Precee for Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning by Linda Flower and Christine Haas

“Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” by Christina Haas and Linda Flower (1988) looks to take a fairly abstract concept of how and what people read into a quantitative experiment. It seeks to point out the difference between “freshman” readers versus readers in other areas of study besides literature, as well as “advanced” readers with more experience. Flower then decides that it is the rhetorical readers that make more connections to the readings, find more claims, and find them earlier. Therefore, rhetorical reading could be define as, “an active attempt at constructing a rhetorical context for the text as a way of making sense of it” (123). Rhetorical readers are less reading for “information” and “facts” and more for personal meaning and purpose behind the writing.¬†Strategies of rhetorical readers include looking at reading as a conversation of information exchange, developing inferences about the author, the context, the purpose and the effect of the text.¬†Rhetorical readers also, according to Flower, have an easier time reading texts they are not conditioned to reading outside of their genre. By presenting ten readers of varying levels with a piece designed to have possible challenging excerpts for all participants, the conductors of the study are able to see what claims the readers make, how they interpret the text, and what the readers think the text is “saying”. They are then held to standards of “rhetorical readers.” This is helpful information as a reader in that rhetorical reading can lead to deeper understanding of texts, enriching the readers experience beyond the factual presentation. As aspiring writers, the construction of meaning can help us articulate ideas while keeping in mind an audience of rhetorical readers. In turn, reading rhetorically can allow more investment in the text and hopefully make foreign or uninteresting texts more enjoyable.


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