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Contrastive rhetoric in creators' hands

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Title:
Contrastive rhetoric in creators' hands moving from theory to classroom application
Creator:
Rix, Anneliese Maria
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xii, 72 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Rhetoric -- Cross-cultural studies ( lcsh )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching ( fast )
Rhetoric ( fast )
Genre:
Cross-cultural studies. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Cross-cultural studies ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 70-72).
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Anneliese Maria Rix.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
166394009 ( OCLC )
ocn166394009
Classification:
LD1193.L54 2006m R59 ( lcc )

Full Text
r
CONTRASTIVE RHETORIC IN CREATORS HANDS: MOVING FROM
THEORY TO CLASSROOM APPLICATION
Anneliese Maria Rix
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2000
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
by
Master of Arts
English
2006


by Anneliese Maria Rix
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Anneliese Maria Rix
has been approved by
Ian Ying
Michelle Comstock
C Bradford Mudge


Rix, Anneliese Maria (M.A., English)
Contrastive Rhetoric in Creators Hands
Thesis directed by Dr. Ian Ying
ABSTRACT
This paper identifies a future direction for contrastive rhetoric by offering
tangible classroom approaches culled from past contrastive rhetoric research, as
well as the authors own teaching experience. The paper begins by identifying the
principles upon which Robert Kaplan created the need for the field of contrastive
rhetoric to be founded, and then locates the position of contrastive rhetoricians in
current discourse. From these foundations, the paper analyzes the needs of
college students in an urban setting where native and non-native speakers of
English are assigned to the same introductory composition classrooms and offers
solutions for instructors to best accommodate those needs by encouraging them to
inquire into students different contexts of writing, raise student awareness of
their own rhetorical choices, and by always working to discover new rhetorical
choices to put into students hands so that they continue to grow as thinkers and
writers on their own.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Ian Ying


DEDICATION
To my parents, without whom none of my love or fascination for words could
exist.
Para Mamita Gloria y Grandma Caroline, who didnt need to speak the same
language to understand the goodness in one another.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to thank Jake Adam York, Bradford Mudge, and the Writing Center
for making my graduate school experience complete.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE.........................................................ix
CHAPTER
1. THESIS PURPOSE.........................................1
Kaplans Contributions..............................4
CHAPTER
2. TODAYS APPROACHES AND IDEAS..........................21
Dwight Atkinsons Culture Conundrum................21
Received Culture versus Postmodern Culture
versus Cultural Studies Culture..............22
Culture as Product versus Culture
as Process...................................23
Culture in the Head versus Culture in
the World....................................25
Big Culture versus Small Culture.............26
Kubota & Lehner: Leaning in the Right Direction....28
CHAPTER
3. HOW LINEAR IS A CIRCLE?...............................35
Cultural Shifts from an Uncommon Stance............38
CHAPTER
4. WHAT IS SHE BUILDING IN THERE?........................45
Students and Setting...............................45
vii


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.............46
A New Beginning.............................52
Goo Goo GJoob..............................55
CHAPTER
5. SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE....................61
APPENDIX
A. PERMISSION TO PUBLISH STUDENT
WRITING SAMPLES................................62
B. KAPLANS GRAPHIC REPRESENTATION
OF PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT BY CULTURE............68
BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................70
Vlll


PREFACE
An appropriate introduction for this thesiss research regarding contrastive
rhetoric is perhaps best understood by an autobiographical explanation of my own
linguistic and cultural background, since my upbringing as a bilingual American
citizen has directed my interests in contrastive rhetoric, composition instruction,
and language acquisition...
I was raised in a bicultural household, where both parents were bilingual,
thereby allowing me to achieve fluency in Spanish and English without a
conscious understanding of the process of my own language acquisition. Bom
and raised in Chicago, Illinois, my father jumped on the once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to travel to Honduras in his early twenties, where he gained
employment as a biology teacher at an American high school in Tegucigalpa,
Honduras, and also as a scuba diving instructor for American tourists vacationing
on Roatan. In this new country, where he lived for the majority of the 1970s, he
was exposed to Spanish for the first time and, today, is fluent in his second
language, retaining native understanding of the cultural and linguistic nuances of
a language he acquired in his adulthood. Not only is my father a fluent speaker,
writer, and reader of Spanish, but he has been employed as a bilingual teacher by
Adams County School District 14 at Alsup Elementary School in Commerce City,
Colorado for the past twenty-seven years, where he teaches fifth-grade students
who enter his class having an inadequate grasp of both their native language
(usually Spanish) and their second language, English. While he still has the
accent of a gabacho (an American, European, or otherwise light-skinned person),
that accent is minimal enough that native speakers of Spanish do not perceive it
until a conversation is significantly underway. During his time in Honduras, my
IX


father met my mother, who only spoke Spanish, and married her, relocating to the
United States shortly after their wedding.
Once here, my mother faced the challenge that had met my father in
Honduras: to learn, as an adult, a second language to which she had never been
exposed. Even during their courtship, my parents use of English was minimal,
and my mother knew only los numeros hasta diez y como conjugar el verbo to
be (how to count to ten and how to conjugate the verb to be) when she
moved to Chicago in 1977. Once there, her own tenacity led her to excel in the
language classes she took y consiguid trabajo (she gained employment) as a legal
secretary at a prominent law firm, a job whose sensitive nature required complete
proficiency in English as she wrote and revised legal documents and letters in her
second language, and executed contracts. The aural and written comprehension
required to perform those duties is, inarguably, sophisticated. Although she has
retained her accent, her vocabulary is extensive and she has expressed to me the
suspicion that her accent remained only because she did not continue rigorous
lessons in English phonetics.
Until my adulthood, I was not consciously aware that my mother and
father are living examples of second-language learners who achieved fluency in
their second-language after the critical perioda period of time preceding
puberty identified by some linguists as the last point in cognitive development
where ESL learners still stand a chance of achieving fluency in a second language
(Pinker 26). My parents hard work after the critical period of language
acquisition laid the foundation for me to acquire native fluency reading, speaking,
and writing in English and Spanish. Their labor allowed for my bilingualism to
develop unconsciously, with my conscious line of questioning regarding language
acquisition developing during my graduate career. In addition to their proficiency
x


with the grammar and mechanics of their second language, my parents also,
arguably, acquired cultural proficiencythus begging the idea of contrastive
rhetoric studies, which concerns itself with culture, logic, and with how those two
are tied to the minutiae of language, such as grammar and syntax.
As for me, I have no idea how I became proficient in two languages, other
than by speaking and reading both everyday throughout my life, and developing
an innate fascination for languages that even includes sentence diagramming,
regardless of which language its in. I was lucky. But I am a shoddy example of
language acquisition and of contrastive rhetorics concerns, because I acquired
two languages from infancy. If ESL learners really must struggle with learning
new forms of logic, I have no idea what that struggle consists of, since I was
raised with two forms of language and logic simultaneously. My parents,
however, attest to the fact that overcoming those struggles successfully is
possible, and that its possible after the critical age. Similarly, if grammar
supposedly cannot be learned with native proficiency past the critical age
therefore eventually stunting deeper rhetorical understanding (logic, systems of
logic, thus cultural logic)then my parents disprove that theory also. They are
contrastive rhetorics success stories.
However, their second-language and second-culture fluency also points to
something that lies outside of any teachers hands: the personal dedication and
openness of second-language learners to learn and comprehend the nuances of
acquiring a new language and culture. If that onus falls on students, then what is
the responsibility of the teacher who is trying to reach out to his or her students?
What should the teacher do on a daily basis in the classroom and why?
Whether from personal curiosity informed by my family background, or
academic curiosity informed by my coursework, I wanted to answer every
xi


question about teaching language and writing, and to understand every answer.
Contrastive rhetoric felt new, dynamic; most of all, it felt personal. It pointed to
an academic forum that could provide solid answers as to why my family
overcame the struggle with which I am trying to help my composition students
every time I step into class. So, I buried myself in contrastive rhetoric, expecting
to find the answer that would help me teach every student. I gave myself an
impossible task, but one that I still desperately believe should drive every teacher:
I wanted to be an excellent teacher, one who could connect with her students and
inspire them toward a critical understanding of their own writing.
The futility of my efforts exhausted me. Everywhere I turned, others were
asking the same questions of contrastive rhetoric (Does culture inform writing? If
so, how? Does culture shape rhetoric? If so, how?) and coming up with answers
whose differences simply seemed too superficial to be anything other than an
inadvertently playful debate in semantics, despite how critically and carefully
constructed these theories were regarding contrastive rhetoric.
By tripping through the missteps of my own attempts, I realized that the
same frustrating questions still irked me at the end of every article and book I
read: Okay, so what do I do with my students? What am I supposed to teach
them? Although defining culture and the processes of language acquisition still
concerned me, and the theories behind those concepts remained prescient, I still
needed to know how to teach....
But, teaching doesnt happen without ideas, and my inability to find a
static answer for dynamic concerns is now a boon instead of a hindrance as I
address the history of contrastive rhetoric, discuss the ideas of its current players,
and add my own ideas to the mix.
Xll


CHAPTER 1
THESIS PUPOSE
As an instructor of college composition, a bilingual citizen, a rhetoric and
compositionand literary studiesresearcher, and as a writer, I have developed
an intense interest in the field of contrastive rhetoric (CR). CR, as introduced by
Robert Kaplan, is a field of writing instruction that addresses second-language
learning beyond the realm of linguistic translation and acquisition. It
acknowledges that logic is unique to the circumstances, background, and culture
that have shaped it; therefore, what is considered logical or coherent to one person
(according to what that person has been taught that logic is) may appear
discordant or disorganized to a person with a different background. This theory
of contrastive rhetoric has fascinated writing instructors and rhetoricians for the
past forty years since its inception; unfortunately, the progress of CR has
stagnated, remaining at the level of fascination upon simply considering it as a
theory. Little has been done to move the field beyond its original conception.
While it is integral to understand the needs of students who are learners of English
as a second language (ESL students) by acknowledging that they may utilize
different systems of logic, CR researchers, and ESL writing instructors, must
allow the field to grow and innovate by considering other methods that will
complement the goals and foundations of CR.
CR would do well to acknowledge that ESL writing students face the same
potential writing dilemmas that non-ESL writing students face; for this reason, the
consideration of a broader scope of teaching of writing approaches benefits
contrastive rhetoric theory. These other methods to which I refer are neither
earth-shattering nor ground-breaking; rather, they are methods that English
composition, literature, creative writing, Writing Across the Curriculum, and
1


second language instructors use often enough, albeit without the necessarily
conscious correlation of these methods usefulness or relationship to CR theory,
CR-based lesson plans, and pedagogy. Perhaps not innovative, but certainly
constructive, the above writing fields and instructional approaches encourage
instructors to expand their forums of writing instruction, where such expansion
raises the odds of aligning writing instruction with the varied writing
requirements that their students will explore as they continue their academic
careers:
[T]o facilitate and guide the development of knowledge, the field
[of second language writing] has developed its own disciplinary
infrastructure and metadisciplinary discourse. Yet second
language writing should not become completely independent from
other fields that are also concerned with language and writing.
Severing interdisciplinary ties would be counterproductive because
the field does not have its own instructional domain; that is, L2
writing course are almost situated in broader programs or
departments, such as applied linguistics, composition studies,
education, foreign languages, linguistics, and TESL. (Matsuda 28)
The lack of instructional domain identified by Matsuda has an even broader
application: Although ESL writing instruction may be situated within broader
programs and departments, writing itself is not relegated to use within only those
departments that are language- and writing-based. The combination of courses
that college students take as electives, major requirements, and university
requirements ask ESL and non-ESL students to produce a wide array of texts with
a wide array of written requirements. CR needs to concern itself with varied
approaches because, while ESL writing instructors may be attuned to the diverse
2


