A Rather Meta Post

This essay reminded me of modern art, which is a reference I don’t always make positively. Haas and Flower argue that meaning is constructed from texts by reader. With modern art, the meaning is largely constructed by the viewer as well; that’s what makes something beautiful. The picture of a picture below could just be splotches of paint on paper or this piece could be about the process and breaking the rules of painting and questioning the role of the artist. More radically, it could be both. Maybe it’s neither.

Kazuo Shiraga- Painting With His Feet

Back to writing, my problem with Modern Art as with my problem with Reading as Construct is that it implies if someone thinks a work is bad, it is merely because they don’t appreciate it. It is on the reader, not the writer to convey meaning. For example, Kara, one of the test subjects mentioned by Haas and Flowers, thought a piece of work was confusing; does that mean she is a bad reader or does that mean that the piece of work was actually confusing? I do admit that in Kara’s case, it was her inexperience, not a lack of clarity in the work that caused her to think the piece was confusing. Still, I feeling like meaning in a piece of writing is created by both the reader and the writer. The writer must lay down a solid foundation, even if its a complicated an many layered one for the reader to build on first. Rhetorical readers seem to make the best buildings, able to incorporate their experience, context and other factors into their constructs, rather than merely summarizing for information. This kind of skill or action is one I normally associate with writing. When I write, I try to put in as little summary as possible and focus on interpretation and context. I’ve never thought to apply it to reading before now. This makes the line between the two a little thinner in my mind.

An important feature of a piece of work, which Haas and Flower mostly ignored, perhaps on purpose, is the intentionality of the writer in a piece. This is not necessarily the thesis but rather the goals of the piece. What impression is the writer trying to give the reader? What does the writer want the reader to think about them and their subject matter? What does the writer do to try to make the reader see as they see? What do the writer’s intentions discernible from this piece say about the writer. For example, when I was reading this piece I noticed that they use off phrases like “complex rhetorical model”, and  “discourse acts”, academic-style terms not fully defined.  These word choices means they are not writing for readers like Kara. They are mostly likely writing for other teachers. Writing in this formal style, referencing research in various fields and capitalizing on words like “rhetorical”, gives me the impression that they want the reader to think they’re authorities. It is their intention to put forth a piece that convinces you that their way of thinking is right -teaching rhetorical reading is critical for making better thinkers, readers and writers and thus should be implemented. There is nothing wrong about with their efforts; all writers need to establish some kind of authority to make them worth reading and have some kind of argument, preferably a goal, too.  Thinking about the writer’s intentions as more than just the information they wish to convey is important, especially when dealing with sources that are not university academics but bloggers, especially political pundits and those who have an agenda. Through reading, it is possible to  see a person through his or her writing.

3 thoughts to “A Rather Meta Post”

  1. Julia,

    I couldn’t agree with you more, and great insight connecting the themes in Haas and Flowers to modern art. I find with modern art, sometimes it is really cool, but other times, a red line down a white piece of paper does not get to count as art.

    After reading Ron’s post and reflecting on my own difficulties working through their piece I reached the same question as you: maybe it isn’t the reader that is the problem, but rather the writer is not writing effectively. If the reader is constructing a different intention that the writer wanted, maybe they didn’t do that good of a job conveying it. If the entire class got 62% on the test, perhaps the teacher did not teach it that well. I think the same sentiment applies to writing.

    I also thought it was interesting that you used rhetorical analysis by noticing their word-choice and other stylistic moves to critique their piece. Haas and Flower would be proud.

  2. Julia

    I agree with Alicia in that your decision to integrate modern art into this post to help explain what the crux of what the reading for this week discussed was quite astute of you. I also agree with both of you in that if the majority of readers don’t extract the meaning from the text the writer intended then the writer should be held more at fault than the reader. The test example Alicia used was a perfect way to describe my thought process on the issue.

    I think you brought to light a very important point about how the writers of this piece used diction that insinuated they were authority figures. I guess that brings to light another question, whom were they writing for? You seem to think that their writing style insinuates that their intended audience is teachers, but I don’t know. I think reading for academic purposes to obtain knowledge-that is unfamiliar to me-AND reading for rhetorical purposes to understand the authors implicit intentions is exhausting. Academic writing is dense enough, trying to guess authors motives behind that writing I think is too much. What if you understand the knowledge the author is writing about but you misinterpret the implicit meaning and by misinterpreting the implicit meaning you alter your initial thoughts? I get confused even thinking about all of this, when I read academic pieces, my goal is simply to attain the knowledge necessary to put the topics I read into discussion. I know I my interpretation may be wrong, and it may be right, but the point of the discussion is to see what’s what.

    I agree with your last point as well, bloggers motives should be taken into account more than the motives of academic writers. A fundamental characteristic of academic writing is that it is generally accurate and factual. Blogging tends to leave more leeway for a writer to incorporate biases into their works and we need to be aware of this when reading blogs. This is where I think the rhetorical reading would be helpful.

    GREAT post Juila, I really enjoyed reading this and I agree with so much of what is written here!!

  3. Both yours and Ron’s posts this week are looking sharp with the added visuals; I need to follow suit this week.

    I always enjoy reading your work because you really put thought into your posts and consider things from interesting angles using cool analogies and thought processes.

    You brought up one of the most fascinating aspects of art, music, books, etc.: it is all relative. What may be beautiful expression to one is mediocre to another. Both parties are responsible for the meaning construed by the viewer, reader, or listener. It seems that most times, however, people glance over what the author was trying to set forth, focusing instead on what they the reader thought.

    Your thorough examination of Haas and Flower’s intentions behind writing their article were interesting, and I think it can be said that you partook in a bit of rhetorical reading yourself. It seems to be a critical tool of critical analysis to be able to consider deeper ideas than just what the author puts on the surface.

    Ron’s discussion of this article also landed upon your questioning of whether a situation like Kara’s speaks more to the reader’s inability to comprehend the author’s words or the author’s inability or flawedness at his/her trade. I surmise that context is crucial: in an academic, empirically driven article like this one, it is probably best to focus on the ideas on the paper, and only think rhetorically if your intentions as the reader go beyond understanding the work. Other prose, however, lends itself to interpretation, and welcomes the reader to see what he/she can come up with after thinking about past experiences and implied messages.

Leave a Reply