. It was dead-end, boring work. I worked one day a week, a graveyard shift, six p.m. to six a.m. I would get a two-hour supper break around midnight. Mondays were when the magazines that Time Life published came out: Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune. There were always stacks of new mags lying around. It was good to get them free. Fringe benefit. I was tearing out all kinds of ads from the magazines. I’d been tearing since 1977, avoiding the editorial parts of the magazines, only interested in the psychologically hopped-up, art directed, “creative” pages…the pages that looked to me like some kind of cross between Rod Serling and Groucho Marx. Unlike the editorial parts, the ads didn’t have an author and seemed to suggest something I could believe in. I was struggling in those days with identity and truth and anger and the ads provided an alternative reality. Something comforting and exciting and close to what a movie experience does when the lights go down and a story is told. Who cares if Newport Lights was putting on a stupid, made- up show. I wanted a show. I wanted entertainment. The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth. Why would I have been? No one ever told it.”

Richard Prince

November 8, 2015

80% done.

“I tell college students that by the time they sit down at the keyboard to write their essays, they should be at least 80 percent done. That’s because “writing” is mostly gathering and structuring ideas.”

David Brooks, again. 

November 6, 2015

Résumé virtues & Eulogy virtues

Résumé virtues: résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace.

Eulogy virtues: eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

David Brooks: The Moral Bucket List


November 4, 2015

On the uses of a liberal education

I. Shorris: As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor
II. Edmundson: As lite entertainment for bored college students

November 3, 2015

Just in time for paragraph development

NYT/Education Life: Spoiler Alert! The New SAT. For context on this particular paragraph transition question, see Question #4 in the sample writing questions.

November 1, 2015


David Z. (1:00 section) just sent this from 1237 Fullerton:

October 30, 2015

Brainstorming remix projects

  • The playwright Arthur Miller said in an interview in 1961 that, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” What does that conversation look like to you?
  • Page A1: what does it feel like?

Looking back at some of the context for the phone-less project: 

‘We no longer search for news, the news finds us.’

  • No matter where the students were from, the amount of information coming to them via their mobile phones or the Internet – via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. – is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported that they rarely go prospecting for “hard” news at mainstream or legacy news sites. Instead they inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter. (Click here for more on what students said about ‘news.’)

What is ‘news’? To students, ‘news’ means ‘anything that just happened’ – worldwide events AND friends’ everyday thoughts.

  • Because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly the way students reported getting their news and information, students were cavalier about any need for traditional news outlets, and in fact very few students mentioned any legacy or online news organization by name. Students wanted “news,” yes, but the term was blurred in their minds, as the same social network platforms that carry their personal news, also are the ways in which students get the bulk of their daily “hard” news, too. Rhetorically speaking at least, most students around the world didn’t discriminate between news that The New York Times, the BBC or Al Jazeera might cover, and news that might only appear in a friend’s tweet or Facebook status update. (Click here for more on what students said about ‘news.’)

October 28, 2015

You get a book, and you get a book … everybody gets a book …

Alondra’s rhetorical purpose — her intended effect — for her Op-Ed essay on reading books in print was to encourage us to read in print, so she gave everyone a book!

October 27, 2015

Finding the third side to an argument

We’ve been talking in class about avoiding premature good/bad, yes/no, black/white, pro/con arguments, and here’s a good example in a Letter to the Editor in response to an article we read and discussed:

See how she doesn’t fall for the false-binary trap?
Letters to the Editor: Overselling Breast-Feeding

Congratulations, Hannah! (9:40 section)

Letters to the Editor in response to “Lecture Me. Really.” (10/26/15)

October 26, 2015

Transactional & Transformative

At a presentation I attended last week on civic engagement, the speaker shared this chart comparing & contrasting “transactional” and “transformative” approaches to service learning. I found myself wondering what would happen if we applied this to classroom environments in teaching and learning:

From Jacoby, Building Partnerships for Service Learning, 2003.

My Dark California Dream

My Dark California Dream

October 25, 2015

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary …”

A.O. Scott: Film Snob? Is That So Wrong?

