Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reflective Essay

Reflective Essay:

An Analysis of Learning in English 360

Throughout the semester in English 360, we focused on the development and evolution of rhetoric in several key capacities. We analyzed its progression from Classical Rhetoric oration to Modern Rhetoric digitalization. We explored how technological advances or social upheavals ignite change in rhetoric as well. Finally, we learned how rhetoric can be presented in an almost unlimited number of mediums to an enormous array of audiences. Through class lectures, at-home readings, blog entries, and a series of essays, I personally was able to develop a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of rhetoric. I reaffirmed existing strengths, such as overall composition, establishing my own ethos, making logical arguments, and organization, in addition to honing new skills, including source evaluation, appealing to pathos, invention, and creative, self-generated writing. English 360 was a challenging course that provided me the opportunity to grow as both an evaluator and creator of rhetoric, as exemplified by my body of work.

As a Professional Writing and Rhetoric major, I have a more substantial education and background in rhetoric than most students. I believe that this foundation has afforded me many unique skills as a writer; fortunately, the coursework in English 360 gave me the opportunity to showcase many of these strengths. Overall, I think that I entered the semester with a strong capacity for holistic writing. My overall composition is always consistent, well-argued and proven, and eloquently written. In reference to the three essays written for this class, I received a “5” or “6” – indicating a mastery of the skill – for holistic rating criteria. This demonstrates my overall strength as a writer to write comprehensively. Another existing skill is my ability to create ethos. For all three essays, I received a “6,” showing that I had completely mastered the establishment of author credibility. As demonstrated in course rubrics, ethos is by far one of my most honed skills. Through in-depth research and discussion of said research, I proved myself to be quite knowledgeable on the topics. And just as doing thorough research prior to writing gave me ethical appeal, it also made my arguments sound through logos. Previous English classes have solidified my expertise in developing logical proofs. Strong, supportive evidence is invaluable to proving arguments. For essays two and three, I used a minimum of four meaningful secondary sources, thereby affirming my mastery of the skill according to rubric requirements. The final pre-existing quality that was highlighted in English 360 is my arrangement style in terms of paper organization. Receiving a score of “5” on essay one and scores of “6” on subsequent essays, I have quite clearly mastered this attribute. Information is ordered in a sequential, understandable way that best engages with the audience. Knowing the significance of organization to overall argument impact, I always make it a key focus while composing an essay. In general, English 360 helped to reaffirm as well as feature existing skills and strengths; however, course material and assignments also challenged me to improve upon abilities that were previously weak.

I am quite proud of my work in this course, especially in regards to self-improvement. While utilization of research was already a mastered skill, I struggled in terms of making that information accessible to the readers. This course taught me to develop information more fully as opposed to just presenting research as-is; black-and-white information dissemination can be too difficult for an audience to engage with. My development with this skill is marked by a grade improvement from my first essay to later ones. Furthermore, as a very logic-minded person, I can often neglect pathetic appeals in my arguments; receiving a “4” in this criteria on essay one made me acutely aware of my struggle to appeal to the audience emotionally. On essays two and three, I made a conscious effort to consider my audience. I deconstructed research, reconsidered assignment requirements, and asked outside proofreaders for their feedback. Being that I received scores of “5” – near mastery – on essays two and three, I believe that these efforts made noticeable and meaningful improvements. I hope to utilize this new skill in future writing endeavors. Invention is another area in which I had hoped to improve, but consistently received “5”s. These scores aside, I believe that I made significant improvements in this skill. As a highly analytical person, I am generally not very imaginative. I can write quite well to professor-generated topics, but struggle with more ambiguous essays. English 360 encouraged me to improve upon this difficulty through daily blog entries and only generally focused essay themes. Being that I got overall high scores on essays, I think that I learned to better compose from readings, research, and experience in order to generate my own questions and points of argument.

