Grammar, ‘Codeswitching,’ and Audience

Personally, I still struggle with grammar today, even as I advance through my professional writing degree. In our class discussion, we talked a lot about grammar rules we dislike, like, can live without, etc. But, I didn’t realize that certain grammar rule can be interpreted by the writer as Curzan describes in her article. I thought it was interesting that she put grammar on the rhetorical platform. For writers, grammar isn’t something to be negotiated. And, maybe that’s the problem!

One of the examples that Curzan uses to make her argument was when one of her colleagues confronted her about telling her students to treat ‘they’ in the singular, which is forbidden. She explains that her students can “break” these rules at the own discretion. It made me think about code switching and audience; it is all connected because the writer must appeal to their audience using grammar and language suited to their audience.

I like that Curzan brings up the point that we can “question everything except Standard English;” which is a problem for most students. Sometimes you have to break the rules to convey a specific message to your audience.

Curzan’s piece reminds me of Bartholomae’s piece on writing for the university. He describes the difficulty students have writing for the university. I believe that students should be able to code switch. He does make a valid point about the professors making their directions clear so that students don’t stray in their writing. But, I think it relates back to grammar and audience.

Whether its breaking a few grammar rules or code switching, no matter what, the writer must know their audience.

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“With a grain of salt”: Rhetoric of the Sciences

Let’s be honest: Science and Rhetoric do not mix! Or, so I thought prior to reading Herrick’s section on the rhetoric of science. It is the norm to teach soft and hard sciences as being fact-based, whether it’s Psychology, Anthropology, Biology or, even Economics. But, Herrick has challenged the way I think about science. Scientists, in the most traditional sense, have to “argue” and  “persuade” their peers to accept their hypotheses and theories based on personal observations that are not entirely fact-based.

I think one of the most thought-provoking examples was the break down of Charles Darwin’s “natural selection theory” by John Campbell. He studied Darwin’s work and criticized much of his natural selection theory. Campbell says Darwin’s theory is “misleading” and “wrong,” which I found to be interesting. The section also explains how Darwin shaped his theory to suit a religious audience. He used rhetoric to persuade the religious community.

As a student, I think its important to take everything you hear with a grain of salt. I never thought about doing that for science courses because science, to me, has always been fact. But, Herrick has made me re-think the way I understand scientific theory. Not saying, I’m going to start questioning everything I have learned in science courses. It’s just something  important to think about!

Medieval and Renaissance Art: Using art as a form of rhetoric

Prior to visiting the Uffizi, I wasn’t familiar with the importance of art during the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a form of rhetoric, especially for the church. I remember Isabella saying that art was used to spread the Christian gospel during the Middle Ages. Thinking about it now, most artist painted and/or sculpted for an intended audience. Art, during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, were essentially a form of rhetoric. Most times, the clients would either be a family with significant political and financial power, such as the Medici family, or a single, collective entity, such as the Church.

Most of the artwork from the Medieval period showed Mary holding the baby Jesus, which I found to be interesting. In the Middle Ages, many people were illiterate; therefore, art was a way for the Church to place an image on what they were preaching (also a form of rhetoric used by the Church). However, according to Chapter 6 in Herrick, European Christians were very skeptical of the practice of rhetoric. It wasn’t until Augustine showed how rhetoric benefited the Christian message, that rhetoric, appropriated by the Christian agenda, was readily accepted.

Moving towards the Renaissance era, the rhetoric of art began to shift from religion to power and wealth. Many of the clients commissioning artworks yielded from powerful, wealthy Italian families, most notably the Medici family. While the paintings and sculptures would still have a religious undertone, the artist would weave members of the family into their artwork, effectively conveying the message the family was trying to send to the public.

We discussed, in class, how art has been transformed and whether or not it still can be considered a form of rhetoric. To me, some art does convey a message; therefore, art can still be used today as a form of rhetoric today. But, I definitely believe the audience continues to change as well as the purpose. Its just one more thing to think about in the world of rhetoric.

“Do you want to be an teacher?”: Being an English major

Thinking back to a discussion we had in class sometime back, I have always wondered what does it really mean when I tell people I am majoring in English. “What do you want to do with an English degree? Do you want to be a teacher/professor? Why didn’t you major in something that would get you a job after college?” I have heard it all. But, are there really “real majors” and “fake majors?” I believe that all depends on the person.

I started off as a Psych major; I want to say I enjoyed the major but that would be a lie. However, I knew that if I majored in Psychology, I would be able to get a good job and, possibly, make a lot of money. Fortunately, sooner rather than later, I realized Psychology wasn’t the right major for me. So, I switched into a major I would have never thought I would choose: English! I know, I know. What was I thinking? Well, I thought a lot about my decision, as does every college student who chooses the major that best fits them.

There is no such thing as “real majors” or “fake majors,” according to what most people would assume. What you put into the major is what you get out of it. Some students would major in one thing, and enter into a job field completely different than their training. Like I said before, I think it all depends on the person. Plus, most majors are versatile, meaning you don’t have to enter into the assumed career field.

The biggest takeaway from our class discussion was that everyone has the ability to choose what they want to major in. Its your choice, no matter the unwarranted questions or backlash!