needs of their students, future instructors in other disciplines may not benor
should they necessarily be, given that their time and energy might revolve
primarily around discipline-specific concerns for their students work. However,
in order to equip students adequately to meet these requirements, writing
instructors must attempt to call on teaching of writing strategies and assignments
that are as varied as the requirements their students may be asked to meet when
they leave their first-year college composition courses. This burden is carried
equally by writing instructors that teach native-language writers and by those that
teach second-language writers.
Since my own teaching represents a synthesis of many approaches, my
thesis also seeks to synthesize contrastive rhetorics various approaches to
teaching writing with long-standing methods of teaching writing in non-ESL
classrooms, focusing in particular on creative writing approaches, New Critical
lines of questioning to engage students with their own written texts, and grammar
exercises whose foundations also lie within students own writing. Given the
discursive process that paved the road for contrastive rhetoric, with CR
culminating from the dialogue between several of its preceding and contemporary
theories, including structuralism, feminist theory, and postcolonialism, it is
appropriate for classroom applications of CR theory to engage as broad of a scope
as its influences in order to remain critical. The ideas motivating my thesis
developed not only from my family, but also from my experiences teaching
composition at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
(UCDHSC), a university where English 1020: Core Composition I is a
requirement for all students of all disciplines across the campus. UCDHSC has a
high percentage of ESL and international students who find themselves learning
to write at the collegiate level in the same Core Composition I classrooms as
3


native speakers of English. In order to effectively and passionately serve all of
my students, I work to raise my awareness of their individual needs in my
classrooms and craft an approach that encompasses effective classroom
applications from a wide variety of rhetorical theories, including contrastive
rhetoric. In this mixed college classroom setting, I have seen many of my
students, including ESL students, benefit from the variety of approaches and
rhetorical choices that I have encouraged them to explore.
This thesis contributes to the field of contrastive rhetoric by joining CR
theory with examples of classroom applications and asking other rhetoricians and
instructors to do the same. While in-depth discussions of contrastive rhetoric
theory and its foundations will always remain prescient, they can be strengthened
by the contribution of lesson plans alongside those discussions, with pedagogical
defenses for how the lesson plans uphold contrastive rhetoric theory.
Kaplans Contributions
For most composition instructors today, Robert F. Kaplans name and the
term contrastive rhetoric ring at least a wee bell. Kaplan made his first splash
in a 1966 article entitled Cultural Thought Patterns in Intercultural Education.
He continued publishing articles in scholarly journals over a period of
approximately eight years before compiling the articles content in a book that
cohesively presented his research, containing slight revisions to the prior
published work, and revisions necessitated by his continued research (Kaplan ix).
The book, The Anatomy of Rhetoric appeared in 1972, with Kaplans Foreword
acknowledging that
[His] original conception was merely that rhetoric had to be
viewed in a relativistic way.... While [his] views have been
4


gradually modified, [he] would still maintain, as [he] did in 1964,
that rhetoric is a phenomenon tied to the linguistic system of a
particular language and that logicin so far as it is reflected in
rhetoric and grammaris also tied to the linguistic system through
which it is expressed. These contentions lead [him] to believe that
rhetorical frames must be taught in the second-language
curriculum; indeed that the rhetorical frames may have greater
importance in developing linguistic proficiency than the isolated
grammatical frames which constitute the largest part of second
language teaching, (x)
Kaplans contention implies that grammar, syntax, sentences, paragraphs, and
essays are not parts of a language that can be separated from one another.
According to this thought, in order for an ESL student to achieve fluency, the
smaller parts (e.g. grammar and vocabulary) of language must be taught within a
larger context (e.g. a sentence) in order to understand the function of the smaller
part, otherwise the smaller part risks only being understood as a part unto itself.
We can explore this idea in practice by looking at samples of Spanish and
English syntactical structure and meaning. Take the following English sentence:
I lost my keys.
Conceptually and syntactically, the sentence is straightforward, containing a
subject (I), verb (lost), and direct object (keys). The English sentence has
explicit and implicit meaning. Clearly, keys have been lost, giving us explicit
meaning. The keys in question have been lost by I, the subject of the sentence,
giving us additional explicit meaning. Since I has admitted to losing the keys,
fault, or blame, become the implicit meaning of the sentence: Keys are lost and a
5


specific person is at fault for the loss. Now lets look at two acceptable Spanish
translations of the above sentence and see which meanings remain consistent:
A. ) Perdi mis Haves.
B. ) Se meperdieron las Haves.
Sentence A is a literal translation of the simple sentence that was written in
English above. In Spanish translation A, the sentence contains the implied subject
Yo, meaning I.1 The verb perdi translates directly as lost, and mis Haves
translate directly as my keys; therefore, sentence A retains the same explicit and
implicit meaning, stating that an object was lost and that a doer of the action was
is responsible for that loss. However, Spanish sentence B retains only one
meaning: the explicit meaning that keys have been lost. While sentence A is an
acceptable literal translation and syntactical structure for Spanish, sentence B
would be the more commonly used manner of expressing loss of keys. Lets take
a look at how and why sentence B retains only the explicit meaning of the
statement as it was made in English:
B.) Se me perdieron las Haves.
In English, the closest literal translation possible of sentence B would read
The keys got lost on me.
or even
The keys lost themselves on me.
The use of the se indeterminado (undetermined se) is a grammatical and
syntactical structure that removes clarity regarding who or what is performing the
action of the verb in a sentence. In sentence B above, the implicit issue of blame
1 In Spanish, the first-person preterit tense implies I in its conjugation, similar
to the implied you seen in present-tense verbs that are used as second-person
commands in English (e.g. You take the dog for a walk is equally understood
when stated as Take the dog for a walk).
6


is removed and becomes an implicit meaning, hinting that the person to whom the
keys belonged had no control as to whether or not the keys stayed in sight or got
lost. Se me closely translates to on me, a structure that is seen from time to time
in English, primarily as a colloquialism that borders on slang. In Spanish, that
structure is acceptable, common, and does not hint of colloquialism or slang; in
fact, the lack of blame can be removed even further by removing me:
C.) Se perdieron mis llaves.
The closest English translation for this third option would read as follows:
My keys lost themselves.
Thus, all blame has been removed from the owner of the keys and has shifted to
the keys themselves!
The relationship of the above translations to Kaplan lie within the theory
that the Spanish language could not allow for such a construction to exist if it did
not also perform logically. In the examples above, we see that the se
xndeterminado is grammatically and syntactically sound, while also allowing for
logic that the English translations do not allow for. The first English sentence
stating, I lost my keys, could be translated literally into Spanish while the
meaning remained consistent, but the following Spanish options that presented
different sentence structures also presented alternate frames by which to
understand the meaning being communicated. When those meanings were
examined in English, they appeared illogical.
Given the above sentence translations, an option for logical translation
from Spanish sentence C does exist in English, reading
My keys got lost,
where this example retains the implicit and explicit meaning from Spanish.
However, the decision that an English speaker makes before saying, I lost my
7


keys versus saying, My keys got lost is dictated by common usage, which
becomes a logical concern based on the cultural instinct of how meaning is
expressed. Where a native Spanish speaker, such as myself, will instinctively
remove herself from blame through grammar, a native English speaker, such as
myself, will more often tend to clearly ascribe a doer to an action, also making
that grammatical choice instinctively (culturally) to present meaning in a way that
decreases chances of inspiring follow-up questions in a listener, such as How did
you lose your keys? or Waityou lost your keys or someone else did? What
do you mean?
To move from the sentence- to the paragraph-level, imagine a story, essay,
or personal account written in English about keys losing themselves. If applying
the device of personification to the keys, a creative story written in English is
fairly easy to imagine, particularly assuming that the writer employs a touch of
humor to the situation. An extended factual essay or personal account, however,
is not so easy to imagine in English if the written piece must adhere to an
American cultural understanding of how and why tangible objects are lost by their
possessors. The existence in the Spanish language of a grammatically correct and
commonly used linguistic device that absolves a tangible objects possessor of
blame implicitly on a sentence level also allows for an extended written account
a factual onethat explains the loss in-depth without alluding to the possessor at
all as a person of blame. A native English speaker learning to write in Spanish
could learn to use the se indeterminado as an isolated function of Spanish
grammar, but if the learners understanding were not encouraged beyond the
sentence level, he would miss the opportunity to experimentally apply this new
system of logic to the internal organization of his paragraphs in the second
language and, eventually, his essay. Luckily, the se indeterminado serves as a fun
8


example of the different grammatical and logical nuances between two languages,
highlighting Kaplans theory that each language must be operating according to
its own holistic logical structure to determine the minutiae within sentences.
Symbiotically, the minutiae of grammar within each language follow rules that
allow for the holistic logic of the culture that uses that language.
A non-linguistic example of this idea can be explored if we try to define a
non-linguistic object, such as a table. Lets say that a table is a solid object with
four legs and a flat surface. However, once we define a table as such, we omit all
other options of understanding what a table can be: a short round coffee table with
three legs, a tall square-surfaced table with a single column for support and a wide
base at the bottom, or a triangular-shaped table with however many legs necessary
for balance. What constitutes tableness in our minds? Once we remove the
static descriptions of a table, we are forced to look at how a table interacts with
objects around it in order to separate the essence of a table from the essence of
other furniture in a room. But, we need other furniture and objects in a room, and
their relation to the table, in order to understand the tables function. Do we put
lamps and books on a table, or a television set? What constitutes the difference
between a TV stand and an endtable if not each objects interaction with other
objects? Linguistically speaking, a word is understood as part of a sentence. A
sentence is understood as part of a longer string of thoughts, such as a paragraph
or a conversation. Therefore, a paragraph is understood as an even longer process
of thought, such as an essay, newspaper article, or novel. If we are to teach ESL
students how to use the smaller parts of a second language effectively, we cannot
simply tell them that a table has four legs and a four-sided flat surface; we must
teach them all of the contexts that constitute tableness, and we must ask them
about their familiarity with tableness. When they think of a table, does their
9


minds eye picture something short and round? Is that what tableness implies in
another country? If so, then the teachers of tableness must engage a discussion
about the essence of tableness according to various points of view and show
students the possibility of carving and building a table in different ways. While
tables might look round in one country, they may look square in another country.
English contains its own process of building tables, and instructors must teach the
process behind the construction instead of merely requesting models of a finished
product. Teaching from the standpoint that each culture possesses unique systems
of logic whose processes must be taught can be related to teaching a student how
to carve a square, as opposed to asking them to glue triangle-shaped pieces onto
the outside of a circle until they have a square-looking object. The first step to
understanding contrastive rhetoric and the idea of teaching and inquiring about
cultural logic lies in the instructors awareness that a students minds eye may be
picturing a round table while the instructor is picturing a square table.
Since these ideas have had forty years to incubate and disseminate across
the fields of language and writing instruction, Kaplans theories are sound enough
that their truth is taken for granted. However, at the time that Kaplan introduced
these theories into English writing instruction, ESL teachers were forced for the
first time to look at communication theories that were already passe for
sociologists and anthropologists. These fields commonly engage questions about
daily communication among social members of particular groups, cultures, and
sub-cultures, where outside members from another language and culture (people
who are Others, or Othered) strive to understand unfamiliar methods of logic and
language (Kaplan 6).
Sociologists and anthropologists, as literate members of their own culture,
had already familiarized themselves with the struggle of learning to become
10