October 22, 2015


PIE paragraph development

Point — like a topic sentence
Illustration — an example, quote, story, or data
Explication — the so what? What does the provided information mean? How does it relate to your overall essay? Why is this information important/significant/meaningful?

[P] Every wolf in Yellowstone therefore is more than just a wolf. Imbued with profound symbolic meaning, each wolf embodies the divergent goals of competing social movements involved in the reintroduction debate. Framed by environmentalists and their wise use opponents as another line in the sand in their ongoing battle for the heart and soul of the West, wolf reintroduction is a high-stakes political conflict. [I] Wolf recovery is often portrayed by environmentalists as being symptomatic of a culture in transition–an inevitable change (Askins, 1995). It is an image that plays especially well with the media: “[T]he wolf issue pits the New West against the Old West” (Johnson, 1994, p. 12), a milestone in the “transformation of power” from the Old West (Brandon, 1995, p.8). [E] Wolf restoration clearly represents change, but sound bites that reduce the social struggle over wolves to an “inevitable” transition from the old to the new are inadequate. They do not explain the underlying social issues driving the transformation. They do not capture the essence of social negotiation, the give-and-take of political exchange between social movements struggling to define the western landscape. Nor do they acknowledge that these social issues will remain after the wolf controversy has exited the center stage of public policy discourse.

Wilson, Matthew. “The Wolf in Yellowstone: Science, Symbol, or Politics? Deconstructing the Conflict between Environmentalism and Wise Use.” Society & Natural Resources. 10(1997): 453-468.


October 21, 2015

We might have a winner

Katherine B.

Question, recover, expand

Higher education is “one of the few public spaces left where students can learn the power of questioning authority, recover the ideals of engaged citizenship, and expand their capacities to make a difference.”

H. Giroux, cited in B. Jacoby, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, 2009.

October 20, 2015

The more you know

According to the New York Times, There Is No Theory of Everything

October 19, 2015

No-Phone Journals

Inspired in part by Sherry Turkle’s “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” and in part by our own open-minded curiosity, 13 students in WRD103 volunteered to surrender their phones for four days — Tuesday, 10/13 to Friday, 10/16 — and to keep a phenomenological journal during that time. 

Read some un-edited journal entries, below. The next step is to think about how to turn these experiences, questions, and observations into Op-Ed essays, or other reflective projects: 

Katy: “I actually had to use an alarm clock and watch”

Alex: “first instinct: tweet about it, and I did via twitter.com instead of the app (since I hadn’t had my phone taken for more than 5 minutes before I did this)”

Sam: “Insight: I actually have a skewed version of time and less patience. I have to wait for someone to email me back. I HAVE TO WAIT. WITH NOTHING TO DO… no Snapchat, Instagram, nothing.”

Charlie: “Notable differences I’ve noticed are that I miss my music. I can’t say I miss anything else.”

Cristina: “I asked my roommate several times to borrow her phone and I am pretty sure she got very annoyed.”

Gabi: “I keep feeling like I was missing something …”

Paulina: “I was talking to them, but they were doing something on their phones. “

Anela: “Right before I had to give my phone in I got really shaky and nervous.”

Dzejna: “As I was writing my name on the pink post-it and wrapping the rubber band around my phone, I felt a sense of anxiety and excitement in my stomach.”

Tania: “The first day sucked the most out of all 3 days.”

N.B. the world UNPLUGGED project has published numerous observations and claims about such projects done on an international scale — our version is more exploratory at this point — and one context they’ve documented does have a direct and generative connection to our class, since we read the New York Times as our primary text, in both print and digital formats:

‘We no longer search for news, the news finds us.’

  • No matter where the students were from, the amount of information coming to them via their mobile phones or the Internet – via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. – is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported that they rarely go prospecting for “hard” news at mainstream or legacy news sites. Instead they inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter. (Click here for more on what students said about ‘news.’)
October 18, 2015

Sunday Review, P1

For classOverselling Breast-Feeding

  • How many academic disciplines and professions can we identify being represented or invoked in this essay?
  • Can we identify the real, actual, genuine issue(s) here via stasis?
  • What is her argument?
  • How does she make it?
  • What is her rhetorical purpose, her intended rhetorical effect?
  • What does she assume about us, her readers? 

