Rhetoric in Literature and Other Classrooms
In my real life, I am a writer. 1 And when I'm at work, I'm also a rhetorician. For me, these identities complement each other, like peanut butter and jelly, and much, if not all, of my life is tinted by these rosy terministic screens. In addition to rhetoric courses, I sometimes teach literature classes, and in these classrooms where the tradition is to privilege others' writing over one's own, I still think first as a writer and second as a rhetorician even as I assume my role as a reader.
From my experiences, I've concluded that the presence of rhetoric can transform these classrooms that traditionally center around the consumption of texts in ways that attend to the needs of contemporary readers. In these classrooms, our students often arrive without the shared knowledges and homogeneous experiences that we expect them to have, and rhetoric can provide these inexperienced readers, and even those with some experience, with a context, like dissolvable stitches, that enables them to access texts and to generate meaning. Regardless of whether the class is an introduction to literature or a graduate seminar on the American short story, the presence of a rhetorical theory of discourse and of language establishes a dialogic classroom that provides readers with a critical literacy and that offers them a critical perspective on the relationship between language, knowledge, and power by contextualizing sanctioned reading practices and by providing a means through which readers can challenge dominant readings in favor of their own. In what follows, I explore first the theory and then the pedagogy that lie behind the role of rhetoric in literature and other classrooms that center around the consumption of texts. In doing so, I've situated myself within