literate about, possibly even within, cultures that did not belong to them, whereas
English writing instructors worked on the other end of the spectrum: they
possessed the innate knowledge of a system that Otherstheir studentswere
attempting to break into. Prior to the popularization of contrastive rhetoric,
structuralist theory also invited Kaplans concepts by positing that things cannot
be understood in isolationthey have to be seen in the context of the larger
structures they are part of (Barry 39). Exploring the relationship between
language and meaning, linguist and philologist Ferdinand de Saussure argued for
the complementary coexistence of symbols of meaning (words and/or images) and
meaning itself.2 For Saussure, symbols of meaning were called sound-images
whose definitions lay in the psychological association between the
name/word/symbol for an object and the object itself (Saussure 832). In this
view, the sound-image is neither a word, nor symbol, nor object, but instead a
mental and sensory link existing in the human mind.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Saussures theory of construction of
meaning can be found in the almost paradoxical notion that signifiers are
simultaneously arbitrary and associative. If a sign is the mental link in the human
mind, then the signifier is the vehicle (the word and/or image) by which the sign
is recognized, and the signified is the concept that the human mind recognizes
after the signifier has pointed to the sign as a whole (Sausurre 833).3 Considering
It is important to acknowledge the different between Saussures linguistic
application of these ideas and Kaplans application of these ideas with the
conscious implication of their effects in teaching second-language writing.
3 Here, we see that Saussures definitions of sign and sound-image overlap, both
contingent upon the presence of a psychological link between the meaning of a
concept and the material representation of that concepts meaning.
11


that linguistic signs are words assigned to signified objects, a linguistic sign as a
signifier is arbitrary to the signified in a way that a symbol is not, simply because
linguistic signs (words) are constructed from phonetic sounds that can be arranged
in an infinite variety of ways to produce what the human mind recognizes as a
word (Ibid.). However, while he argues for the arbitrary assignment of words to
meaning, Saussure also acknowledges that the speaking circuit that both terms
involved in the linguistic sign [jj'c] are psychological and are united in the brain
by an associative bond. This point must be emphasized (832). If the linguistic
unit is a double entity, one formed by the associating of two terms (Ibid.), then
neither meaning nor its arbitrary sign can rightly precede one another.
Essentially, language shapes, and is shaped by, the world around it, without
meaning lying inherently in the signifier or the signified, but in the cooperative
bond formed between the two. Ideas cannot precede language as if they are
waiting for the right phonetic combination to appear and describe them, any more
than words are constructed from phonemes, which do not, in fact, contain any
inherent meaning. However, words and ideas do exist at the same time, becoming
more expressive as they are used to shape each other.
This structuralist framework, in conjunction with the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis, provided a springboard for Kaplan to consider meaning and
languages implications for second-language composition. Moving toward a
culture-specific variation of structuralist semiology, Edward Sapir stated that We
see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language
habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation (qtd. in
Chandler). By highlighting the habits of community experience and language
use, Sapir contextualized Saussures semiotic language system into a smaller,
more manageable scope, one where conceptual meaning and specific language
12


use could be studied within communities and where the structuralist argument
would necessarily fit the scale of any particular community in question. This
position was furthered by Benjamin Lee Whorf, a student of Sapirs, when he
stated that We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages....
We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do,
largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it this wayan
agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the
patterns of our languages (qtd. in Chandler). Note that Whorf s position moves
away from structuralist theory by hinting that conceptual organization precedes
language, thus his use of the word codified, which impliesas Saussure argued
against that language is assigned to fit meanings that already exist. Although
the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis smacks more of linguistic determinism than
Saussures views, both foundations contribute to the development of CR theory:
From Saussure, we can acknowledge that language and meaning engage each
other symbiotically, and from Sapir-Whorf, we can acknowledge that this
symbiotic relationship occurs within the framework of individual cultures.
Kaplan popularized these issues with respect to second-language writing, thereby
pushing ESL writing instruction toward a new framework that is commonly
accepted and used today, even when instructors may not realize that their current
approaches hearken back to Kaplans 1966 publication, his structuralist
predecessors, and his contemporaries.
When I think back to my own high school English courses, I remember
reading Beloved. Things Fall Apart and The Invisible Man in preparation for the
Advanced Placement (AP) English exam. I wrote a lengthy paper about Huddie
Leadbelly Ledbetter and discussed the Harlem Renaissance in class my junior
year. By senior year, my teacher introduced us to Gloria Anzaldua and to the
13


challenges of identity construction for Mexican lesbians bom and raised on the
Tex-Mex border. And, how many junior high school students across the nation
have been required to read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros?
While curricula vary from school to school, world literature is no stranger to
American English classrooms. In fact, Chicano and African-American literature
have become valued additions to required reading lists, whether or not instructors
recognize that they are validating Othered texts and cultures in their classrooms
and implicitly entrenching their students in new forms of cultural logic, a process
allowed for by the late twentieth-century trend toward feminist theory and
postcolonialism.
Feminist theory and postcolonialism both challenged hegemonic views of
language and of identity, claiming space for the recognition and rediscovery of
female and multicultural languages and identities that had previously been
undermined, or ignored, by dominant social, political, theoretical, linguistic, and
literary structures. Given feminist theorys past writersHelene Cixous, Aphra
Behn, Mary Shelley, and Virginia Woolf, to name a scant fewit is hardly
accurate to say that the late-twentieth century in America was the first time these
struggles were brought to the fore. However, the reexamination of feminist
theory, criticism, and literature in the 1970s and 80s evolved in slightly different
direction: Thus, in feminist criticism in the 1970s the major effort went into
exposing what might be called the mechanisms of patriarchy, that is the cultural
mind-set in men and women which perpetuated sexual inequality (Barry 122).
According to this assessment, not only was feminism undergoing a paradigm shift
in the 1970s, it was also adopting a systematic analysis of why and how gender
inequality was enabled by the parties that produced it. Even placed within a
larger structure, such inequality must be necessarily reinforced by the smaller
14


parts constituting the whole in order for the whole to remain as it was. This kind
of structural examination of a whole system inspired investigations into the
characteristics of the smaller parts of the whole to establish an identity for the
smaller parts aside from the identity constructed by the whole system of power
relations between genders. In other words, 70s feminist enlisted itself as an
active party to inquire whether there was such a thing as the existence of
inherently female worlds, outlooks, and language, and if there was such an
existence, it further inquired about the origins of the inherently female and where
the inherently female could be found contemporarily.
The multiculturalist movement of the 1990s shares a similar historic
progression as feminism, where its recognition occurred not solely in the 90s, but
its reawakening did. Edward Saids 1978 publication Orientalism addressed
postcolonial concerns regarding a cultures identity unto itself, in opposition to a
cultures identity as ascribed by observers. He argued that There wereand
arecultures and nations whose location is in the East, and their lives, histories,
and customs have a brute reality obviously greater than anything that could be
said about them in the West, (1279) establishing the idea that cultural identity is
recognizable within a given culture, regardless of its properties observed and
juxtaposed by the presence of an alternate culture. Although Said concentrated on
the oppositional relationship between East and West, 1990s multiculturalism
moved beyond this binary by widening its cultural scope. By stating, [I]t is
never really Greek culture, or French culture, or Roman culture, that is compared
with Latino culture or Afro-American culture, but always Western culture,
(1591) John Guillory pointed out the tendency of cultural recognition to position
itself against one dominant canonical force. Underscoring this tendency jars our
attention to the necessity of constructing a dynamic cross-cultural dialogue, rather
15


than patterning cultural inclusion in series of linear relationships that ultimately
lead to the same point of comparison and contrast: Western culture. Guillorys
argument further problematizes these tendencies as cultural appropriation, where
critical inquiry of cultural identity occurs so long as that identity is placed within
a dominant cultural identity (1590). Such appropriation only serves to reinforce
the Othering of many cultures against Western culture, even if the intention is
otherwise. If this is the case, it is my hope that contrastive rhetoric theory and
instructors adopting its tenets also adopt the academic responsibility of seeking
potentially unappropriated forums of cultural discourse to engage in a critical
process of weighing cultural appropriation against cultural identity, testing their
conclusions and theories through lesson plans that allow their students the same
opportunities for exploration of these issues, explicitly and implicitly.
The paradigm shifts outlined above that paved todays American social
fabric, combined with world-wide technological advances, do seem to allow a
wider berth than we have seen in the past for the unconscious exposure of many
to culturally unfamiliar logic. In other words, we are continually entrenched in
explicitly unrecognized access to contrasting rhetorics. For most United States
(US) citizens, students and teachers alike, the dissemination of global technology
and the rapidity with which we can access information previously disclosed from
us have helped unconsciously advance intercultural access in a way that buries
some of contrastive rhetorics past struggles, leaving us with a kind of hit-and-run
familiarity with global cultures. Foreign films have become increasingly popular,
with many touting great success in the USeven with subtitlessuch as the 2000
release, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Although markedly Eastern in its
thematic and cinematographic approaches, the film quickly achieved global
renown and its director, Ang Lee, became an immediately recognizable name
16


among the American movie-going audience. Lee entrenched viewers in a world
and story crafted so that lack of native cultural knowledge was a moot point for
consumers who were able to successfully accept logic that was innately tied to a
different cultural system from their own.
If we consider a movie as a rhetorical framework, we see that films
repeatedly and successfully present privileged cultural logic to foreign and
domestic audiences. Traffic, a movie filmed in both Spanish and English, gained
rapid popularity, has maintained its popularity, and is even frequently aired on
cable television stations. Traffic flipped between subtitled scenes when Spanish
was spoken by the actors and un-subtitled scenes when lines were delivered in
English. This technique preserved the authenticity of two cultures, two
languages, and two logic systems within one rhetorical framework: the movie. By
allowing bilingual actors, such as Benicio del Toro, to embody the tangible
possibility of double-dipping equitably within two linguistic systems, the viewing
audience also participated in that possibility, albeit unconsciously.
By layering moving pictures over an aural storyline, the media allows
audiences to accept differential systems of cultural logic without consciously
recognizing the ways in which their logic adapts as they view the film, thus
creating the cultural hit-and-run to which I referred earlier. And yet...writing
these different systems of logic, and teaching others how to write them, presents a
whole new roadblock in the classroom from accepting those systems when they
are presented by popular culture media. Was Ang Lee concerned about how to
make a film about Chinese culture that would work for an American system of
rhetoric, or was he concerned about making a quality film that happened to be
permeated by his own knowledge of a Chinese system of rhetoric? Without
having personal access to Ang Lee to pose such a question, we cant know the
17


