Resources > Library

Articles on Rhetoric

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Bazerman, Charles. "From Cultural Criticism to Disciplinary Participation: Living with Powerful Words."Writing, Teaching, and Learning in the Disciplines. Eds. Anne Herrington and Charles Moran. New York: Modern Language Association, 1992. 61-68.

Argues that rhetorical criticism of the discourse of a discipline often misses the point by portraying the discourse and the discipline as they were, rather than showing the tensions and competing views of the present. Going beyond the 101 textbook view of a discipline may make that discipline seem shaky and suspect, but alternatively, may show how knowledge is actually constructed, understood, propagated, and changed in a discipline. If we then teach this information to students, they will be able to choose, self- consciously, whether to use the discourse, to change it, or to discard it, to suit their own purposes.

Beaufort, Anne."Operationalizing the Concept of Discourse Community: A Case Study of One Institutional Site of Composing." Research in the Teaching of English 31.4 (1997): 486-529.

A case study of the writing done in a non-profit organization provides insight into the diferent constraints placed on writing genres by the expectations of the particular discourse community. Furthermore, the case study also documents the types of adjustments necessary to negotiate audience and genre when the writing task involves more than one discourse community. Through following the different strategies adopted by the informants in the study, the author concludes that the notion of discourse community may be a useful heuristic in teaching because it entails considering audience, communication context, and meshing communicative purpose with audience values. These considerations may help students think of the larger implications of their writing.

Berkenkotter, Carol and Thomas N. Huckin. "Rethinking Genre From a Sociocognitive Perspective." Written Communication 10.4 (1993): 475-509.

Drawing on the findings of case study research emphasizing "insider knowledge and structuration" theory, this article argues for an activity-based theory of genre knowledge. The authors propose five general principles for genre theory: a() Genres are dynamic forms that mediate between the unique features of individual contexts and the features that recur across contexts; (b) genre knowledge is embedded in communicative activities of daily and professional life and is thus a form of "situated cognition"; (c) genre knowledge embraces both form and content, including a sense of rhetorical appropriateness; (d) the use of genres simultaneously constitutes and reproduces social structures; and (e) genre conventions signal a discourse community's norms, epistemology, ideology, and social ontology.

Brockriede, Wayne. "Rhetorical Criticism as Argument." Quarterly Journal of Speech (February 1974): 294-303.

Argues that rhetorical criticism/evaluation should be an argument: that is, it should make an inferential leap from data to an evaluative claim which is based on criteria; there should be more than one possible claim; the degree of uncertainty about the claim should be neither zero nor total, but instead something in between; and the claim should risk confrontation.

Connors, Robert J. "The Rise and Fall of the Modes of Discourse."

Traces the history of discourse modes as a pedagogical tool from the early 1800s--when they were used to classify discourse--to the late 1800s, when they became models for instruction in discourse. The decline of the modes in the mid 1900s is a result of their divorcing writing purpose from writing form. From their early use as a means, they became exalted to the status of an end in themselves.

Devitt, Amy J. "Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept." College Composition and Communication 44.4 (1993): 573-585.

Recent genre theorists have succeeded in shifting the focus of genre from effects to the sources of those effects. The implications of this shift enable composition specialists to explain current gaps in composition theory such as the integration of form with content and of text with context. Furthermore, an understanding of genre helps explain how writing functions in various discourse communities with respect to reader expectations.

Edwards, Bruce L. "Tagmemic Rhetoric." no citation; manuscript with attached photocopied pages from some book.

Manuscript defines tagmemic rhetoric, summarizes its history, and briefly reviews a text that uses a tagmemic theory of rhetoric, Rhetoric: Discovery and Change, by Young, Becker, and Pike (1970).

Flower, Linda, and John R. Hayes. "The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical Problem." College Composition and Communication 31 (1980): 21-32.

Collected think-aloud protocols from expert and novice writers as they wrote. Examined how the writers represented to themselves the rhetorical problem presented by the authors. They divide the rhetorical problem into the rhetorical situation (assignment, and audience) and the writer's goals (for the reader, for him/herself, in meaning, and in text). Found that good writers created a more fully developed model of the rhetorical problem.

Graves, Richard L.. "A Primer for Teaching Style." College Composition and Communication 25.2 (May 1974): 186-190.