Week 6 opportunities

It’s unlikely that you’ll all have exactly the same priorities this week and next, but I can help you to anticipate and to plan for some of them:

Since we’re talking about essay Introductions & Conclusions

This one remains unresolved for me, but not necessarily in a bad way:

Brooks’s introduction: “America was settled, founded and built by people who believed they were doing something exceptional.”

Brooks’s conclusion: “This is an attitude that sours the tongue, offends the eye and freezes the heart.” 

Brooks, The American Idea and Today’s G.O.P.

October 17, 2015

Thirteen phones & one iPad

Lack of stasis

See how this works?

One of the most striking takeaways from the first two Republican debates and Tuesday’s first Democratic debate is that the two parties do not just disagree on solutions to domestic and foreign policy issues — they do not even agree on what the issues are. Offering radically different assessments of the challenges people face, and diametrically opposing policy agendas, the candidates could have been campaigning on different continents.

NYT: Even the Issues Are in Debate In 2016 Race

Stasis in the OED — note how, in rhetoric, stasis is something we achieve — a state we actively work toward, because it both provides opportunities for invention of materials and identifying contexts for change:

b. gen. Inactivity; stagnation; a state of motionless or unchanging equilibrium.

1920   Glasgow Herald 30 Nov. 9   The prevailing mood of Labour is indefinite; a condition of stasis has been caused by the coal strike and the dread of unemployment.
1930   W. Empson Seven Types of Ambiguity vii. 245   He is drawn taut between the two similar impulses into the stasis of appreciation.
1933   T. S. Eliot Use of Poetry vi. 103   Arnold represents a period of stasis; of relative and precarious stability, it is true, a brief halt in the endless march of humanity in some, or in any direction.
1940   E. Muir Story & Fable v. 186   This could be done by so controlling the chemical processes of the body as to produce a self-subsistent balance, an everlasting, living stasis.
1943   Sewanee Review LI. ii. 337   Art, according to Dedalus-Joyce, tends toward the achievement of stasis, which implies a state of contemplation, of detachment from the kinesis of life.
1972   Times Lit. Suppl. 1 Sept. 1020/3   We see him in the moment of stasis before action.
1978   J. Updike Coup (1979) iii. 91   A religion whose antipodes are motion and stasis.
October 16, 2015

The problem of speaking for others

Looking merely at the content of a set of claims without looking at their effects cannot produce an adequate or even meaningful evaluation of it, and this is partly because the notion of a content separate from effects does not hold up.

The content of the claim, or its meaning, emerges in interaction between words and hearers within a very specific historical situation. Given this, we have to pay careful attention to the discursive arrangement in order to understand the full meaning of any given discursive event. For example, in a situation where a well-meaning First world person is speaking for a person or group in the Third world, the very discursive arrangement may reinscribe the “hierarchy of civilizations” view where the U. S. lands squarely at the top. This effect occurs because the speaker is positioned as authoritative and empowered, as the knowledgeable subject, while the group in the Third World is reduced, merely because of the structure of the speaking practice, to an object and victim that must be championed from afar. Though the speaker may be trying to materially improve the situation of some lesser-privileged group, one of the effects of her discourse is to reenforce racist, imperialist conceptions and perhaps also to further silence the lesser-privileged group’s own ability to speak and be heard.18 

This shows us why it is so important to reconceptualize discourse, as Foucault recommends, as an event, which includes speaker, words, hearers, location, language, and so on.

— Linda Martín Alcoff, The Problem of Speaking for Others

October 15, 2015

70 years of cat pictures

NYT: The Forefather of Cat Pics

Phoneless in context

What Happens When Teens Try to Disconnect From Tech For Three Days

Recently, a line of teenage boys were frantically sending last-minute texts and posting to Facebook one final time before grabbing a manilla envelope and sealing their devices inside. These boys volunteered to abstain from using not just their phones but all digital devices for three days to better understand the role of technology in their lives.

the world UNPLUGGED

For many students, going without media for 24 hours ripped back the curtain on their hidden loneliness.