answer, but we can still take his success, analyze the circumstances, and use that
information to help us draw useful analogies for how to present foreign cultural
logic to ESL students. After considering these two popular movies from
contemporary culture, one of which was directed by a Chinese filmmaker, we are
given a possible avenue to append a different critical approach to follow Kaplans
statement that Logic (not in the strictest philosophical sense), the basis of
rhetoric, then, is evolved out of a culture; it is not universal (7). Although we
may not be able to say that culture, rhetoric, or logic are universal, we still, as
instructors, ask our students to achieve writing whose quality is determined
according to the standards of a target language and target cultural/logic system:
English. If contrastive rhetoric seeks not to Other alternate languages, logics, and
texts, then second-language writing instruction becomes problematized by the
very presence of a target language and logic system. Somehow, we must ask
students to engage new logic without supplanting old logic or implying a
qualitative universal standard associated with the target language.
Lets think back to our analogy about tables and ask the question, How
do we know that a table is well-built? In large part, we know because of the way
the table interacts with the user.4 If that is the case, can readers perceive well-
built writing by the way they interact with a text, even when those texts contain
different characteristics of construction? If students are expected eventually to
distinguish effective from ineffective writing by the way they interact with texts
and by how readers interact with texts that they have written, they need to be
taught what a critical process of questioning looks like before they can make such
determinations. The lesson plans described in the first section of chapter four will
4 Here, I use well-built to refer to the functionality of the tables construction-
based characteristics, leaving aesthetic concerns aside.
18


clarify this theory, as well as contextualize it insofar as it has been tested in my
own Core Composition I classes.
Before further exploration, we should also acknowledge the unique
circumstance that second-language acquisition presents for instructors: They are
teaching literate adults how to become literate adults, therefore these adults
capability to produce complex thoughts and grammar structures (even if these
structure follow different cultural logic) should be acknowledged pedagogically
and inform classroom lesson plans. Core Composition I at UCDHSC adds
another layer of complexity; since these classes enroll ESL and non-ESL students,
the process behind teaching composition and language as logical structures
becomes muddied with the daunting task of teaching these structures in a way that
is digestible for both groups of students and a multitude of logical systems. While
ESL-only composition courses are occasionally offered at UCDHSC, Kaplan
presents a perspective that can be interpreted as an argument for composition
classrooms that do allow interaction between native and non-native speakers of
English. Kaplan argues for an ESL approach that begins teaching grammar in
context much sooner: Useful skill in a language seems to consist of at least two
separable functions, mechanical manipulation and extent of communicative
competence (21). He further states that his is an argument against post-poning
all other teaching until the student has mastered the manipulative aspects (7). In
linguistically and culturally mixed-demographic classrooms, ESL students will be
performing both tasks. By virtue of socialization and groupwork with classmates,
ESL students engage in the communicative aspect of Kaplans argument, whereas
composition assignments join communicative competence with mechanical
manipulation. The communication that ESL students engage in with non-ESL
classmates provides a forum to experiment with language in a more tranquil
19


manner than graded assignments provide. If structuralism also is to play a part in
our interpretations, then ESL students second language usage within a mixed-
demographic classroom can be seen as an organic way to shape and be shaped by
language, to absorb mechanical manipulation and communicative competence
simultaneously, allowing us to draw an analogy between the ESL students
unconscious experience of exposure to their second language/culture and the
unconscious exposure to contrasting rhetorics/cultures that was argued for earlier
by citing popular mainstream media.
On its own, such an analogy is decorative, but applied to the goals of
writing instructors who validate contrastive rhetoric theory in their pedagogy, the
analogy should serve to raise our explicit awareness of how, when, and where
contrasting rhetorics appear together, so we can use those unconsciously
occurring situations as inspiration for our classroom activities.
20


CHAPTER 2
TODAYS APPROACHES AND IDEAS
Dwight Atkinsons Culture Conundrum
Because contrastive rhetoric heavily engages the notion of culture and its
influences on writing and logic, it may be useful to examine what is meant when
we use the term culture. There is little success in treating the term as if it
contains a static definition that can be applied across the board. While he argues
that contrastive rhetoric needs a better conceptualization of culture5, Dwight
Atkinsons brave engagement of the term shows the difficulty in unearthing any
solid definition, or even set of definitions, that would elucidate the meaning
behind one of the driving forces of contrastive rhetoric theory.
Atkinson argues that CR itself has not yet engaged the notion of culture
in a serious, critical way (4), and he fills that void by breaking the notion of
culture into four sets of oppositional views: 1) received culture versus postmodern
culture versus cultural studies culture; 2) culture as product versus culture as
process; 3) culture in the head versus culture in the world; and 4) big culture
versus small culture (Atkinson 3). His discussion works toward balancing
contrastive rhetoric theory by contextualizing what is meant by culture with the
same attention that CR has paid to linguistic structures and compositional
organization between specified cultures. Beginning with Kaplans infamous
diagram correlating logical structures with their respective cultures6, contrastive
rhetoric has spent much time describing a culture and its respective logical
dictums without asking what is meant by the term culture, or inquiring how and
5 From the title Contrasting rhetorics/contrasting cultures: why contrastive
rhetoric needs a better conceptualization of culture
6 See Appendix B
21


why cultures are formed. Without denotative or connotative discussion of the
terms dynamic meanings and process of formation Kaplans diagram languishes
at the descriptive level of argumentative characteristicsresulting in potentially
static associations between a culture and its corresponding argumentative
structurerather than acknowledging culture as discursively produced with the
possibility of occupying various temporal and spatial shapes. Dwight Atkinson
gives us these improved conceptualizations of culture:
Received Culture versus Postmodern Culture versus Cultural Studies Culture
The first set of oppositional views defines received culture as the
commonsense notion that groups of people comprising a whole humankind can
be broken down into smaller sub-sets of humankind, in which each sub-set has its
own social rules, values, and traditions (Atkinson 4). In agreement with Ulla
Connor, Atkinson states that CRs primary understanding of culture is based upon
the received culture perspective (4). Given the preceding exploration of Kaplans
tenets for the foundation of CR, it is easy to see the conclusion behind Atkinsons
critique. Kaplans ideas were originally based on the assumption that every
culture contains elements that can be contrasted across cultures, causing him to
propose a system of analyzing and teaching writing that views writing as the
vehicle by which we can study the differences imprinted on writing as a product
of different cultures.
The postmodern view of culture that Atkinson proposes highlights culture
as a dynamic, changing entity, more akin to a process than a state of mind. This
view of culture allows for the entry of 21st century concerns and contraptions,
such as digital media and technology (Atkinson 4). With information changing
hands on a global scale more rapidly than in previous generations, the postmodern
22


view of culture leaves little room for any information to become static before it is
supplanted by a new influx of information. This process disallows static
definitions of culture as people are more frequently exposed to a greater variety of
information that sticks around for a lesser amount of time, therefore decreasing
the amount of information that can be gathered as cultural evidence for study and
analysis (Atkinson 5).
Atkinsons cultural studies definition of culture entertains the idea that
culture, at any given time, is shaped by popular culture influences and mass
exposure to those influences. Under this view, a culture will be shaped by its
current political climate as much as it will be shaped by the programming aired on
cable television stations (5). The primary difference between cultural studies
culture and postmodern culture seems to rest in the subtle implication that cultural
studies culture believes that mass culture forces carry the potential to leave
longer-lasting imprints on a group than postmodern culture feels is likely.
Culture as Product versus Culture as Process
When discussing culture as product versus culture as process, Atkinson
feels that these two notions of culture must be studied in relation to each other;
otherwise neither definition of culture can be fully understood (6). If the product
of a culture is a specific religious ritual, it can be studied on its own, but any
understanding of its cultural function will be stunted on a descriptive level. For
example, examining the Catholic ritual of taking communion can happen in two
ways: descriptively (as product) or as a process that determines the descriptions.
For a casual observer who walked into a Catholic mass, taking Holy Communion
would employ the observable and reportable characteristics of watching a priest
raising his hand over a plate of several pieces of round, flat, bread, saying a
23


prayer, and then eating one of the small pieces of bread. This act is followed by
the priest raising his hand over a chalice of wine, saying a prayer, and drinking
from the glass of wine. After the priest completes these actions, he invites the
mass attendants to walk to the front of the church and eat from that same plate of
bread and drink from the wine. Presenting the information about the acts that
happen during Holy Communion in such a manner overlooks the reasons why the
priest and participants are following these actions.
Familiarity with the New Testament of the Bible and the beliefs of
Catholicism add dimension to the products observed in a Catholic mass; applying
this familiarity and answering the question Why do these acts (products) occur in
mass? reflect the process approach to defining culture. To understand why Holy
Communion takes place at all in Catholic mass, an observer must know that this
ritual occurs as a reenactment of the Last Supper that Jesus Christ shared with his
twelve disciples, thus offering a faith-based explanation of the whole act of
communion, contextualizing both process and product. Analyzing the product
further, we can explain the process behind why a priest prays over the bread and
wine before distributing them to the congregation. These prayers are adaptations
of the words Jesus Christ said to his disciples before he gave them bread and wine
at the Last Supper. According to Matthew 26: 26-28, Jesus said, Take, eat; this
is my body. And when he took a cup, and when he had given them thanks he
gave it to them, saying, Drink it all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Oxford Annotated
Bible). The prayer of a priest prior to administering Holy Communion is, for
Catholicism, more than a reenactment of the events upon which the religion bases
its approach to this particular ritual. Since Catholics believe in
transubstantiationthe moment when bread and wine become the body and blood
24


of Jesus Christthe communion prayers based on the words of Jesus to his
disciples are products whose specificity cannot be replaced or re-worded in any
other way because such altering of the process would reinvent the processs
meaning, consequently altering the product.
In the above example, we have treated religion as a culture, which is
appropriate given the dynamism that Atkinson assigns culture in all of his
definitions. The ultimate dynamic concern in the product versus process
definitions lies in the scant knowledge that would be acquired if only one facet
were studied, or if each facet were studied without answering questions about the
relationship between the two. In order to understand any cultural product, the
process behind the construction of that product should be studied as well
(Atkinson 6).
Culture in the Head versus Culture in the World
This discussion by Atkinson is guided by the debate between public and
private knowledge: Atkinson essentially asks, Where does culture exist? and
answers his question by highlighting the symbiotic relationship between culture in
the head and culture in the worldmuch like he deconstructed the versus in his
discussion of culture as product and as process. Before making his correlation,
Atkinson draws upon cognitive anthropologist Ward Goodenoughs view that
culture is shared knowledge that exists in the private headspace of individuals that
are members of a culture (Atkinson 7). However, Atkinson moves this idea
forward by acknowledging that public knowledge is manifest in the world and
cultural knowledge produces symbols of itself; therefore, in order to make sense
of public symbols, individuals must retain the same private knowledge that allows
25


them to discern the symbols meaning. Similarly, private knowledge is the force
that produces those symbols in the first place:
In fact, I would argue against setting the head and the world in any
kind of oppositional relationship here: it seems far more sensible to
say that culture exists co-constitutively in the world and in the
head, and that heads and worlds may therefore not really be such
separate and isolated locations after all. (Atkinson 8)
This symbiotic relationship that Atkinson describes recalls the same argument
underlying Saussures structuralist standpoint: that meaning and frames of
meaning are in constant dialogue, informing each other without preceding each
other; and it recalls his own emphasis on symbiosis as he explored previous
definitions.
Big Culture versus Small Culture
Atkinsons first three sets of oppositional definitions of culture have
thus far seemed to be perceived oppositions in which he deconstructs their
divisions. This last set of definitions alters his previous pattern only slightly:
Rather than assigning a symbiotic relationship between big culture and small
culture, Atkinson places small culture within big culture, yet preserves the
interrelatedness of these definitions in the same way he helped create the relation
among his prior definitions. Of big and small cultures, Atkinson states,
[F]or example, student culture... would have both its own unique
internal norms and practicese.g. particular interaction patterns,
particular socialization practicesin any particular education
situation, and these would overlap (but not be subsumed under)
national cultural norms and practices.... Likewise, the
26


