Playing Hooky from Responsibility

I just got finished playing “Marry Sex Bury” (to call it by its PG-rated name) with friends.  Fun game, but here’s the thing.  I thought we were supposed to be adults by now.  Earlier in the day after class, I went to the bank and filled out paperwork. Then I paid my rent and signed forms to drive University vehicles.  Then I went to work, cooked dinner, went to a meeting, did homework and … listened to Robyn and played that game.

Granted, we used historical figures like presidents and composers but that makes it a bit more pathetic, really.  I said this just now to my friend, and she just laughed and reminded me, “College is our last chance to act like kids”.  So maybe that pathetic-ness is what I should embrace about being a college student.  After all, we have license to act irrationally and make mistakes.  We’re under large amounts of stress and our immature pre-frontal cortexes can’t handle it.  Though I’m afraid playing M.F.K. is still a bit pathetic, as irrational actions go.

“It’s just so well written!”

is my go-to response for why I’m currently reading Lolita. It is a classic, yes, but there is absolutely no denying that it is one creepy novel. I am avoiding carrying it around to classes like I usually do with books (in case I get there early, we get a break, I might possibly have a 5 to 10 minute window to indulge my pathological reading obsession) so people don’t ask stupid questions.

Because yeah, for the uninitiated, Lolita is definitely written from the perspective of a solipsistic pedophile trying to rationalize his desires and actions. Lolita herself is the narrator’s 12-year-old obsession, a precocious, angry little girl whose flippant comments belie the loneliness and pain she feels. Reading scenes between the two main characters feels icky and wrong.

But dear readers, this book! I hesitate to recommend it because it might get me put on a government watch list, but the writing! Vladimir  Nabokov (who in interviews revealed his disgust with his own character) creates the ultimate unreliable narrator, while simultaneously hinting at the real state of the world. The rich imagery, full of descriptions of the French Riviera and the rougher facets of the American landscape, immerses the reader in its tangible world. And then there are puns, alliterations, allusions, metaphors, flashbacks, asides! Reading Lolita is like watching an Olympic gymnast make her death-defying stunts look easy. Nabokov, not even a native speaker, is clearly a master of the English language.

So when I say “It’s just so well written!” I mean it this time, not as the oft-repeated  justification of a girl who reads during meals because she can’t fit it anywhere else in her life. Lolita is truly a well-written piece of literature. So read it, if you can, though I understand if you don’t want to show anyone.

Read, Write, Blog… Portfolio?

Up until now, most things we’ve discussed in class and all the reading and writing exercises have seemed familiar to me. Despite my lack of knowledge on how to compose a precis or create an author’s note, these things were easily picked up when we applied them in the classroom/team setting. Even blogging has become almost natural and enjoyable as a pastime.

When I was younger, I’d started a Xanga account with the intention of blogging haphazardly and displaying some art and poems I’d worked on to the public. What I never though of it as was a portfolio of my work, something to update regularly and change over time as my writing style changed.

I’ve perhaps created one portfolio in my entire life, and that was for a leadership board in middle school. Now we have to create an entire portfolio of our writing online. Crap. Here’s to hoping some of my HTML and design experience comes in handy with this seemingly impossible project. I spent part of today trying to customize my WordPress Blog, and all I’ve managed so far is to create a large white text box, and simple image which is hidden underneath it. Methinks I need some more caffeine.

Let’s try that again

After stumbling through this french thing that is apparently some kind of “analysis/conversation” hybrid called a Precis, I realized how wrong I was in my last blog post. I called out Brandt and bashed her style. While I don’t regret what I said, I realized I was focusing on a petty topic and blinded myself. Talking in groups today I discovered how much I enjoyed the article. There were quotes aplenty that had me tilting my head in wonder and interest.

Tilting my head in wonder and interest

Much like this puppy, I am intrigued by what is happening in front of me. It just so happens that Brandt’s article and my previous response. Brandt had only one topic, but she had many different arguments for her topic, and that was something I said in my last post and I completely agree with myself. She did a great job tackling a very broad and relatively untouched topic.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. I did not feel my last post to be adequate and so I feel better having addressed that, I also hope the picture of the puppy will make amends.

Experience begets Knowledge

The process started when I was alone in the stacks at the graduate library.
When I started reading the academic piece by Christina Haas and Linda Flower entitled Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning I felt extremely disconnected from the subject matter. Although I was in a model environment to get work done, I couldn’t understand what the reading was saying during the first encounter I had with the concepts Haas and Flower were discussing. I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me to get through this scholarly article, so I tried something new, something stated in the text that helped me tremendously. The process that helped me was thinking and reading aloud. So there I was, in the stacks alone talking to myself in an effort to understand the advanced writing styles of Haas and Flower. Surprisingly, it helped me feel much more engaged with the piece. I was beginning to feel like this reading process wouldn’t be such a drag after all.
Read More

“The Productive Side Of Literacy”

First things first,

I loved the topic of Brandt’s “The Status of Writing” and “How Writing is Remaking Reading.” I loved the ideas and loved the concepts addressed.

