The band Snap! has a very catchy song called “I’ve got the power,” and I couldn’t help but sing it when I was doing the readings for this week. While some might feel intimated or inexperienced in the realm of reading and writing, dare I say even lacking authority, I guess I have always felt empowered when I am constructing the meaning of a text from both sides of the paper.
Haas and Flower talk about how reading is viewed as generating multi-faceted yet integrated representations. Knowing that reading a text brings, potentially, a different representation to every reader causes me to feel like, as a writer, it is my job to create a text that can have many different viewings. It is also a little comforting to know that not every text has one strict meaning, so I can let my imagination run with an idea as long as I can support my thoughts.
This idea is also presented in the Penrose and Geisler reading, although here they are talking more about reading and writing authoritatively. They pointed at two examples of people reading various texts and then writing a paper: a college freshman with very little knowledge and authority, and a student working towards a doctorate degree in philosophy with a breadth of knowledge and, therefore, authority. With Janet’s paper, essentially all she did was transfer information from the texts she read and applied them to her own paper, while Roger’s essay actually analyzed the texts and drew original conclusions. I think that this is the key to being a writer; you can’t simply spew or regurgitate information no matter what class or circumstance you are writing about. Instead you have to make what you write meaningful, or else what’s the point of even writing in the first place? Yes, readers have a lot of weight in deciphering the meaning of a text and in comprehension, but there has to be something given to them by the writers that they can actually analyze. So naturally, while writing, you have to think about what you want to achieve and present to your readers.
While doing both of these readings, I kept thinking about my AP Lit and Comp class in high school. While we read various novels and poured over poetry, a lot of the emphasis was put on our analysis of the texts. If you just summarized something or transferred information when you wrote an essay, you were not going to get a good grade. I think the two most important words to my teacher were “So What?” These two words were bolded on the top of every handout for each writing assignment. Making myself think “so what?” when I am both reading and writing has definitely made an impact on me as a writer because it forces me to be thinking about the bigger picture. Haas and Flower hit on this when they talk about the four different types of constructive reading strategies: verbalizations, gathering the content, the function/feature of the text, and then the rhetorical strategies (129-130). While the first three strategies are a good starting place, it is only when a reader thinks rhetorically that the “so what?” really comes into play. At least, that’s the way that I was trained— to place the most emphasis on using rhetorical strategies. It’s not just about the words on the page, it’s about understanding the significance.
Reading for rhetorical analysis opens a door for writing authoritatively as far as I’m concerned. In all of the classes I’ve taken so far in my academic career the goal of the papers are always about drawing my own conclusions, not simply drawing on sources. It’s almost liberating as a writer to know that, as Haas and Flower state, reading is a constructive process and not simply receptive. This allows for a writer to open a conversation rather than locking their words into a text never to change. I for one love having a discussion about a text where everyone has something a little different to say, which is why I want to be the type of writer who provides a spark. I don’t want my words to be set in stone; rather, I want my readers to look at what I write and start a conversation.