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.
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.