HOWEVER, I hated the presentation. I was so intrigued by the idea of changing from a reading culture to a writing culture. The idea was something I have never even thought about, yet Brandt’s presentation made me want to continually stop reading. More often than not she started her paragraphs with some along the lines of “We just discussed this, now I would like to talk about this.”

She starts off one paragraph :”In the rest of this chapter I want to continue to explore the implications of this transition in the history of mass literacy.”   Perhaps I am being a little melodramactic, but perhaps Brandt should be a tiny bit more creative and not just tell me exactly what she will be doing. Read More

We talkin’ ’bout practice?

Ignore the title.  I just thought of Allen Iverson when thinking about how I was supposed to read an essay about reading for a writing class.

Anyone unfamiliar with what I’m referencing, here you go:

Anyway, the way Iverson feels about practice is the way I feel about reading.  It sucks, it’s boring, it has no point, and it should be eliminated from all curriculum anywhere and everywhere forever.

Hopefully my sarcasm is obvious enough.  Nevertheless, I usually point it out anyway.  I was cursed with a mean stare and a deep voice, which is unfortunate because then people often misunderstand my lame sense of humor.  But the point is, while I do love reading and of course see its value, I do struggle with it, both in terms of finding time to read and in understanding what I read.  On those standardized tests in grade school, I always killed the writing part then did very poorly on the “reading comprehension” section (I put that in quotes because the phrase became something of a taboo for me in my rise to academic prosperity).

That is why (yes there’s a point to this blog post) I enjoyed the Tierney/Pearson essay on the composing model of reading, in which one composes their own interpretation (or dare I say it, comprehension) of what it is they are reading.  The reason I liked it is that the model they describe is eerily similar to the common writing process (how ironic!!!).  <—again, sarcasm

They make it sound so simple.  The steps are clear, and ones I’ve followed many times before in writing: planning, drafting, aligning (I wasn’t sure what that meant until reading about it), revising, and monitoring.  My favorite step is monitoring, in which you take time to reflect on what you’ve read or written.

This process works so well in writing, and  following it can make for very effective results.  I feel I cannot be a great writer until I can overcome my reading demons.  And, I would love to be a better reader, just so I can enjoy reading again and not worry so much about it.  So, perhaps I should try implementing this model into my reading, and maybe I will have more success in “reading comprehension.”

If only I could get a guaransheed that it’d work:

Reading about Reading

Up until now, I thought reading was an automatic task as simple as eating an apple or jumping off a tree. You just put your eyes on some words and absorb the information. Two steps- that’s it. However, as soon as I printed the reading for this week and read the first few paragraphs, I realized that I was about to read sixteen pages of text regarding the process of reading. Two steps? As if. In this reading, authors Tierney and Pearson break down reading into steps: planning, drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring. Sound familiar? Basically, Tierney and Pearson argue that reading a piece of writing takes as much of the same mental processes as writing does and that “one must begin to view reading and writing as essentially similar processes of meaing construction” (175). And from the last few weeks, with our discussions on books and writing, it is obvious that there is a strong correlation between reading and writing. However, making writing and reading almost the same? That was difficult for me to understand at first just because I believe writing seems to take more creative energy and work in producing something readible. When you are reading something, it is already laid out for you and the only job for you is to figure out what the reading means.

Early this fall, I traveled to East Haven and read on the beach. This isn’t an actualy picture of me and my book, but reading on beaches is such a inspiring feeling!

In others words, writing to me is like creating the treasure map for your younger siblings to follow. And reading is like following the treasure map I just created. Obviously, one of the two is more fun and less stressful, depending on which role you like to take on for the game of treasure hunting.

 The most important message I took away from this reading was that “getting started is just as an important a step in reading” (178). And this is true, before we read, we have to think about what we are about to read and prepare for it. Whether it is physically scanning the page for the first sentence or title, or clearing my mind to tackle a difficult, dense passage. Sometimes, I procrasinate and do not start reading something just because I am scared of the effort I will need to put in in order to understand a reading. Usually, this applies to classic texts like Plato and Socrates which, despite the fact I took Latin, is equally challenging to study in translated English.

Lastly, I thought the reading was interestingly trying to imply something when saying “it seems that students rarely pause to reflect on their ideas of to judge the quality of their developing interpretations” (184).  I already know that I am guilty of doing this. However, sometimes, I just want to finish reading the entire story before thinking about it and analyzing its meaning. What is wrong with that?