professional-academic culture of teachers/professors in a particular
situation would partly overlap with national culture, but would also
in part be shared with other professors in other parts of the world.
(9)
The above idea is particularly interesting in that it places small cultures within a
larger cultural context and acknowledges that each culture will have shared
characteristics, while also retaining separate characteristics. The characteristics
that separate a small culture from a big one are identified by Atkinson as having
the power to unify cultures globally if a similar small culture is found within the
context of another large culture. Potentially, then, small cultures can share values
even when the larger cultures within which they reside do not share values.
Sub-culture has been a buzzword in contemporary American society
since I was a teenager, and Atkinsons description of small cultures recalled, for
me, the process of self-discovery that I went through in my youth as I tried to
determine who I was. In my own benign execution of cultural experimentation,
I attempted to discover who I was by trying on different youth sub-cultures,
ranging from theatre geek to punk rocker. Each sub-culture came with its
own vocabulary, clothing, and belief system, yet all of the sub-cultures had their
location within a larger culture. The beliefs held by these sub-cultures were
shaped in rejection to, response to, or accordance with the way my friends and I
perceived our larger cultural context in high school and how we perceived other
sub-cultures within our high school. I suppose another term for these kinds of
sub-cultures or small cultures is the term clique. Despite the sophomoric
connotations of that term, I would argue that high school cliques engage in their
own experimentation with cultural values on a level that adjusts to the scale of the
large culture that they perceive themselves as part of.
27


Although Atkinson began his article by criticizing CR for its lack of
engagement with the notion of culture, I believe he fulfilled his goals by
advancing the field one step further through his own engagement of culture.
Perhaps the most important contribution that Atkinson has made to CR is the
multi-faceted and interactive approach with which he presented each binary
definition. Although he concluded his article by saying, To me, at any rate, the
notion of culture is still a great unknown in CR studies (10), he implied with
each set of definitions that contrastive rhetoric cannot engage a notion of
culture, but that it must engage all notions of culture, explore their relationships,
and perhaps even consider introducing new notions of culture.
Kubota and Lehner: Leaning in the Right Direction
While Atkinson has done his best to move past prescriptive approaches of
understanding cultures impact on composition, contrastive rhetoric itself
inadvertently applies problematic, and arguably inaccurate, terms to describe the
different argumentative patterns found in writers across cultures. In their article,
Toward Critical Contrastive Rhetoric, Kubota and Lehner (2004) begin to
address the dangers to contrastive rhetoric when descriptions of English as linear,
and other languages as circular or metaphoric, are applied across the field. Their
approach aligns with my position that contrastive rhetoric has plateau-ed in
todays discourse, despite its best efforts to remain critical. Composition
instructors today have adopted many approaches to raise explicitly students
unique approaches to writing; this explicit awareness is criticized by Kubota and
Lehner as still retaining a prescriptive approachan approach that can be
described in laymen terms as stereotyping:
28


Overall, researchers supporting contrastive rhetoric hypotheses
recommend making rhetorical differences explicit, raising
students awareness of such differences, and acculturating students
through language exercises with concrete models that meet
audience expectations. With an assumption of clear cultural
differences in rhetorical conventions, these pedagogical
suggestions tend to be prescriptive. (Toward Critical CR)
Kubota and Lehner tell us that our instincts, although guided by good intentions,
simply reinforce the idea that cultures are static, and that we will, by default, be
tempted to position the composition styles we are teaching L2 writers above the
composition styles they have learned prior to stepping into our English
classrooms. In other words, applying pedagogical models that ask students to
engage in a comparative analysis of a paragraph as they would write it seeks
ultimately to show students how we would write it. These models will merely
assimilate students into the perceived dominant language and culture (Kubota and
Lehner, Toward Critical CR).
Even models that aim to break this pattern of assimilation may reinforce it.
When applied in the classroom, Delpits genre approach7 becomes static and
transmission-oriented as it replaces a students native culture with a better,
Q
more powerful one, and a Freirean approach teaches false causality by implying
that language and literacy can overcome economic barriers {Ibid.). These two
7 The genre approach focuses on empowering students by analyzing the structure
of dominant cultures and languages, and giving students access to those power
structures (Kubota and Lehner, Toward Critical CR).
o
The Freirean approach teaches social mobility through appropriation of
dominant language, without supplanting a marginalized language or culture with a
dominant one {Ibid.).
29


approaches are rife with good intentions, yet undermine the cultural values
instilled in L2 writers; these approaches therefore run the risk of also undermining
the personal values and sense of self that L2 writers have been raised with. By
communicating to students that their language and writing are not effective
enough to be power structures, there is the possibility of also communicating that
these students need to give up their identities in order to succeed at writing in a
new language, the English language.
In order to avoid such implications, Kubota and Lehner introduce an open-
ended line of questioning for students to answer; this line of questioning strikes
me as quite useful and also closely aligns with the questions I ask my college
freshmen when they enter the required composition course I teach as part of the
core curriculum at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences
Center (UCDHSC). But my sympathy for and attraction to Kubota and Lehners
suggestions do not override an awareness of possible critiques. Kubota and
Lehner state,
An appropriate starting point for classroom work is for individual
students to think about, discuss, and write about how they perceive
the ways in which they writeor notin their first language and
critically bring their perceptions to bear on the work of composing
texts in another language (here, English) as a second language.
For example, an individual student might believe she was taught to
write a certain way in her first language and another way in
English and that singular way for each language is what she
considers to be correct. Another student, however may not have
such a strong position... and the contrastive notion of rhetoric is
not an issue for him. (Toward Critical CR)
30


As students respond to questions that force them to think about ways in which
they were taught to write, the hope is that critical awareness will move beyond
putting languages and their writing patterns into boxes stating that English is
linear and a students LI is not linear (Kubota and Lehner, Toward Critical
CR). From this foundation, Kubota and Lehner hope to move into a process that
asks students to think about how languages and writers become positioned in the
world, and who makes those decisions {Ibid.).
Unfortunately, criticisms they made of the genre and Freirean approaches
to writing can also be applied to their own line of questioning. By asking students
to think about writing in their native language versus writing in English, an
inherent division between writing is implied, despite attempts to move past it.
Although Kubota and Lehner urge students to bridge the gap by bringing their
perspectives into English texts, the undertone is that writing is divided across
cultures, and that a struggle is necessary to bridge that gap. If such a struggle is
necessary, and instructors following contrastive rhetoric theory attempt to bridge
the gap in their classrooms by raising questions about explicit LI and L2 textual
differences, then it would be appropriate for instructors also to engage in critical
inquiry about their own LI, or the target language in their classroom. This
process of inquiry would allow instructors to empathize with their ESL students
experience, possibly inspiring teaching opportunities that avoid exoticizing
second languages by engaging equitably in the overt exploration of the rhetorical
frames and cultural logic employed by the target language.
Kubota and Lehner have attacked the good intentions of other contrastive
rhetoric theories and pedagogical models without seeming to realize that they are
also lauding a potentially dangerous explicit approach by raising questions about
difference. Their intentions may be sound, but their approach may yield the same
31


results they fear, a reinforced division between LI and L2 writing. Even if labels
such as linear and circular are removed, a students feeling that he or she
speaks an Othered language may remain. If Kubota and Lehner seek an approach
to writing that cannot be manipulated by cultural perspectives, perhaps Othering
the target language as a class, so to speak, will provide an opportunity for as many
prescriptive approaches to be challenged as possible. At the very least it would
put the target language under the same scrutiny as the native language and would
level the playing field in mixed-demographic classrooms so that ESL and non-
ESL students could critique the same rhetorical, cultural, and logical structures as
a foundation to pursue additional lines of questioning that engage differences and
similarities between cultural systems of logic. Ultimately, the choice of whether
to state the main point right away, or to use an anecdote or metaphor to ease a
reader into the topic would be left with the student, without begging the question
of which method is linear or circular, or which method is from their native
language or from English.
Conversely, if audience awareness is taught to students as part of the
writing curriculum, students would have the opportunity to determine which
writing choices would be best for the audience that will be reading their work,
even when they are identifying the differences for those adaptations. Students
would then be able to engage in their own critical process of determining whether
or not it is possible to adapt cultural choices for a given audience. They could
experiment with the decisions behind striking an effective balance between a
variety of cultural styles that could be successful depending upon their rhetorical
context, and the context of their audiencean audience that may be open to an
unfamiliar approach in writing, so long as that approach is contextualized with
enough familiarity for the audience to adapt unconsciously to the less familiar as
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they read. Therefore, the burden of writing instructors increases from Kubota and
Lehners questions based on asking where students are writing from, and expands
to include questions about whom students are writing to.
The above approaches strive to invite all differences without precluding
any of them as Otheredalso argued as precluding all differences as Othered,
including the second, target, language. Of course, these approaches hinge largely
on the students own willingness and courage to share their thoughts with their
classmates and instructor.
Further investigation into Kubota and Lehners approach evidences a
subtle shift of focus away from writing, and toward the philosophical questions
that we as philologists and teachers have not been able to answer for ourselves. In
a required college composition course where all students from all disciplines are
forced into one classroom to master the daunting task of learning how to write
well enough so that their skills may transfer successfully into all of the other
college courses for which they will have to write essays, how is it possible that
every student will be engaged by a philosophical discussion of whose language
has power and whose does not? How many students will even be able to relate to
the question of how they write in their first language versus how they write in
their second language? For some students, Kubota and Lehners questions will be
relevant; for other students, there only is a first language, which can still be used
as an opportunity to ask monolingual students to consider explicitly the
relationship between the ways in which they have been taught to write and to
consider assumptions associated with those ways of approaching writing.
One of the roadblocks to accepting Kubota and Lehners approach is that
they have failed to define the classroom in which they expect their ideas to work.
If their questions are being posed in a composition classroom where everyone is
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an ESL student, their ideas could make a wonderful springboard through which to
build community and introspection for those students right away as a semester,
quarter, or nine-month schoolyear begins. However, any instructor that decides to
implement Kubota and Lehners questions must know how to move smoothly
from a discussion of Othered versus Powered languages into the teaching of
writing in a Powered language. This transition will necessarily turn into a game
of diplomacy and politics for the teacher standing in front of his or her students,
i.e. Now that we have theories as to why some languages become disseminated
globally and others dont, what do we about the fact that we are here to write
essays in a Powered language? What can and should we bring from our Othered
languages to bear on the Powered texts that we must learn to write?
Instructors who adopt Kubota and Lehners approach must create an
honest transition between the discussion of language and power, and writing in a
language of power, otherwise they run the risk of following an approach that falls
prey to the cultural appropriation warned against by Guillory, when the goal
should be cross-cultural dialogue. Of course, if we are careful to teach students
that any approach they have been taught, and are being taught, is a rhetorical
choice, then we will be advocating that our students engage critically in their own
writing process. This diplomatic transition must be made, and it is the instructors
job to ensure that it happens in an honest and critical manner; there is no reason to
begin a class for ESL writers by using Kubota and Lehners critical questions
unless the critical transition also occurs, because the critical transition gives
meaning to the questions answers. Any invested teacher must know how to prod
their students toward further meaning, even after answers have been found.
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CHAPTER 3
HOW LINEAR IS A CIRCLE?
Since CR contends that systems of logic are unique to culture, perhaps its
time to explore the system of logic with which American English composition is
aligned in order to understand the cultural logic of native English-speaking
students and instructors. If composition instructors in classrooms where the target
language is English are asking students to raise their awareness of how native
languages and interpretations come to bear on second languages, perhaps
instructors should engage in a process of explicit analysis regarding the target
language in which they are teaching in order to gain a greater understanding of the
potential differences with which their ESL students may be struggling logically.
Analyzing assumptions about the functionality of a learned writing style
establishes a safety net for instructors to exoticize their own first language, a
safety net in which they can learn to catch potential misrepresentations of their
own cultural logic that could prove confusing to students who are being taught
that the learned writing style and language achieve goals that their native
knowledge does not.
The common experience of writing teachers in the United States points to
an accepted level of breakroom chat upholding Kaplans graphic evaluation that
English is linear. Native English speakers and countless English teachers of
countless students over the years have accepted, affirmed, and re-stated the
viewpoint of English as a linear language with a linear thought process that
manifest its linearity through sentence structure, paragraph construction, and
eventually essay development, with the implicit understanding that linear equals
good. Perhaps the most common example of linear thought and organization in
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composition is the five-paragraph essay commonly taught by writing instructors
to their students.
For many graduating high school seniors, a well-organized five-paragraph
essay is a benchmark stating that they have achieved the preferred method of
good writing according to the rules of English. Five-paragraph essays contain a
specific structure that includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a
conclusion. Introductions should provide the reader with enough information to
understand the upcoming thesis statement, which is traditionally the last sentence
of the introduction and contains a word map of the three main points that will
comprise the majority of the essay. Each of these main body paragraphs begins
with a topic sentence that lets the reader know what to expect in the paragraph;
the order of the paragraphs themselves must reflect the order in which the
information was presented by the thesis statement. The fifth paragraph of the
essay is the concluding paragraph in which a student should tie each of the three
points together and restate the main point of their essay; in other words, they are
restating their thesis, but are challenged to look for a different way to state it so
that readers are not left with a verbatim quotation of a thought they have already
read. Built on the premise Tell them what youre going to tell them. Tell them.
Tell them what you told them, this essay structure is functional and easy for a
reader to follow. However, it may not achieve the characterization of linear
thinking that it has been assigned.
Asking a writer to state his main point, map the sub-points, state each sub-
point again in detail, and then summarize his whole work by restating his main
point and sub-points is anything but linear. The process is user-friendly for
readers, but involves several half-steps backward before taking the next step
forward, with the final step leading back to... the main point that was stated at the
36


