Notes, Rethinking Reflection in Community-Based Writing

Feldman’s Making Writing Matter had me questioning some of my Freirian/Shorian critical pedagogical assumptions. First off, my process stance, toward “utopia” (for Ira) and for critical consciousness for the maestro became something to reflect on. I’m a “Fish” as Stanley in her narrative? Grammar master?

No, I could not be prescriptive in the sense that it would counter all my research. Certainly a handle on grammatical taxonomies is important for discourse analysis, but not in the way that Fish argues. For Fish, according to Feldman, grammar is the only subject composition should teach (98). All content should be apolitical in the sense of understanding the social relations in language that come from disrupting NP + VP = S  or S V O stylistic and rhetorical tactics.

There is a place for that, but it comes first from gathering data to work with, and this is always political. When the data comes from one’s conditions of experience, which Freire and Shor both realize as the reading of the world and the word simultaneously as critical literacy. This is where I advocate for fieldwork as sites for gathering data to perform such an analysis as the Fish pushes forward in Feldman’s narrative, but I wouldn’t stop it with that. Connected to this are the social relationships that the grammar in the data would forge, and these of course would need to be explored through further investigations into the artifacts of the community, literacy events, interviews, or audio or visual footage of interactions of community members under study.

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Quotes from Feldman:

Citing Margaret Willard-Traub

[. . .] increasingly, in fields ranging from English studies to anthropology to law to medicine, approahces to writing that incorporate autobiography and personal narrative are being used by scholar not simply as a means for meditating on lived experience, but also as methods of scholarly analysis and argumentation. Such autobiographical multivalent, and multivoiced texts have attracted much critical attention within their fields, especially for their ideological challenging of traditional disciplinary discourses that some would argue privilege certain kinds of knowledge–and certain writers and readers–over others. (2006, 424)

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Language Brokering, Rhetoric, and Kenneth Burke

Contemporary rhetoricians want to know what consequences decisions about language use have for the ways we communicatew with each other. Kenneth Burke, too, contributes to our theme of opposites that pits particularity against typicality. For Burke, identification, the opposite of division, focuses us on the importance of reciprocity in our relationships. Our motives and desires direct us to act in concert with those we identify with and to remain divided from those we oppose (1962a, 21). These motives underlie Aristotle’s classic definition that rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Burke gives the following example: two individuals collaborate, “in an enterprise to which they derive different kinds of services and from which they derive different amounts and kinds of profit. Burke asks, “who is to say, once and for all, just where ‘cooperation’ ends and one’s partner’s ‘exploitation’ of the other begins” (25). Resolving this dilemma will rely on language and on’e identifications will be very important in defining one’s position. But identification also implies division. Burke wants us to pay close attention to how the “wavering line: between connection and estrangement or in his terms, between identification and division, becomes an opportunity for language use by a human agent. Rhetoric, for Burke, “is an essential function of language.” It, as I say earlier, offers a “symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols” (43). Writing, then, is never a simple translational tool; it always functions as a way for individuals to enact particular motives in a complex setting fraught with division and expectations. (119).

My first thought is to consider the “triad” structure and how during moments of language brokering that movement between languages enacts identification and division, with the power of the language broker to “control” the movement between audiences. Situated as performance, as rhetorically motivated, to connect two audiences, but also inducing cooperation, and in essence, embodying cooparative agency.

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