Final Paper Guidelines

April 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm (Instructor Blog)

Here are some quick reminders about submitting your final papers:

  1. Due before the sun rises on Monday, May 10
  2. Submit as an email attachment to
  3. Include a complete works cited page
  4. Post a 200 word abstract to the course blog and categorize as “Final Paper Abstract”
  5. This final paper can follow any format or organizational scheme that you find rhetorically effective

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A Technique of Assent

April 28, 2010 at 8:17 am (Instructor Blog)

I want to conclude the semester by suggesting another way of reading and engaging texts—one I feel is an alternative to common, critical engagements with texts that operate in the negative register (e.g., what does this text leave out, overlook, or otherwise exclude, simplify, or gloss?). This is not to say that such readings are unproductive or unnecessary (as such readings are often both productive and necessary).

It is to suggest other ways of reading that mine each and every text for something that can be “taken away,” “augmented,” “adopted,” or “utilized.” It is a way of reading that leaves one open to persuasion—to approach a text perfectly willing to be “converted to the enemy’s camp.” And it is a way of reading that generates new questions, new ideas, and new ways of thinking.

Here are some sample texts from this semester that suggest and enact such approaches:

  1. Muckelbauer’s “reading productively” or “affirmatively”
  2. Gorgias rescuing of Helen
  3. Jarratt’s re-reading of the sophists
  4. Rickert’s use of Plato’s chôra
  5. Burke’s notion of “discounting”
  6. Corder’s invocation of “love”

This technique of assent is also a reminder that readings in the negative register (where a text is “problematized”) are likewise always already acts of assent: every no bellies a previous yes. From where do we say “no,” and by what “yes” are we enabled to do so? Opening or starting with the “yes” may very well highlight the assumptions upon which our critical responses are based (or cultivated).

I likewise find this technique of assent—as a pattern of response or habit—very helpful for my work as a teacher (and all scholars are, I hope, teachers). And not just because teachers should be generous or “nice” (which they should be), but because one of the joys of teaching is learning. How does the thinking of students and their work productively change my own thinking or teaching practices? What can I, in other words, take away from each and every class and student?

Finally, another excellent reason for affirmative readings or this technique of assent is this: you will come to publish scholarly works many of you. And these works will enter into a community of scholars. Articles written in the safety of solitude will go out into the world and be read by others. What are your obligations to other scholars and their work? How do you want to position yourself within a community of scholars? How do you want to respond to and assent to the work of others?

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Special Online Collection: Science, Language, and Literacy

April 28, 2010 at 8:12 am (Instructor Blog)

Thought this story might be of interest:

In the 23 April 2010 issue, Science explores various aspects of literacy in science. Review and Perspective articles the importance of reading, writing, and arguing skills for both learning and teaching science, and strategies for improving student achievement. In its 20 and 27 April issues, Science Signaling presents a set of Teaching Resources as well as student-authored Journal Clubs that cover topics ranging from signaling in cells of the immune system to signaling in plants. Science Careers discusses the value of teaching science to nonscience majors and a podcast segment addresses the effects of teacher quality on early reading.

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Let Us Alternate

January 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm (Instructor Blog)

Welcome to the course blog for English 733: Alternative Rhetorics. If you were looking for (or are interested in) the course site, it can be found here. We will use this space to engage course readings and one another (indeed, to engage the readings is to necessary engage others) throughout the semester. I have created category tags that correspond to the three phases of the course. Be sure to tag blog posts.

This is the spot, in other words, to ask, “Rhetoric?”

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Realigning the Discourse of the Rhetorical Situation: Rhetoric’s Bodies as Characterizing Existence Itself

May 10, 2010 at 7:35 am (Final Paper Abstracts)

In this paper, I wish to suggest that the discourse surrounding situation needs to be readjusted.  The current debate focuses on content rather than structure, and, therefore, the focus of the debate should shift to the structure itself of the rhetorical situation.  Upon beginning such a dialogue in this paper, I move on to claim that, structurally, the rhetorical situation is by nature a “productive relationship.”  I first analyze the situation at the “quantum” level, focusing on the situation within a single theoretical instantiation involving only two terms: agent and environment.  I then move on to develop the notion of production previously introduced.  Such a notion, I claim, can be built from current Rhetorical theory, yet, while the current debate deals mainly with the human experience, I argue that such an experience is merely analogous to the experience of existence in general: such interconnectedness happens within all instances of the rhetorical situation, not just those involving humans.  Thus, using the terms set forth within current Rhetorical theory, I end by focusing on the “cosmic” level of situation, thereby demonstrating that all things in existence are not only connected, but, we might argue, in fact parts of a whole, and therefore one.