beginning of the work. When we ask students to end an essay where they began
it, we are essentially asking them to write a circle, not a line.
In order to verify the goal of ideas that travel a linear path, and therefore
verify the goal of a linear essay, I referenced two dictionary sources to find the
denotations of the word linear, where I was met with the underlying accuracy
and irony in the term that has been adopted to describe linear, English logicat
least as it relates to the five-paragraph essay. According to the Encarta World
English Dictionary, the first four entries defining the adjective linear are as
follows:
1. relating to, consisting of, or using lines
2. relating to a straight line or capable of being represented by a
straight line
3. changing proportionally and representable on a graph as a
straight line (refers to variables)
4. developed sequentially from the obvious without in-depth
understanding
The Oxford Pocket American Dictionary of Current English defines linear as
1 a of or in lines, b of length (linear extent). 2 long and narrow and of uniform
breadth. 3 involving one dimension only (459). In both entries, we can see the
similarity of denotations involving direct paths; however, the connotations of
Encarta's fourth definition and Oxfords tertiary definition are strikingly similar
as well, implying that linear elements contain associations far more negative than
those they have been ascribed when linked to English-language systems of logic
and writing. Both definitions insinuate that while a linear object or path may be
easy to follow, the ease arises from the one-dimensional nature of linearity. If this
is the case, then it may be counterproductive to suggest to students that five-
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paragraph essays equal linear, that linear equals good, and that, by
association, the five-paragraph essay equals good writing.
Although the five-paragraph essay is a necessary strategy through which
students learn to organize their thoughts, its repetitive natureparticularly the
circular pattern of beginning and ending with the same main idealeaves little
room for students to explore other useful elements of writing, such as tone, voice,
narrative viewpoint, or the incorporation of questions as devices to inspire readers
into critical thinking. While this type of essay does uphold the disappointing
discovery that it does indeed teach students an element of linear thinking in its
application of clearly-stated, obvious, and easy-to-follow logic, it does not
completely uphold the direct path that the above definitions of linearity imply.
These criticisms of the five-paragraph essay and of the inaccurate
associations that linear English writing traverses the same path as good writing
are not meant to decry the necessity of teaching students to write by those
guidelines. However, students who have been taught to write according to those
guidelines are not always aware that there are other elements of writing that they
may be expected to master someday as they continue their academic careers.
Cultural Shifts from an Uncommon Stance
If students have mastered writing the five-paragraph essay upon
graduating from high school, then why is college composition a required course at
many universities and colleges? When students know that formula inside and out,
why cant we, their English instructors, simply allow them to write longer body
paragraphs or to add more sub-points to their main idea and construct additional
paragraphs for each point? Well, students do have the option to try those two
approaches, and some do. Writing instructors are aware that building blocks are
38


important, yet we ask our students to move beyond the five-paragraph essay
because we expect them to, much like we expected them to move beyond the
simple sentence. As children progress through elementary school, middle school,
and high school, they are taught to use the simple sentence as a building block for
more complex thoughts and syntactical constructions. They learn to create
lengthier, more fluid, expressive sentences by adding compound subjects and
predicates, adverbial clauses, prepositional phrases, and all kinds of other
beautiful grammatical tools. We taught them to master these elements because
we expected them to grow as thinkers. We require college composition and ask
our students to produce writing that is more than simply a twenty-paragraph essay
fro the same reason: we expect them to grow as thinkers. Because of this
expectation, college composition introduces students to writing that is beyond
linear, providing a foundation for them to learn to adequately asses and fulfill the
requirements of college courses that may require further differentiated writing
assignments.
In my own college composition classroom, students are required to try a
variety of approaches in their writing and they have the opportunity to discuss
what they have learned at the end of the semester by writing self-reflective essays
about their writing process in Core Composition I. The primary requirement for
the self-reflective essays is honesty. I ask my students to discuss how their
writing process has changed throughout Core Composition I, why it has changed,
and whether they feel those changes were effective, enjoyable, or useful. Since
honesty is the basis for these self-reflective pieces, I also encourage my students
to tell me if their writing process has not changed, to be honest if they didnt learn
anything new, and to discuss the reasons why. These essays are not only useful
for me as an instructor in my future endeavors at shaping my curricula, but they
39


provide an opportunity for students to raise their awareness explicitly about their
own writing after having implicitly experienced their own growth throughout the
semester. One student, Emily, wrote,
I have always prided myself on my writing skills, even more so
during high school. Always in the advanced English class, I put
little effort into any essay I wrote and still managed to get an
A.... College writing is somewhat different in the approach I
take. Grammar, language usage, and active voice still are my
fortes, but I have realized that organization and audience shape a
piece of writing more than beautiful words.
Emily was a student who not only excelled at writing, but who had also always
loved writing; however, she was able to acknowledge that Core Composition I
showed her how to retain strengths she already possessed while building new
strengths. Alex, another Core Composition student from a different semester than
Emily, shared a similar background. He had taken accelerated English courses
throughout high school, as well as the Advanced Placement (AP) exam. When
writing his self-reflective essay about his college composition experience, he
stated, My first paper of the semester was pretty terrible. I must say that getting
back into the swing of writing was a little more challenging than I thought it
would be. As the semester went on, it was almost like learning how to write
successfully all over again.
While Emily and Alex both needed to rediscover writing and their success
within it as the face of writing changed, other students enter the college
composition classroom without being in the position of rebuilding their love for
the subject; instead, theyve never had a love of English, and possibly have not
had much success with writing in the past. Courtney was one such student:
40


Believe it or not, I have never enjoyed writing, or anything that has
to do with writing in general. I have never felt that I have done a
good job at it.... In my past high school English classes I havent
ever succeeded in them. This year, I have learned so many
different ways to express my writing. I always feared those long
five to ten page papers I heard you had to write when you start
college. Its really not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Even if Courtney did not walk away from my composition class with a newly
overwhelming passion for writing, she encountered enough variety in Core
Composition I to challenge, however mildly, her previous perspectives on writing.
Another student from English 1020 used her self-reflective essay to tell a similar
story to Courtneys. Jennifer was a student who baffled me. She entered my
class with excellent writing skills and language usage. While I understand that
adeptness for a subject does not imply love for it, I desperately wanted Jennifer to
love writing and I could never quite grasp the reasons for her fears. Although her
self-reflective essay did not answer those questions for me, Jennifer did answer
her own questions and concerns about writing:
At the beginning of the semester, the only writing format I
knew was the typical five paragraph essay. It had been drilled into
my head since middle school that that was how to write an essay.
In my english 1020 class I learned that essays can come in all
shapes and forms. I even learned that your thesis statement can go
in the second paragraph of the paper which was considered taboo
in high school. As I progressed with my writing I was able to try a
new style and write a lit review. It was a stretch from the five
paragraph essay I have been writing for the last eleven years, but I
41


did it! It really gave me a confidence boost and showed me that I
can write.
Over the semester I have developed a new outlook on
writing. I entered the class with the idea that writing is pure
torture. I now see that the reason I felt this way is because I didnt
know how to write. I had no idea where to start and I had no idea
of where to end. Now that I have the basic techniques to write a
good paper, I have a new confidence. I am not as scared to attempt
writing. I still wouldnt say that I enjoy it, but I definitely feel
more comfortable doing so.
Jennifer may have been a bit too hard on herself when she stated that she didnt
know how to write. She knew how to write upon entering the class, but was
unaware of the myriad forms of writing that were accessible to her. This lack of
awareness likely existed because other forms of her own writing were not made
accessible to her prior to Core Composition I.
The five-paragraph essay is not an evil or faulty invention on the part of
misguided, well-meaning English instructors from bygone eras. The lack of
accessibility to other forms of writing that has been attested to by Emily, Alex,
Courtney, and Jennifer does not imply that they have been taught incorrectly or
incompletely prior to their college composition class. Instead, their shift in
perception and their heightened awareness about how writing changes and about
its potential to keep changing is, for these students, a shift in their own logic.
They are introduced to a setting where linear writing is suddenly not the end goal
that they assumed it was when they completed high school. They are allowed to
test the limits beyond linear writing, and to question and answer for themselves
what constitutes good writing for them. When these students are presented with
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new techniques by which to create effective writing, their systems of logic are
thrown into question and must be revised as they move from the culture of high
school writing classrooms into the culture of college writing classrooms.
Throughout their academic careers, native English speakers internalize linear
rules of writing that get thrown into question when they embark on the part of
their academic journey that introduces them to college writing. These students
verify, from their own accounts in their self-reflective essays, that they undergo
new processes of thinking in the Core Composition I classroom. Some feel that
they are learning to write all over again, while others feel that they are learning to
write for the first timeeven if they have been writing their whole lives. Given
this shift in perception, the experience that native English speakers have when
they move from high school to college is, arguably, a shift in logical expectations
and, therefore, a shift in culture. Since these logical changes are occurring for
native English speakers, their experience can be aligned with the experiences that
ESL students encounter when they step into English composition classrooms. In
this respect, it may be useful to remember Atkinsons definitions of culture to
consider the possibility that native English speakers are also entering a new
culture; therefore I would ask writing instructors to consider the possibility that
CR studiesif they are concerned with culture and logic, as well as linguistics
also have a place in teaching writing to monolingual students. Although native
languages may differ, both groups (ESL and native English-speaking students) are
being asked to think in unfamiliar ways when they enter the college composition
classroom.
Given these similarities, the lesson plans that I present in the following
chapter encompass native English speakers as students whose experiences are also
relevant to the founding ideas in contrastive rhetoric. However, since the students
43


