I was thinking of doing Maxine Hairston’s “Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing” (1992) for my “Ciceronian Discourses Assignment” for ENG 585 Cather & Gilman. Her article is “important,” no doubt. But now I’m thinking its Ciceronian moves are not “difficult” enough according to Betjemann’s description in the assignment sheet.
This assignment asks you to study a chapter or the introduction from one of the field-changing books of the last few decades. The vast majority of such books went through rigorous peer-review and many drafts; their arguments are tight (often extraordinarily so), extremely nuanced, and demand much of the reader at every turn.
In a document that may be typed or produced by hand – but, in either case, need not be narrative – I ask you to trace what we might call the “Ciceronian” moves of your chosen chapter. By Ciceronian moves, I mean the classic elements of logical argument: propositions, adversatives, caveats, allowances, evidentiary passages, contextualization. (This is not a formal or restrictive list, but – hopefully – a suggestive one connoting, generically, some foundational principles of argumentation.)
Hardly any Composition Studies books are “difficult” theory-wise — at least, they don’t seem to me to be. But that’s probably because the field by definition (ideally) places equal weight on practice and theory. So often the most tricky or difficult ideas are fleshed out by reference to or by example of everyday in-classroom practice.
Hmmm, anyway — it’s too bad, because I think I might use some of Hairston’s moves in my own thesis. I’m definitely going to incorporate her thinking into my thesis. Anyway, we’ll see…
Hmm, maybe Ann Berthoff’s “Is Teaching Still Possible? Writing, Meaning, and Higher Order Reasoning” (1984) fits the Ciceronian difficulty bill better.
Meanwhile, I want to make a note of E. Shelley Reid’s “Starting Somewhere Better: Revisiting Multiculturalism in First-Year Composition” which I want to look over later for my thesis.
Oops, gotta go!