  • When I couldn’t communicate with my friends” by mobile phone, reported a student from China, “I felt so lonely as if I was in a small cage on an island.” Students were blind-sided by how much their 24/7 access to media had come to dominate their relationships. “We live too quickly,” said a student in Slovakia. “We call our friends or chat with them when we need them – that is the way we have gotten used to relationships.” And the problems for some students went beyond loneliness. Some came to recognize that ‘virtual’ connections had been substituting for real ones – their relationship to media was one of the closest “friendships” they had. Wrote a student from Chile: “I felt lonely without multimedia. I arrived at the conclusion that media is a great companion.” (Click here for more on what students said about their feelings of isolation.)

‘We no longer search for news, the news finds us.’

  • No matter where the students were from, the amount of information coming to them via their mobile phones or the Internet – via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. – is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported that they rarely go prospecting for “hard” news at mainstream or legacy news sites. Instead they inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter. (Click here for more on what students said about ‘news.’)

Motherhood, Screened Off

I was impatient when my mother’s attention was occupied elsewhere. But my 9-year-old children, when they see me on my phone, feel something more intense, something closer to indignation. They are shut out twice over: They see that I am otherwise occupied, but with what, they have no idea. This is what makes the smartphone such a rich source of paradoxical guilt for the current generation of parents. We are considered at once overbearing and totally oblivious, so besotted by our own children that it’s unseemly, yet so absorbed by our phones, so unaware as precious moments of childhood slip by, that it’s shameful.

I have started to narrate my use of the phone when I am around my kids. “I’m emailing your teacher back,” I tell them, or, “I’m now sending that text you asked me to send about that sleepover,” in the hopes that I can defang the device’s bad reputation, its inherent whiff of self-absorption.

October 11, 2015

Sunday Review, P1

Does this count as stasis?

While a legitimate debate can continue about the pluses and minuses of economic migrants to the United States, the solution with these refugees from our neighbors to the south is clear. It seems ridiculous to have to say it: If a child is fleeing danger in his or her home country, and that child knocks on our door pleading for help, we should open the door. Instead of funding only the current policies toward migrants in Mexico, we should fund fair efforts by Mexico to evaluate which Central Americans are refugees.

While migrants’ claims are evaluated, we should help Mexico pay for places for migrants to be held that are humane.

The United States should develop a system for these refugees, much like Europe is now doing for Syrians, to equitably allocate people who are fleeing harm throughout this continent — including sending them to safer countries in Latin America, to Canada and to the United States. In the 1980s, many United States churches stepped up to help Central Americans fleeing civil war violence, and many would gladly sponsor a migrant today if encouraged by our government.

Will the United States step up and be a moral leader for these refugees?

NYT: Refugees at Our Door

For class:

  • Can we identify the real, actual, genuine issue(s) here via stasis?
  • What is her argument?
  • How does she make it?
  • What is her rhetorical purpose, her intended rhetorical effect?
  • What does she assume about us, her audience? 

20 cognitive biases

#7 in particular, for critical thinkers

Via public rhetoric.

October 9, 2015

Strategies that we’ve been developing as we go for reading Page A1

  • Historicizing: when has this happened before? How is this instance the same or different as previous instances?
  • Personalizing: how does this affect me, my family, my community?
  • Our roles: do we have a role in this story as citizens, taxpayers, community members, students, teachers?
  • Empathy exams: do we care? do we understand? How do we know that we understand? 
  • Self-education & inquiry: what do we really know about what’s going on in the world? What issues does the story raise for you? What questions does it raise for you?
  • Page A1 is like a Table of Contents for the world: according to the NYT editors, this happened yesterday.
  • Rhetoric & typography: why did they choose the stories that they did for A1? How are they arranged and organized? What goes above the fold? What goes in the upper right-hand corner? How are the text and images arranged?

Helpful pie chart

An example of historicizing Page A1

October 7th (yesterday): “Russia’s Missiles: A Major New Weapon in Syria Conflict”

By mounting a missile strike from warships nearly 1,000 miles away, the Russian military added a major new weapon on Wednesday to its operations in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.

September 9th: “Russia Defends the Presence of Its Military Advisers in Syria”

The Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that Russian military advisers were in Syria, but it said that their presence was part of a longstanding agreement to provide military aid to the country.

