Speaker, Audience, Subject

So much of the reading for this week is concerned with the problems of rhetorical situation and how to convey this idea in the First Year Composition classroom. In his essay “Kairos: A Neglected Concept in Classical Rhetoric,” Kinneavy articulates the concern, which is later reiterated by Bizzell in “‘Contact Zones’ and English Studies,” that a student is unlikely to grasp situational context and rhetorical purpose unless he or she is writing on a topic for which they have an understanding or in which they have some kind of stake. Interestingly, both essays appeared in print in 1994, which suggests to me that the concept of ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ may have been a developing trend at this time. Kinneavy’s solution is kairos. His definition here for a program defined by kairos is “a liberal arts program in the historic sense of the term” and in which the “wholesomeness of the student who was scholar, and rhetorician, and aesthete” is protected (239).

Kinneavy and Bizzell both suggest significant overhauls to the systems in place and both find that overhaul in the implementation of new focuses for composition and English programs. These ideas of cultivating all forms of writing, as well as the critical thinking skills needed to inform that writing, are good ones. One the biggest issues I find in terms of attitude from students in the First Year Composition Program is the question of application. How can what we teach help them in their own disciplines? This concept of ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ could hold the answer, but as we discussed in class, the issue of evaluation rears its head once we start revising the systems already in place. If we allow for emphasis on those topics that are most important to our students, then we as composition instructors can still evaluate form, but we are not in a position to evaluate mimetic addressing of subject matter.

Kinneavy and Bizzell offer ideas and criticisms without adequately framed solutions, but the seeds of change are there.


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