Teachers often remark that they feel frustrated in their attempts to teach writing, while at the same time they devalue teaching style. Because good style seems to be a hallmark of good writing, it makes sense for teachers to adjust their classroom priorities. The problem, though, is that style seems to be vague. This article, however, offers a variety of techniques to enable students to understand style, and how it contributes to writing. For the most part, these techniques concentrate upon defining and illustrating various rhetorical terms, possibly out of hope that the students will then be able to apply the concepts to their own work.

Kaplan, Robert B. "Contrastive Rhetoric and the Teaching of Composition." TESOL Quarterly 1.3 (1967): 10-16.

Compares rhetorical and syntactic styles of English and Arabic (e.g., in English, subordination is considered more elegant than, and hence preferable to, parallelism, while the opposite holds for Arabic). Conclusion: rhetoric is culturally determined and bound, just as syntax is.

Kratzke, Peter. "It's Time to Get Active: Rockin' Through Grammar in the Freshman Composition Classroom." Composition Chronicle 11.2 (November 1998): 6-8.

Current composition pedagogy avoids grammar, but leaving students to intuit grammar conventions on their own fails as a strategy. Grammar Rock, part of the School House Rock series, provides a useful tool for teachers who want to help students understand the fundamentals of grammar. Students like the videos, and will often ask to borrow them. While students find the videos entertaining, they tend to miss some of the important points inherent in the lessons. For example, the lesson on verbs implicitly distinguishes between transitive and intransitive verbs--a point many students miss. Still, Grammar Rock is a good tool for introducing students both to what works and to why it works.

Kyburz, Bonnie Lenore. "Autobiography: The Rhetorical Efficacy of Self-Reflection/Articulation." Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Eds. Duane Roen and others. Urbana, IL: NCTE. 2002. 137-143.

Although autobiographical writing has come under fire for its subjectivity, autobiographical writing processes can develop a student's critical consciousness by deconstructing familiar pedagogies and developing hybrid pedagogies. Additionally, autobiographical writing can help build student awareness of the relationship between rhetoric and social constructs.

Lanham, Richard A. Revising Prose. New York: MacMillan Publishing. 1992. 1-10; 11-29.

The first two chapters of Revising Prose, "Who's Kicking Who?" and "Sentences and Shopping Bags." Both chapters deal with clarity, but the first examines verbal force, whereas the second deals with the use of modifying phrases.

Lybbert, E.K. and D.W. Cummings. "On Repetition and Coherence." College Composition and Communication 20.1 (Feb. 1969): 35-38.

This article explains the difference between unity and coherence in writing, and considers ways in which repetition and parallelism can be used to make writing more or less coherent.

Moss, Frederick M. "The Clearest Sentences: Research in Progress." APCC 30.3 (1996): 1-9,14.

States that readers comprehend active sentences much better than they do passive sentences. Reports preliminary results from a study comparing the percentage of active voice sentences among different groups of writers. Suggests that good writers tend to use more active voice than poor writers, and that professional writing consultants should work with their clients to get them to use active voice.

Smith, Douglas Bradley. "Teaching Anthropology Is a Good Way to Teach Writing." College Composition and Communication 28 (October 1977): 251-256.

Smith explains how teaches students "epistemic rhetoric" instead of the traditional philosophy of rhetoric course that most composition teachers use. He defines epistemic rhetoric as "writing to share in the creation of a social reality," and explains how it grows out of social psychology, sociology of knowledge, and the philosophy of science. Smith claims that using anthropological writings for his texts enables students to see writing rules as a product of a specific culture and to distance themselves from the writing process.

Walker, Kristin. "The Debate over Generalist and Specialist Tutors: Genre Theory's Contributions." TheWriting Center Journal 18.2 (1998): 27-46.

Genre theory can help resolve some aspects of the debate on whether tutors ought to be familiar with discipline-specific discourse conventions. Genre theory's focus upon the social processes involved in communication allows writing centers to train tutors to act as guides for students seeking to initiate themselves into the discourse of specific disciplines. Tutors can learn aspects of the discourse conventions and culture of other disciplines, and can study models of different genres in order to see how the conventions become realized. Argues that tutor training should involve interviews with specialists in various disciplines in order to learn what that particular discipline values.

[Back to top]