Russian military aid to Syria has become a new source of tension between Washington and Moscow over the past few days, with the United States accusing Russia of escalating the conflict.

“Russian military specialists help Syrians master Russian hardware, and we can’t understand the anti-Russian hysteria about this,” said Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, adding that Russia had never made a secret of its cooperation with Syria over military technology.

October 8, 1980

Via NYT Times Machine
NYT Archives on Twitter

October 8, 2015

Newspaper art


October 4, 2015

Good morning

From The Discourses of Epictetus

“Neither desire nor aversion.”

“Be not swept off your feet by the vividness of the impression, but say, ‘Impression, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are and what you represent. Let me spend some time with you.’”

“Let me test you.”

Book II, ch. 18.

October 3, 2015

Rhetorical Reading & Analyzing

Some notes on rhetorical reading and analyzing that we can refer to as needed this week and next, with the goal of creating some critical distance from the texts we are reading and analyzing:

  • Paying sensitive and mindful attention to the issue or content (“what”), the methods of influencing readers (“how”), the writer’s rhetorical purpose (“in order to”), and the relationship that writers establish — or do not establish — with readers.
  • How would you characterize the writer’s proximity to the issue?
  • What is at stake — where is the stasis — in the issue? 
  • What does the writer seem to value? Does she assume that we share those values?
  • What is the writer’s attitude toward us?
  • How would you characterize the writer’s tone?
  • How does the writer establish credibility?
  • What kind(s) of appeals does the writer seem to be depending on — ethos, pathos, logos?
  • How much of your own biases, assumptions, experiences, and ideology affect your ability to read for meaning and for comprehension?

SMH 8b Thinking critically about argument

Although critical thinking has a number of complex definitions, it is essentially the process by which you make sense of all the information around you. As such, critical thinking is a crucial component of argument, for it guides you in recognizing, formulating, and examining arguments.

Several elements of critical thinking are especially important. 

Asking pertinent questions. Concentrate on getting to the heart of the matter. Whether you are thinking about others’ ideas or about your own, you will want to ask the following kinds of questions:

  • What is the writer or speaker’s agenda—his or her unstated purpose?
  • Why does this person hold these ideas or beliefs? What larger social, economic, political, or other factors may have influenced him or her?
  • What does he or she want the audience to do—and why?
  • What are the writer or speaker’s qualifications for making this argument?
  • What reasons does he or she offer to support the ideas? Are they good reasons?
  • What are the underlying values or unstated assumptions of the argument? 
  • What sources does the writer or speaker rely on? How current and reliable are they? What agendas do these sources have? Are any perspectives left out?
  • How do media and design appeal to the audience? Study the visual and audio aspects of the argument, including the use of color, graphics, and multimedia techniques. What do they contribute to the argument?
September 27, 2015


“Last week, the Association of American Universities released the findings of a sexual misconduct survey that culled data from more than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students at 27 universities. In it, nearly one in four undergraduate women said they were victims of sexual assault or misconduct. At Harvard College alone, 16 percent of female seniors said that during their time at Harvard they were subjected to ‘nonconsensual completed or attempted penetration.'”

Pope Francis Reverses Position On Capitalism After Seeing Wide Variety Of American Oreos


September 22, 2015

Kinds of reading practices

Conscientious reading — slow, contextual, rhetorical, critical — in which reading can be an act of composition, too. 

Skimming: used to quickly find the main ideas of a text, skimming is often done at a speed three to four times faster than normal critical reading speed. 

Scanning: when looking up a word in a dictionary or trying to find a specific phrase or number on a printed page. When we are scanning, we move our eyes to find specific words, numbers or phrases. Scanning often comes before skimming. Scanning can be used to determine if a resource has the information you are looking for. Once the resource is scanned, it can then be skimmed for more detail.

See your SMH 124-134, especially Previewing (7b) and Reading and Annotating (7c).


Louise Rosenblatt explains  that readers approach texts in ways that can be viewed as aesthetic or efferent. The question is why the reader is reading and what the reader aims to get out of the reading:

  • Efferent reading: reading to take away particular bits of information, such as when reading most textbooks.  We are not usually interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but 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. A New York Times example might be reading Market News.
  • Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work, the world, and one’s self: “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. A New York Times example might be Jameson’s Mark My Words. Maybe. 

