Lanham – The Electronic Word (1993)

Technology, democracy (explicit in the subtitle), rhetoric education and
curricular reform recur as themes in Lanham’s The Electronic Word
The book sets out with an overarching consideration of the material,
instrumental and ideological transitions in the interfacial revolution from book
to screen.  The screen has rattled the "reign of textual truth" (x), opened
up the meaning of "text," and, consequently, challenged traditional-humanist
rationale for moralistic training via literary works (lots on the Great Books
debate here) . EW is set up for reading as a continuous book and also as
discrete chapters, according to Lanham; the chapters make frequent intratextual
reference (i.e., "In chapter 7, I…").  He gives readings of
rhetorical/philosophical traditions and more recent –phobe and –phile
orientations toward microcomputers and related computing activities–activities
he regards as deeply rhetorical and thoroughly transformative for commonplaces
about text, decorum, higher ed, and the humanities.  EW is probably
one of the earlier takes on a digital rhetorics, even if he frames a compelling
range of precursors (xi)–"a new and radical convertibility" of "word image and
sound" (xi) staged in Cage’s experimental art and music, Duchamp’s readymades
and even K. Burke’s poetry.

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Bawarshi, Genre and the Invention of the Writer

Anis Bawarshi develops a case for a genre-studies-based first-year writing
curriculum.  In the courses teachers would introduce students to sampled
genre sets from selected disciplines or professional fields (studying, in
effect, lab reports as a genre, or other professional document types). 
Students would analyze the genres, writing both in them and about them; hence,
composition would have as its impetus a pragmatic extra-disciplinary
awareness of the writing students will do in their major areas of study and, as
well, bona fide content: writing itself (in all its forms, in and beyond the
academy).  As Bawarshi’s project builds an argument for this model, he
reasons that a more comprehensive, nuanced understanding of genre is one
(though perhaps golden) ticket to composition’s status as a discipline and
might also serve us with a compelling justification for the first-year writing
sequence.

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E Pluribus Trivium

I wrapped up Scholes’ Rise
and Fall
on Monday morning while I was waiting in the auto shop. 
Since then, I’ve been reconsidering it from a distance–the full displacement
brought on by a hearty paper load, full-time work, and other important
stuff-o-life.  I keep coming back to a few basic ideas set up by Scholes in
chapter four, "A Flock of Cultures."  Throughout, Scholes uses a
split chapter system, so, for example, chapter four has a postlude called
"assignment four" in which he details–in practical terms–an
application of much of the theorizing he summons in the early portion of the
chapter.  Before the "assignment" section, he proposes a
design  for a general education curriculum parsed into grammar,
dialectic
and rhetoric. Scholes introduces this threesome under the
heading, "A Trivial Proposal."  He’s having fun with the
connotations of "trivial,"
enlisting it as something of lesser consequence (than the Western Civilization
and Great Books canonical approaches) and also as a modern resurrection of the
medieval model for foundational education–the basis preceding advanced
scholarship in "arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music." He
explains the subtle differences between each of the course-types.  For grammar,
a course called "Language and Human Subjectivity" would comb over
pronoun usage and alienation in language structures.  A second grammar
course would concern "Representation and Objectivity." 
Anthropological perspective, ethnography, the objective discourses pervasive in
the observational sciences: these would be done up in this second grammar
course.  For rhetoric, he suggests a course on "Persuasion and
Mediation," which "would obviously include the traditional arts of
manipulation of audiences but would also point toward the capacities and limits
of the newer media, especially those that mix verbal and visual textuality to
generate effects of unprecedented power" (125).  To round this one
out–and because Scholes spends relatively little time on it–I would toss in technology

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