in my classes do hail from different linguistic backgrounds, my lesson plans are
geared toward asking students to seek explicit commonalities, rather than raise
explicit differences (as Kubota and Lehner would have students do), in order to
unify their experiences as they all learn to write, logic, and think in ways that
none of them have previously been asked to do.
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CHAPTER 4
WHAT IS SHE BUILDING IN THERE?
Students and Setting
As mentioned in chapter one, my ideas for lesson plans to adapt CR
successfully in college composition classrooms arise from my own teaching
experiences. Kubota, Lehner, and, of course, Kaplan, have introduced compelling
and functional ideas of their own; unfortunately, their theories seem to be at their
most functional when applied in ESL-only settings, and further exploration of
their ideas is broad-sided by the lack of specific descriptions of students and
settings, thus relegating their theories to the realm of... well, theory and debate
only. As we saw earlier, more than one theory poured into the construction of
contrastive rhetoric theory, making it an equitable exchange for more than one
writing approach to be applied to classrooms that are attentive to CR studies.
Ideally, any classroom would be filled with students who were at the same
level of critical thinking, cultural knowledge, writing ability, and linguistic
background; however, all instructorsand even most laypersonsknow that this
setting is not a reality. Although UCDHSC offers Core Composition I courses
that are reserved only for ESL students, most English composition instructors find
themselves teaching classes each semester where their students range from being
freshman straight out of high school, to seniors who have postponed core
requirements, to juniors who dont need to take a basic composition class, to
ESL students who are highly proficient with English, and to ESL students who
still need much assistance with low-order second language concerns, such as
mechanics and punctuation. Even when ESL-only courses are offered, students
varying schedules combined with instructor availability and course capacity are
all factors affecting the unpredictability of any given classs demographics.
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Before attempting any pedagogical strategy, each individual instructor
must gauge the demographics in his or her own classroom. The following lesson
plans and strategies for open-ended questioning that implicitly engage CR
pedagogy are all structured for classes that have a maximum enrollment of
twenty-five students, in which the class contains native and non-native speakers
of English whose writing ranges from the college freshman to college senior
level.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In order to set a tone for the semester that immediately invites students
own perspectives regardless of linguistic or cultural background, the first
homework assignment for my English 1020 students is a hunt for good and bad
writing. This assignment is based loosely on the basic tenets of New Critical
literary theory, where textual analysis forces readers to return to the text
repeatedly, using it to support any visceral reaction they may build into an
argumentative translation about the text in question. A questioning approach
originated from literary theory continues engaging the multiplicity of influences
that Matsuda suggested CR should incorporate. Since New Criticism concerns
itself primarily with the instinctive reactions of readers, and secondarily with the
reasons for those instinctive reactions, it provides a non-threatening, unconscious
means for students to begin the process of analyzing writing that does not belong
to them before instructors ask for the personal and analytical combination of
discussing their native and non-native languages.
Prior to an upcoming class period, I ask students to bring two writing
samples with them (one good and one bad) that they are not the authors of. The
writing samples can be anything from a novel, to a poem, newspaper or magazine
46


article, or even the printed transcript of a weblog. It is important to stress that the
writing can come from anywhere, as long as it is selected according to what each
student thinks is good or bad. The writing samples should be selected according
to what the students do and do not enjoy reading.
The following class period, students should have their selected writing
samples with them, and so should the instructor. In the past, I have also scoured
novels, magazines, and websites to find writing that I feel is good and bad; I have
brought those writing samples into class and added them to the mix of writing that
the students have brought in. Once class is convened, I ask my students to split
themselves into small groups of three to four people to discuss their writing
samples with each other. After the groups are formed, I hand each group one more
writing sample from the selections of good and bad writing that I have chosen
since the last class period, yet I do not tell the groups my own opinion of the
sample that I hand them so that they do not feel compelled to discover what I
look for in writing, or subconsciously align their tastes with mine. Each group
also receives a set of open-ended discussion questions that are meant to spur
personal reactions and opinions from the students as they discuss the writing
samples before them. The following questions are all included on the student
handout for this group activity in my English 1020 classes:
-Are there any commonalities between the good writing samples
you brought in? If so, what are those commonalities?
-Are there any commonalities between the bad writing samples
you brought in? If so, what are those commonalities?
-Is the random sample you picked up from me good or bad? Why?
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-Are there any disagreements among your group members as to
what the good versus the bad writing is? Did one or two people
like a sample that one or two other people perhaps did not like?
-How do you know when something you are reading is good?
-What role does personal taste play in designating generally good
from generally bad writing?
-If personal taste does play a part in determining good from bad, to
what extent does it affect our ability to identify those distinctions?
If we like something that is absolutely terrible, do we know? How
do we know? Should we know?
These questions allow students to explore their past influences and personal tastes
about writing without calling attention to, reinforcing, or de-crying Othered
languages, cultures, and experiences. Instead, these questions seek to bridge
together the variety of answers that will arise from the variety of students in the
class. I believe that this approach upholds the intentions of contrastive rhetoric by
allowing students to find the value in the different kinds of writing they have
encountered throughout their past without explicitly Othering those influences by
implying divisions based on culture. In fact, since the students are allowed to
bring in writing from a variety of sources, the writing is not even Othered
according to the basic element of genre.
After allowing sufficient time (approximately twenty minutes) for small
group discussion, I ask students to reconvene their attention as a whole class so
that we can all discuss our writing samples together. As each group shares its
answers, I write down their responses on the board and allow the students to
control the shape of my note-taking. When each group begins to talk about the
characteristics and commonalities of the good writing samples, I simply scribe
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their answers on the board, grouping the good characteristics together and
grouping the bad characteristics together. Some students will bring in a Tom
Clancy novel as a sample of good writing. Other students may clip an article
from the newspaper satire the Onion as a sample of good writing. Even if the
personal taste of each student varies, the commonalities behind their answer to the
question, Why is this good writing? are strikingly similar. Semester after
semester, my students have said that good writing happens when a reader can
understand the authors point, when humor is incorporated, when colorful
language is incorporated, when the author seems to care about their topic, when
the writing is interesting (at which point it is my job as the instructor to ask
What makes the writing interesting? so that students can begin to identify for
themselves the specific elements that they admire in others writing), and when
the grammar and punctuation are correct, allowing for readability. When students
see a wide array of writing samples that they enjoy all containing similar
characteristics, they are slowly introduced to the idea that writing can be good
even when the execution differs from one piece to another. Essentially, the
students learn to recognize when a table is well-built, regardless of whether it is
round or square.
A painstaking, yet important, follow-up for this class activity has been for
me to take notes from the blackboard after the students have been dismissed.
Since they are being given a forum to discuss what they know about writing, it is
my job to record and remember their ideas so that I can identify what they already
know instinctively, find a way to bring that knowledge to the fore, and also figure
out what I need to do for my students during the remainder of the semester. This
list also establishes a common ground from which I can make my students
explicitly aware of when they are upholding their own ideas about writing by
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putting the onus on them later in the semester to think about whether or not their
writing has achieved the goals they identified for it.
The following passage illustrates the product of a class discussion in
which I asked my students to answer the question What is writing? Although
these notes do not represent student responses regarding good versus bad writing,
these notes do represent the complex thinking that students are capable of when
they are encouraged to control their own knowledge. The following notes are an
amalgam of definitions for the word and process of writing, a brilliant sketch
that I would not have been able to construct on my own without the help of my
students whose words I scribed on the blackboard, and then into my own
notebook. This definition of writing was compiled by an English 1020 class in
the summer semester of 2005:
What is writing?
While we may not have come up with one meaning of what writing
is, we did come up with many meanings. Since these fragments all
exist and contribute to their own definition of writing, we must
acknowledge the possibility that writing for our purposes can
only be defined as a whole of all the elements we discussed in
class.
-invention, creation, germination
-a tangible thing that can be produced and reproduced for
communicative consumption
-a physical manifestation of a system of thinking and of
that systems germination and evolution
-where physical manifestation can mean an
outline, brainstorm, draft, doodle, final copy, etc.
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depending on which part of the writing process the
writer is engaged in, & where it also means the
understood symbolic markings on a page, which are
the tangible means of communication
-where system of thinking means creative,
analytic, philosophical, linear, metaphoric,
inductive, deductive, organized, disorganized, etc.
systems of thinking. The manner in which we think
will be represented in our writing.
-where that systems germination and evolution
means the entire process that was engaged in
before, during, and after the appearance of squiggly
marks on a page
Despite my criticisms of Kubota and Lehner, I believe that their intentions
align with the critical thinking and personal responsibility for writing that I
introduce in my classroom. In an article written as a response to rhetorician Ulla
Connor in the Journal of Second Language Writing, they wrote,
In promoting critical pedagogies, we are not implying that they
ought to be implemented in a uniform manner for all students in all
situations, nor do we assume it is an easy task. Quite the opposite,
critical pedagogies should be practiced with situated ethics, taking
into consideration the sociocultural specificities of diverse teaching
contexts. (Kubota and Lehner, Response)
What I believe I am achieving in my own classroom is the practice of situated
ethics, where my strategies remain attentive to CR by providing the opportunity to
incorporate various strategies of writing that invite various forms of logic,
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particularly given the cultural shifts in thinking that my native and non-native
students of English are being required to make in a demographically mixed
classroom. In this type of classroom, every student is required to think about the
ways in which they write; every student is given the opportunity to connect what
they have learned in the past to what others have learned in the past, and they are
encouraged to connect all of that knowledge with what they will learn in the
future. Perhaps the approaches in chapter four of this text will begin to fill the
need for more contextualized support for practitioners {Ibid.) that Kubota and
Lehner call for in contrastive rhetoric.
A New Beginning
Creative writing strategies have also proven to be useful techniques to
engage my students into writing and thinking in unfamiliar ways. If linear,
English writing is typified as deductive, then asking students to incorporate
creative writing techniques into their essays is a good way to reinforce the validity
of inductive writing for those who have been taught by those guidelines, while
introducing the more deductive writers in class to a new system of logic within
writing. I do not require my student to write an entire essay creatively, nor do I
require them to write an entire essay deductively. Instead, I teach both
approaches and ask them to find their own balance for the two.
One of the most effective ways I have found to inspire students to strike
that balance is by teaching from Bamaby Conrads tips for creative writers who
are learning to shape the first sentences of their written work. In chapter twenty
of The Writers Handbook. Conrad presents twelve different styles for the
beginning of a written text:
1. Setting
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2. Setting plus characters
3. Thematic
4. Factual
5. Emotional
6. Action
7. In medias res
8. Dialogue
9. Characterization
10. Author-to-Reader
11. Diary, Epistolary or Reflective
12. Interrogatory
As Conrad explains each styles effect on a reader, he highlights them with
examples that hail from fiction and nonfiction. When discussing the emotional
beginning, Conrad writes
Beginnings that appeal immediately and directly to a
readers emotions are the most successful. Take staff writer Alan
Abrahamsons lead in a Los Angeles Times account of a murder:
On a pleasant autumn afternoon in Northridge, Froggy,
Chunky, and Nini killed the neighborhood lady.
Chunky and Nini, who were 15 and 12, stabbed her 11
times. Their sister, Froggy, 16, stayed at home and turned up the
volume on the familys two stereos to drown out the screams from
next door. (Conrad 81-82)
Although his techniques are geared toward creative writers, by incorporating
examples from news publications, Conrad helps writers see that these types of
beginnings can be adapted beyond the realm of fiction. Using Conrad as a
53


