Rhetorical Reading?

I rarely stop to consider what my reader is thinking as I am writing an academic essay for class.  It is very easy to fall into the routine of simply writing off the importance of who your reader really is since all you really care about is impressing your teacher to get a good grade, right?  Writing 220 and gamification opens up a whole new world of writing for us to explore! It will enable me for the first time in quite a while to forget about my grade and simply focus on understanding who my audience is and finding the right way to convey my messages to them.

In Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning, Haas and Flower confront the common perception of what reading is by arguing that readers need to take into account the authors rhetoric, or purpose, context, and affect on the audience through a rhetorical reading.  This article completely changed the way I think about reading and writing. Especially as a student, it is far too easy to get into the habit of “mindlessly” reading texts for class.  By this, I mean reading with my eyes halfway closed and the television on in the background…oh c’mon you know we’ve all done it!   I have never truly taken the time to consider the motivation of the author while I was reading a text or utilize rhetorical strategies to understand the text on a deeper and more comprehensive level.  If we construct “a complex multi-faceted representation of meaning” between the experience of the reader and the motivation of the author, we will be able to read much more effectively.  This is something that I am going to strive to do from now on with any text that I am reading, whether for class or for pleasure. This will also be something that is crucial for my writing, and I am excited to experiment with new techniques to target my own readers this semester.

3 thoughts to “Rhetorical Reading?”

  1. I think that all of this is really true, and after reading the article, I noticed that I too, often read for solely content, as I did this morning for my psych homework. I also think that elementary, middle and most of high school encouraged us to read for content when we had dumb quizzes asking what color Charlie’s hat was in the third chapter. I think that reading for rhetoric is not only more rewarding, it is also more risky. With gamification, we can read this way and not be afraid to be wrong, since misinterpretations are easier when you aren’t just talking about the name of Tom Sawyers best friend, etc. It also is, unfortunately more time consuming. So as you made a resolve to read rhetorically, I do too, for this class, and maybe others when I get the chance…

  2. I second what Madelaine said about reading solely for content–I do it all the time. And while it’s clear from Haas and Flower’s research that rhetorical reading is much better in theory, I have to wonder to what extent it’s actually possible in practice. If you’re like me, you get so much assigned reading that it’s difficult to even skim it all, let alone devote the additional effort to reading it with a rhetorical mindset. Perhaps students would benefit more if teachers assigned less reading, but expected a much deeper level of understanding. Considering many students’ limited time resources, it seems unfortunate to force the choice between reading less rhetorically and reading more non-rhetorically.

  3. I agree completely with this post and what has been commented above me. I think all to often when we are assigned to read things for class that we skim, read for content only, for purpose, and never ever read rhetorically. We barely even get to read for pleasure anymore when we are in school because we are already assigned so many readings for class ! I think that reading rhetorically not only is better for comprehension, but also is beneficial for enjoying the article more as well. If we read rhetorically, hopefully we will be more well-aware in our writing as well.

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