Essay one was a very interesting paper as it was far more reflective than research-based. Overall, this was my weakest essay and highlighted areas for improvement; however, it also revealed areas in which I was already strong. For example, essay one quite clearly exemplifies my ability to argue with logos. Comments on this paper, which received a “6” for logos, included, “Terrific job of analyzing your choices!” I believe that I did exceptionally well in addressing challenges faced while writing a speech, how struggles were overcome, and why I made particular text selections. The requirements of this essay asked that we describe the process of writing an imitatio. One of the things I struggled with was how to write the essay without rambling or being too inconsistent in my train of thought. Writing the essay according to a linear, chronological approach proved quite successful. In forcing me to choose my own approach to the theme, I was able to improve my logical and inventive abilities. Another skill I was encouraged to hone on essay one was my personal development of ethos. As this was a self-reflective essay, I could not rely on research data to create credibility. Instead, I had to focus internally, which is a new process for me. Another problem that I encountered was that, in order to try to prove my argument, I repeated myself a great deal on first drafts. Proofreaders felt that I was being unnecessarily repetitive, and such repetitiveness seemed more condescending than informative. Taking this criticism to heart, I tried to better engage readers without talking down to them; unfortunately, because I got a “5” on audience accessibility and only a “4” on pathos, I think that I did only a mediocre job of meeting my goal. Such scores taught me that meeting my audience’s needs is an area in need of great improvement. In writing this essay, I also learned the importance of self-reflection – a process that I am rarely exposed to.

In writing essay two, I was reminded of many essays I have written for previous English classes. This essay was very much research-based, as we were assigned an analysis of the printing press. Essay two was quite comfortable to write as I could focus on my strengths of using logical, evidentiary support and ethos. As shown by scores of “6” in these categories, I am quite good at working with facts. Utilizing five meaningful secondary sources, I was complimented: “[Y]ou really do a terrific job of writing from complex source material.” I believe that I provided thought-provoking, sophisticated evidence that showed me to be knowledgeable on the subject matter. I always welcome practicing these skills, as research essays are the most common styles in academia. The process of writing essay two was quite similar to most of my methods. I begin with research, formulate an argument based upon such research, and then begin essay composition. This system, I believe, allows for the most comprehensive, in-depth, and convincing arguments; essentially, this is the holistic component. Receiving a rating of “6” for holistic criteria reaffirmed that my composition process is quite strong. Unfortunately, similar to essay one that struggled with meeting the audience’s needs, so did essay two. While the argument is entirely logical and provable, it is not particularly engaging. Though I teach what I have learned and ideas are consistent throughout, I somewhat neglect my audience’s desire for interesting material. Though I tried to put into action the things I learned from essay one, it resulted in a boost of just one point from a “4” to a “5.” Pure information dissemination can be boring and monotonous. In general, I learned from essay two that I am a strong research essayist and that my composition methodology is sound; however, I was reminded to be sympathetic with my audience to try to better relate to them.

Essay three was, again, was similar to my previous writing experiences. Just as with papers two and three, I earned mastery ratings in both logos and ethos categories. I enjoy and am skillful with fact-based analyses. In addition to these qualities, I also showcased by arrangement and organization skills. Essay three demonstrated my ability to derive a powerful thesis, create a progression of ideas based off this thesis, and present an easy-to-follow and cohesive argument. My thesis, which received high praise from both peers and the professor was: “Barack Obama’s official presidential candidacy speech provides a strong example of modern rhetoric as exists in the 21st century, particularly when exploring elements of delivery, language, audience, and culture.” It was quite easy to base the rest of my essay of this highly detailed argument. Therein, I had a highly organized paper; in general, I described how Obama’s speech is an exemplary model of modern rhetoric in the context of delivery, language, audience, and culture. I also found the same process as essay two to work just as well with essay three, meaning research, argument, and then writing. If nothing else, English 360 certainly confirmed my affinity for research first then composition as a successful process for rhetoric. In terms of challenges associated with essay three, I encountered one low score. Though the organizational arrangement got a mastered critique, I am still developing the evidence engagement portion of arrangement. Though highly logical and cohesive, I lacked the “so what” component. Essentially, the essay was too narrowly focused and did not look to the bigger picture. In fact, the professor requested at the end of the essay, “[A] place where you’re thinking about the future would be welcome.” For someone as analytical as myself, much in the same way that I ignore audience’s emotional needs, I can forget to expand arguments outside the box of facts. I would have liked to explore the future of modern rhetoric, but got stuck with present-day data. I am quite proud of the straightforwardness and consistency represented in essay three while also taking away criticism of the narrow-mindedness I demonstrated; as with the previous essays, I know where to focus my efforts for future improvement.