But now, in the 21st century:

  • Reading as foraging? Foraging, according to Keller, is “a purposeful wandering across texts, evaluating and possibly gathering and using materials along the way.”

What Does Sociality Barbie Read?

By Ideology & Other Characteristics

Click for a larger version:

September 15, 2015

” … to reflect history and shared experience”

NYT 9/13: From Givenchy and Alexander Wang, Competing Visions of New York

NYT Subway Fold

Welcome to WRD103

Autumn Quarter, 2015

Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Life’s prerequisites are courtesy and kindness, the times tables, fractions, percentages, ratios, reading, writing, some history — the rest is gravy, really.
— Nicholson Baker, “Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II”

WRD 103 introduces you to the forms, methods, expectations, and conventions of college-level academic writing. We also explore and discuss how writing and rhetoric create a contingent relationship between writers, readers, and issues, and how this relationship affects the drafting, revising, and editing of our written — and increasingly digital and multimodal — projects.

In WRD 103, we will:

  • Gain experience reading and writing in multiple genres in multiple modes
  • Practice writing in different rhetorical circumstances, marshaling sufficient, plausible sup­port for your arguments and advocacy positions
  • Practice shaping the language of written and multimodal discourses to your audiences and purposes, fostering clarity and emphasis by providing ex­pli­cit and appropriate cues to the main purpose of your texts
  • Practice reading and evaluating the writing of others in order to iden­tify the rhetorical strategies at work in written and in multimodal texts.

You’ll be happy to note, I hope, that we build on your previous knowledge and experiences; that is, we don’t assume that you show up here a blank slate. We assume that you have encountered interesting people, have engaging ideas, and have something to say. A good writing course should prepare you to take those productive ideas into other courses and out into the world, where they belong, and where you can defend them and advocate for them.

Finally, it’s no secret around here that students who take early and regular advantage of DePaul’s Center for Writing-based Learning not only do better in their classes, but also benefit from the interactions with the tutors and staff in the Center.

July 14, 2015

Critical Thinking Contexts for our Class and for College

Unclear writing, now as always, stems from unclear thinking–both of which ultimately have political and economic implications.

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it, effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. – Adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, 2008.

“A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” Edward M. Glaser. An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. 1941.

Chaffee’s Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are people who have developed thoughtful and well-founded beliefs that guide their choices in every area of their lives. In order to develop the strongest and most accurate beliefs possible, you need to become aware of your own biases, explore situations from many different perspectives, and develop sound reasons to support your points of view. These abilities are the tools you need to become more enlightened and reflective “critical thinker” (p. 28).

For Chaffee, critical thinking involves the following:

  • Carefully analyzing and evaluating your beliefs in order to develop the most accurate beliefs possible.
  • Viewing situations from different perspectives to develop an in-depth understanding.
  • Supporting viewpoints with reasons and evidence to arrive at thoughtful, well-substantiate conclusions.
  • Thinking critically about our personal “lenses,” which shape and influence the way we perceive the world.
  • Synthesizing information into informed conclusions that we are willing to modify based on new insight. (p. 35)

[From The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee, Boston: Little, Brown, 1998]

July 13, 2015

Habits of Mind

Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support your success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing

  • Curiosity: the desire to know more about the world. In our class, that might mean challenging yourself and stretching yourself intellectually to think beyond the obvious and inquire into issues and contexts to which you might be blind.
  • Openness: the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world, rather than merely clinging to what you already believe to be true or not true; in our class, that includes critical thinking.
  • Engagement: a sense of investment and involvement in learning; in our class, that includes focused reading of the New York Times and your contributions to the intellectual life of our class.
  • Creativity: the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas; in our class, that includes brainstorming, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
  • Persistence: the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects; developing mental discipline and rising up to challenges, rather than backing away from them.
  • Responsibility: the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others; in our class, that includes practicing good time management, and identifying and using resources available to you — office hours, the Writing Center, each other.
  • Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition: the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge: thinking about thinking and writing about writing.
April 1, 2015