-Michael Swacha

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Democratic, Cooperative Rhetoric

May 10, 2010 at 2:11 am (Final Paper Abstracts)

As a human being who would like to see my species thrive, I am concerned with ways to promote our global cooperation.  Throughout this course, I’ve continued to see language and rhetoric more and more as a method for facilitating this cooperation, a method that we can put to use for our benefit.  In my paper, I examine an episode of the Australian television program Q&A to see how we are using or might use rhetoric constructively, following Ballif’s “democratic practices” and attempting to live out Corder’s “rhetoric as love.”  (Watch the episode, “God, Science and Sanity,” here).  In my analysis of the program, I discuss the different approaches to the rhetorical situation and demonstrate how Edbauer and Rickert’s models fit the Q&A example best, and in so doing I explore several affective factors in the program’s rhetorical situation.  Furthermore, I look at what happens when individuals’ self-narratives come into conflict, and I examined several different rhetorical techniques employed by the panelists.  Above all, my interest this semester has rested on the idea that language can be constructive, that we can see our individual consciousnesses as allowing us to choose for ourselves how we might conduct our lives and therefore influence others.  This program represents an attempt at creating a democratic rhetoric to help us, as Richard Dawkins urges, converse our way to “a morality that is thought out, reasoned, argued, discussed and based upon, I’d almost say, intelligent design.”

— beckie

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Collage! Or Monster.

May 10, 2010 at 1:19 am (Uncategorized)

By thinking of my paper as a collage—and turning it into a bit of one—I overcame my anxiety toward the act of copying-and-pasting. Throughout the semester, I have demonstrated my tendency to consider the theoretical content of our assignments in terms of teaching and education, focusing on practical applications; yet, the theoretical aspects of the readings have driven my thoughts. The resulting paper thus foregrounds my thoughts on practical applications for the semester’s ideas while maintaining a more developed explanation of my engagement with the theoretical content in the background. Primarily drawing on my first two papers, I discuss the conflicts between my teacher education preparation and the realities of the actual secondary classroom. Then, I reflect on the parallels between coaching and teaching writing, since both were responsibilities I held simultaneously. Finally, returning to ideas emerging in my second paper and continuing thoughts from Approaches to Teaching Writing, I consider some teaching practices which draw on the ideas I’ve encountered in this course.


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paper summary

May 10, 2010 at 1:09 am (Final Paper Abstracts)

It hasn’t been much reported in the American press, but a bill is rapidly making its way through the Australian Parliament for the introduction of a “mandatory Internet filter” similar to, although ostensibly less restrictive and more pure-hearted than, China’s “great firewall” (ABC/APP). The bill faces fierce resistance online, but broad support in Parliament itself, where opponents have been accused of supporting child pornography, and thereby silenced (Paulli). Ahead of its immanent and likely unamended final approval, an immense list of “Refused Classification” websites has been published. The list includes, along with hate sites and the like, the websites of some euthanasia and right-to-die advocacy groups. In this paper, I explore the strange temporality of the bill as expressed in its two-headed anxiety over the aged and the youthful body of the Australian subject. I interpret these as displacements of anxieties over the relationship between the digital and the non-digital everyday – what I’ll call the analog. First I explore the ways that the everyday-as-analog fails as an explanation of the contemporary experience, but nonetheless serves as a potent technology of control in the regulation of our digital/analog self-systems. Second, I explore the ways that the analog self at times reasserts itself outside that system of control. Throughout, I toy with the term asynchronization as denoting both the strategies and tactics of the contest that is being waged on the agreed upon turf of the digital/analog divide. In short: who disconnects whom from what, and why?


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Alternative Rhetorics, Composition Pedgagogy, and Emily Post

May 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm (Final Paper Abstracts)

My final paper morphed into a final letter, written to Professor Rivers, in which I explore my inconsistent ability to mesh the course’s theory with my composition pedagogy over the semester.  The shortest version of the narrative: This class changed my life.  The slightly longer version: I came to this course with a strong background in composition pedagogy and a recently fought battle over incorporating Aristotelian rhetoric into that pedagogy.  Consequently, the theories that this course presented troubled and destabilized my approaches to teaching writing at many points during the semester.  In the letter, I retrace my steps through my three papers in order to discover how I ended up at the end, in a space that finds stability in its instability, celebrates the productive power involved in shaping the urgent rhetorical situation of any classroom, and revels in the generation of abundant options from which a particular choice must eventually be made.  Taking part in my journey are many of the authors from our course and some composition theorists like Berthoff, Elbow, and Slevin.  One very special guest, Emily Post, appears a few times before getting tossed out for pretending to have control over my rhetorical situation.


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