I am confident in the work I have done in English 360. I believe that each piece represents a distinctive and important point in my academic growth. I have proven myself to be a successful rhetorician throughout the semester, a point that is evidenced in each of my pieces of writing. For me, the consistent use of logical and ethical appeals was the defining characteristic of my composition style. Through essays and blog entries specifically, I was able to showcase existing strengths as well as develop those skills that were previously weak. Existing strengths included overall composition, establishing my own ethos, making logical arguments, and organization. On the other hand, I practiced new skills such as source evaluation, appealing to pathos, invention, and creative, self-generated writing. Through English 360, I have learned to expand upon ideas in an effort to better relate to my audience and develop creative, “so what” arguments; I should not get stuck in the analytics. I am proud of my efforts in this course, in my ability to both demonstrate existing skills as well as hone new strengths.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Response to Reading Eighteen

While I am a Professional Writing and Rhetoric major, I was still startled by the finite details that go into a logical proof as described in The Rhetorical Tradition, from Toulmin's essay. Interestingly, I have actually been assigned a Toulmin essay before. Though I have access to this particular piece, I cannot remember the details of the assignment. In examining it, it seemed to be a very basic research paper. I could not distinguish this essay from any of my others, though it was technically in a Toulmin-format. To me, this suggests that individuals do not, nor should they, focus on the finite details of composition. When the breakdown of ideas and organization becomes too excessive, it can be easy to lose sight of the entirety of the argument; acknowledge of the big picture cannot necessarily happen with conscious attempts to meet Toulmin requirements.

Though professors have regurgitated ethos, pathos, and logos more than I can count, we only seem to cover the basic principles of these. It is easy to understand rhetoric in terms of ethical (author credibility), pathetic (emotion), and logical (reasonable) approaches. They are simple! I have been taught that convincing arguments are always based on these, no question. Therefore, it was interesting to extensively explore the rhetorical proof of logos with the purpose of better understanding its complexities and development. This was fascinating and new to me.

As a writer, I think that I take advantage of my ability to compose sound and persuasive arguments. In many ways, the technique of using rhetorical proofs is just second nature. I know what sounds appealing, reasonable, and persuasive without blinking. Never do I consciously think about the premise of my argument, syllogismos, epagoges, or particulars. Why would I?! In fact, writing might be more of a chore if this was the case. Nevertheless, it was an engaging study for me. Improvement always comes with greater knowledge; perhaps more awareness in the technicalities of writing a logical proof will be reflected in my composition process. Self-awareness is key to progress, I believe. One can only get better by having a thorough knowledge of their task.

In my own writing experience, I have never had such a linear progression of ideas as exists with premises. Not that this does not happen with frequency by pure subconscious, but it is such a detailed and deconstructive thought process that I was taken aback. If I were to try to consciously breakdown my ideas and arguments in such a manner, I might go crazy. Nobody actually thinks this way. The human mind has the ability to overlap, synthesize, and conclude without the thinker even doing the thinking. For the most part, we connect the dots of our arguments effortlessly.

This was a terribly frustrating concept for me. Even though I am a sometimes obnoxiously analytical and methodical person, I still found this deconstruction of ideas to be insanely finite and detailed. On some occasions, like with very complex research papers, premises might make more sense. But for everyday writing purposes, it might be somewhat excessive.