I’m not going to lie, I found “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning” by Haas and Flower quite difficult to grasp. Contrary to Shelley’s experience, the graphs were just about the only thing I initially understood! The in-class précis exercise, however, was very helpful for me. Between being forced to articulate in writing my summary of the authors’ arguments and consulting with the rest of the group, I was able not only to come to a much greater understanding of the reading but also to see how its premises apply to myself as a writer.
To start, I can clearly see in my own reading and writing the connection the authors identify between the two. Reading done for the sole purpose of getting information, they argue, is likely to foster writing that only serves to tell, devoid of all critical analysis. For me, this is very interesting because I can certainly see in some of my past writing this tendency to just state facts without turning them into arguments. Even argumentative essays–by their very nature “rhetorical”–can suffer from this defect if information is merely stated and not analyzed. I recall one essay I wrote a while back about job outsourcing which consisted of little more than simply quoting sources that happened to agree with me. Had they read this essay, I’m think Haas and Flower would have surely lumped me in with the “non-rhetorical” beginners–a place where, admittedly, I probably still belong.
One of the questions this piece does not directly address is the strength of this link between one’s reading techniques and his writing abilities. For example, if it’s possible to improve my argumentative writing skills by reading rhetorically, is it similarly possible to improve my rhetorical reading skills by writing argumentatively? If so, then this writing class will undoubtedly prove highly beneficial in a college setting where tedious academic reading (skimming, in my case!) is too often done solely for the “information-getting” part.