springboard, I guide my students to see how they can also use these techniques to
entrench a reader in their work.
In English 1020,1 hand out a five-page packet containing these different
types of beginnings as required reading for my students. During the course of the
semester, 1020 students are required to write four essays, aside from the self-
reflective essay discussed earlier in this chapter. For each of those four essays, I
require my students to write a different type of beginning that will stand as the
introduction of their essay. Given their topic, students may decide to begin their
essay by using factual information, personal anecdotes, or a critical question to
engage their reader. Brent, an English 1020 student, chose an action-oriented
beginning for the introduction of his evaluation essay about a sports car:
It may seem counterintuitive, but, approaching a comer, I
downshifted and accelerated. I was immediately rewarded by
perfectly crisp turn-in as the Mazda RX-8 rocketed through the
turn without so much as a chirp of the tires.... The performance
affordability, looks and features of the Mazda RX-8 make it one of
the best sports cars available.
Brents essay successfully adapted a creative writing technique that blended
smoothly into an evaluative thesis statement about his topic of choice. He wrote
from a first-person narrative viewpoint that plunged the reader into an occurring
action and used the unconventional introductory style to build toward a more
conventional thesis. While the first sentence of Brents essay could be considered
an inductive approach to introducing a topic, his thesis could be considered
deductive; therefore, Brent adopted divergent logical approaches to a topic and
created an effective balance between those two approaches within one
introduction.
54


The choice for the style of each introduction is left up to each student.
Conrads twelve different styles of beginnings are not the only choices for
students who would like to hook their reader right away, but his ideas do lay a
foundation in students minds that there is no magic formula for good writing;
there are various techniques to employ and Conrad can help them see a further
snapshot of those techniques. Whenever my students ask, Do I have to use one
of these kinds of introductions? I am careful not to say Yes before listening to
their ideas and encouraging them to explore further options and to gauge for
themselves how effective each option may be given their essay topic. It is also
possible, as with Brents essay, that more than one approach to writing may be
incorporated into one essay, providing students with the chance to experiment
with more than one system of logic to evolve their writing.
If CR concerns itself with how students engage logic across cultures and
how writing instructors address contrasting rhetorical backgrounds, then adapting
creative techniques into the classroom is one of the most digestible methods by
which these theoretical goals can become tangible. Thinking back to earlier
discussions in this paper addressing literature and popular media, we have seen
that literaturea creative forceand cinemaanother creative forcehave
already succeeded where composition instructors and rhetoricians are struggling:
the validation and application of alternative cultural logic.
Goo Goo GJoob
While creative writing techniques are a valuable approach whose
classroom applications I believe do uphold the founding principles of contrastive
rhetoric by inviting non-linear, thus contrasting, logic, mechanic manipulation, as
identified by Robert Kaplan, also needs to be taught hand-in-hand with
55


communicative competence. In composition classes such as the ones at
UCDHSC, teaching grammar in context needs to be balanced carefully for the
benefit of ESL and native English-speaking students. Neither group is immune to
grammatical, mechanical, or punctuation errors; however, distinguishing the types
of errors that each group commits is the tricky job left up to writing instructors.
For both groups of students, there is a greater benefit in asking them to correct
their own errors, rather than correcting every error for them. When grading,
writing instructors must find a balance between picking up a red pen and inserting
a missing comma and circling the white space where a comma should be placed
and writing a note in the margin asking the student whether there is punctuation
missing. While grading presents this conundrum, class time also offers its own
difficulties in figuring out how to teach grammar to a demographically mixed
classroom. Keeping in mind Kaplans identification that second language
learners are already literate adults, and already possess communicative capacity
by the time they reach my composition classroom, I have adapted fun grammar
games into my classroom that expose both the ESL students and the native
English-speaking students to a wide range of usage errors in English writing,
usage errors that are located within their own writing. The following paragraphs
describe the process by which I turn grammar into a hands-on raffle game in the
classroom.
Since there are four essays due throughout the course of the semester, I
have used these essays as an opportunity to teach grammar in context in my
classes. Upon taking a batch of essays home, I peruse the essays for recurring
errors and try to identify patterns of error among all of the essays. Based on the
errors that I see, I select five sentences from five different essays, each containing
a different error. For example, one sentence may be a run-on, the second sentence
56


may contain a misplaced modifier, the third sentence may use a colon improperly,
the fourth sentence may contain tense shifts, and the fifth sentence might contain
inconsistencies with usage of singular and plural verbs and nouns. After selecting
the sentences, I type each one out five times as it originally appeared in the essay.
I print out the sheet of twenty-five sentences and cut the sheet apart, so that each
individual sentence appears on its own small strip of paper. Next, I fold up the
strips of paper, put them in a container, shake them up, and leave them by my
door so that I can take them to class the following day. An armload of grammar
books and style manuals are also ready to come to class with me: The Chicago
Manual of Style, the MLA Handbook. A Writers Reference. Rules for Writers,
and two copies of The Elements of Style.
As students file into the classroom the next day, I ask each student to grab
a folded piece of paper from the container I have prepared. After every student
has grabbed a piece of paper and taken their seat, I explain the gameplan for the
class period:
Okay, guys, each one of you has a little, tiny sheet of paper in your hand.
Each of these pieces of paper has a sentence written on it that contains some kind
of grammatical or punctuation error. Before trying to figure out the error, you
need to find the other people in the class who have the same sentence that you do
and form a group with them. Together, I want your group to correct the sentence
and to identify the error and the rule for why you corrected the sentence the way
you did. At the front table, Ive got a bunch of books that you guys can use to
help you look up the errors and the rules. Some of you guys may recognize these
sentences; they came from the essays that you just handed in. You dont need to
tell us if you recognize the sentences from your own work or from somebody
elses work in peer review. And, dont feel bad! People use language in a lot of
57


different ways and its more fun to see what happens when real people write real
sentences, instead of trying to make up sentences that nobody would ever write,
just so we can try to make up an error that would never happen in conversation
or writing, anyway. Remember, these are our words, so be kind when youre
making your corrections. Besides, you never know if one of your sentences is
floating around on the other side of the room..
Students are allowed approximately twenty minutes to work in groups
before class attention is reconvened as a whole. Each group then has a chance to
teach the rest of the class what it has learned, with my help as a mediator and
sounding-board for questions or to supply additional information. The groups
write their assigned sentence on the board as it appeared before they made any
corrections and then lead the rest of the class through their process of correction,
explain the resource they used for their corrections and teaching the usage rules to
the rest of the class. During the fall semester of 2006, Core Composition I
students worked with anonymous sentence samples that explored comma usage,
semicolon usage, singular/plural agreement, appropriate punctuation for titles,
apostrophe usage, and a bonus error addressing the present subjunctive:
When a contestant gets to five hundred thousand he or she could
risk the five hundred thousand for one million or just walk away
with five hundred thousand.
The children get more resources, also, when the couples are
married than if they are separated, it has been shown that men
spend more money on their kids than if they were not married.
Ive been conditioned by some great teachers to recognize great
writing; and have discovered that those books which inspire fierce,
impassioned debate or gracefully tell a story while articulating a
profound message, to be worthy of being deemed literature.
58


Friendship and love is an important factor in true happiness, for
mental and social reasons.
Shows such as Nip and Tuck, The Swan, or Extreme Makeover
reinforce the importance of our looks and the extent one must go to
achieve perfection.
This is exactly the same as if ones body was sick with a sickness
that harmed one or many of its own organs.
While the introductory speech for the class period varies from semester to
semester, I make sure to communicate to my students the importance of critiquing
and correcting each others work kindly. In addition, students should be made
aware that all the nuances of language, including its communicative effectiveness
and missteps, are best discovered when looking at concrete examples of how
words are used when writers are making their own choices for its usage. For that
reason, correction and improved fluency will be most prescient for native and
non-native speakers when the examples of language they encounter are taken
from their own work and coupled with grammar manuals, rather than using
grammar manuals as the sole source of guidance to transmit correct mechanical
manipulation.
An added benefit of this approach for ESL students finding themselves
writing alongside native English speakers is the element of exposure that I have
highlighted as residing implicitly within literature and film. When ESL students
are given a context similar to the suspension of disbelief that an audience
undergoes in a movie theatre, they are allowed to engage with their second
language on a playful level that decreases the division between their errors and
a native speakers errors. If the sampled sentences from this activity are a varied
representation of errors, ESL students are working in a context where they
59


suspend their own disbelief to buy into the errors of native speakers, and
therefore process a method of interacting with English that they would otherwise
not be exposed to if they were only engaging with their errors. Essentially, by
suspending their disbelief in this setting (a setting that de-emphasizes the way
they use language), they are given the opportunity to leam English more in-depth
by learning from the errors of native speakers.
60


CHAPTER 5
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
After offering my own lesson plans, I am still hungry for more. I am
hungry for instructors who work in ESL composition classrooms to present their
ideas for lesson plans alongside their pedagogies. Writing instructors who wish to
practice CR pedagogy in their own classrooms should be drawing from
approaches that are as diverse as the ideas that informed CR. As seen in
Atkinsons definitions of culture and Matsudas suggestion not to isolate second-
language instruction from other writing-related fields, a multiplicity of writing
approaches corresponds most naturally to a field that is inherently concerned with
multiplicity, such as contrastive rhetoric. However, instructors still need access to
the steps beyond CR research. We need to know what these theories look like in
practice, and we need to work on drawing those pictures for ourselves as well and
share them with other instructors. Perhaps the lesson plans I have offered would
not work in every classroom with ESL students. ESL instructors need to
participate in the discourse of lesson plans and respond to the discourse being
created by contrastive rhetoric research, as well as define their classrooms for
each other.
61


APPENDIX A
PERMISSION TO PUBLISH STUDENT WRITING SAMPLES
62



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APPENDIX B
KAPLANS GRAPHIC REPRESENTATION OF PARAGRAPH
DEVELOPMENT BY CULTURE
68


69


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