However, this reading is totally appropriate. Yesterday, I started on my first novel in ages. It is an Agatha Christie novel, so it’s pretty simple to read. But I’m just trying to incoporate more reading into my daily routine. But unlike, incoporating tasks  like more exercise or cleaning my room daily, reading is a bit different. It requires an occupation of not only my time but also my mind.


Rhetorical Reading Strategies and Dating a Girl that Reads

Apparently, there are three main strategies to reading: content, function/feature, and rhetorical. Depending on who you are—maybe you’re just a lowly proletariat reader or maybe, like the authors of “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” you are the big-bad bourgeoisie of the reading world—you rely on different strategies more heavily. To be a good reader, you must interact with the text on several different levels. But, this is no easy piece of cake.  The piece ends with authors Christiana Haas and Linda Flower wondering how to teach students to focus less on the content strategy and more on rhetorical. They lamented that teaching people to read this way was as difficult and elusive as teaching people to write this way. Interesting.

I do not know how you would write without focusing on your rhetorical strategy, even if its in a very stunted way. When you set out to write, you have an aim of sharing something with another person or convincing them of something. And even though you might not completely understand why you’re using certain rhetorical moves, you’re still trying to present the information in the most convincing way possible. I took AP Language in high school and formally learned certain rhetorical techniques and wrote essays about how authors presented an argument rather than what the argument was. I must say, that after taking that class I was much more attuned to the rhetorical world simply because I knew why certain moves were being made in a paper, and what the author might be hoping to achieve by it. But I am still wondering, can a writer ever divorce herself from rhetoric?

I don’t think the authors of “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” related reading back to writing in a useful way. Was the Ph.D student in Engineering they used as a benchmark for experienced reading, was he a good writer? Are experienced, saavy readers also good writers?

All this being said, while I was reading this piece I couldn’t help but think of something I read earlier this summer and since writers and all probably struggling in our love lives, I wanted to share it with you. Wait for the kicker at the end for the self-esteem boost.

Date a girl that reads

Constructing Meaning the Rhetorical Way

I wish I would have asked myself what my definition of reading is before I read Haas and Flower’s article. Or at least what my strategy for reading is. Do I simply construct knowledge from looking at the words on the page, maybe highlighting what appear to be a few key sentences of content and information? Or, do I read rhetorically, “imagining audience response, acknowledging content, and setting [my] own purposeful goals?” That is, a rhetorical reader takes a text and constructs meaning from it by thinking beyond what is written on the page before her. What are the author’s intentions for me? How does this information relate to my experiences? How do the author’s concepts function outside of the discourse of the topic? These are some strategies a rhetorical reader might utilize when obtaining a richer representation of an author’s work.

I honestly do not know which method I would have said I used, or was closest to using. Haas and Flower’s studies show a strong reason to believe that readers who take purposeful actions while reading to make a representation of the text, are more likely to detect the explicit and implicit intentions of the writer. So certainly I’d hope that when I sit down to read “The Basics of Judicial Review” or “The Moral Reading and the Majoritarian Premise” I read a little deeper than the words on the surface.

Haas and Flower ascertain that a reader can grasp a greater understanding of a book or academic article by transcending merely “figuring out” the content. For example, in my reading of those tremendously entertaining texts I mentioned above, I should be constructing meaning by implementing a tool box of strategies so I can make sense of these esoteric topics. I should be looking at a what the words mean under a greater viewing lens, building a relationship with the author’s purpose and effects of the words she writes.

The parallel between reading and writing in Haas and Flower’s heuristic is that both require us to construct meaning. How we do this creates a divide in the understandings we each come away with from engaging in these disciplines. As a reader, in all honesty I probably would have said that I read by carefully following the lines on the page to remember the most important sentences later, rather than dissecting the author’s points and intertwining them with rhetorical strategies.

As a writer, I want to attempt to incorporate some of Haas and Flower’s findings into my next essay or paper. By thinking deeper about the interrelatedness of my ideas and use my own strategies, not some industry standard, to express myself. Perhaps I can attain a greater ability to construct more persuasive writing by following the concept of rhetoric. In past writing, I think I have begun to do such things. Taking into account the audience I’m addressing and the possible

As I wrote this blog post, I became more and more convinced that I do enlist the help of rhetorical thinking in my writing and reading. Referring back to my first blog post and issues with getting the wheels of a work rolling, I think I am very cognizant of rhetoric. Sometimes I think too deep into a piece–wondering how it will be interpreted by different people, what points, if any, other than the ones I expressly argued will permeate out of my work. Doing so allows me to become better equipped to confront any rebuttals or critiques of my work later, while giving me more confidence in what I am writing prior.

I think the strategy of rhetorical reading and writing emanates out of critical thinking. Looking deeper into the words on the page or your own thoughts as you prepare to write afford the opportunity to build more concrete final products. I can use the same diligent and substantive skills I use to look at others’ writing to become a better writer myself.