Brainstorm
Services

EDUCATIONAL
MATERIALS


West Chester University

Spring 2006 and Fall 2005

West Chester University

Fall 2004and
Spring 2005

Spring 2003

Fall 2002

Spring 2002

Fall 2001

 

 

 

Home

Contact

Course Syllabi and Announcements
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
  A Reading of THE TEMPEST

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
  Goals of the Course
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Valuing Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Literature as ART
  Ambiguity
  Approaching the Art of Fiction
  Defining the Short Story
  Evaluating Short Fiction
  Craft of Fiction: PLOT
  Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
  Small Group Exercise
  ARABY by James Joyce
  WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates
  Our RITES OF PASSAGE Theme
  A note about GIRL
  POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
  THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
  YOUNG MAN ON SIXTH AVENUE
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
  Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
  Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
  LITERARY SYNTHESIS PROJECT
  Defining Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry
  Drama and Tragedy
  Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
  Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
  Selecting Information
  Evaluating Arguments
  CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
  Approaching Persuasive Writing
  Topic Development - Profile Essay
  Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
  Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
  Profile Exercise
  Analyzing THE FIVE BEDROOM, SIX FIGURE ROOTLESS LIFE
  Objective Writing: Selected Readings
  Writing Workshop: Paper #1
  Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
  Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
  Paper #1: IDENTITY
  Expressive Writing
  Open Letter Exercise and Examples
  EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Literature related to IDENTITY
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
  Analyzing WAITING FOR GODOT
  Approaching WAITING FOR GODOT
  Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
  Paper #4: Independent Project
  The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
  UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA Links
  Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
  From today's news (11/3/05)
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
  Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
  INFERNO: Structure
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
  INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
  A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Notes on LEAF BY NIGGLE
  Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
  ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
  Notes on Axolotl
  Reading Ovid's Tales
  From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
  Notes on THE EYE OF THE GIANT
  Functions of the Genesis Tales
  Analyzing Mythic Tales
  Defining Mythology
  Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
  Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
  Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
  Handout: Imagination Poems Set
  What is Imagination?
  Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
  LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
  LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
  Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
  Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
  Casebook Preparation Checklist
  Casebook Assignment Schedule
  Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
  Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
  Notes on Rational Argument
  Argument
  Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
  Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
  Writing the Profile Essay
  Readings: Objective Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  About SKIN DEEP
  Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Mind-map: Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Assignments Page
  Announcements Page
  WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005

ENG Q20: Basic Writing

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

 
Evaluating Arguments
 

Look closely at the two candid pictures on the handout (“Argument”) or the posed one above.  Among the things you could notice about these pictures is that there seems to be an INTENSITY OF FEELING being displayed.  I’m imagining that the people who are shouting probably  have an absolute certainty that they are “right.”  So for them, the argument is a matter of making their voice the loudest.  It’s a shouting match.  These people are trying to muscle their point across (“might makes right”).  We know by now that this only works imperfectly.  You can victimize someone into agreeing with you, but it’s a pyrrhic victory at best.  So what do you do with your intense feelings and your conviction that you’re right?  Should try to be as unemotional as possible, or can you channel those feelings productively in an argument?  


That you are willing to argue about a subject, that your goal is to be persuasive about this subject, implies already that you have some level of emotion, sometimes even intense feelings, about the subject—that you have conviction, that you care, and that you can rise, if necessary, to a certain level of intensity in your writing.  This passion (or your lack of it) is communicated to your readers by the tone of your argument, the tone of your words.  So it’s important not to go overboard.  The characters in the picture have gone past the point of no return; they’re yelling at each other.  What are the odds that they will succeed in persuading their opponents when an argument  gets to this point?  Will the ump change his mind?  Will the girl change hers?  How about the argument that’s getting underway below?

Let’s face it, when people’s beliefs clash, the results are often disastrous.  The ump and the party girl may seem like insignificant examples, but they represent what happens elsewhere.  On a microcosmic level, this kind of arguing results in stormy, sometimes broken relationships.  On the macrocosmic level you get civil war, religious war, preemptive war.  Arguments can easily escalate to high intensity and high stakes when neither party is trying to keep a cool head.  

But what makes these high intensity arguments so unsuccessful is that the opponents in each case have more than likely stopped listening to one another.  There’s no communication, no give and take anymore.  There’s just isolated points of view banging up against one another.  These people are trying so hard to be heard, but the irony is that they are more than likely being completely tuned out.  Yelling makes people scared and defensive and a typical response is to shut down or fight back—once the volume goes up, open-mindedness shuts down.  Furthermore, logical reasoning requires a cool head.  To engage the thinking part of your brain, that glorious human cerebral cortex, we need to temporarily silence the hotheaded, intensely emotional middle brain for as long as we can. Noisy emotions can drown out your ability to think, to be fair, to consider facts, sort facts, etc.  The pictures on this handout are really pictures of futility.  Like the new Ben Harper song says, “I believe in a better way.”

Even when we are trying to be coolheaded, our attempts to argue and persuade can seem like an exercise in futility.  In Chapter 3 of The Call to Write, John Trimbur comments that the exchange of letters between Darcy Peters and Marcus Boldt fails because neither side is likely to be convinced by the other. What reasons do you think Trimbur would name if he were pressed to explain the reason for that failure further?  Why isn’t Boldt persuaded by Peters’ letter, and why isn’t Peters likely to be persuaded by Boldt’s?  

  • Darcy Peters wants to write on behalf of all the families in her area, but her attention never wavers from her own situation.  She has no objective information that would help Boldt, who as an elected official needs to act on behalf of an entire community, see the larger picture.  She has only her personal case as evidence that this is a useful program.  It’s not convincing.  She assumes that Boldt should care about her, when his responsibility is to consider the needs of everyone in his community, not just her individual family.
  • Boldt claims to be speaking on behalf of “all taxpayers” while at the same time he makes it clear he only has the concerns of the people who voted for him in mind.  Other times he seems to hide his own views behind the anonymous mask of “the taxpayer.”  Both of these evasions make him seem disingenuous.  He floats seamlessly back and forth between speaking for the “taxpayers” and for his “constituency” (which aren’t exactly the same group).  Worse, Boldt’s assumptions about Peters and her family are offensive; his tone is insulting and degrading. 
The biggest reason is that the they make no effort to acknowledge their differences and find common ground.  They are working from completely different assumptions which need to be negotiated.

Neither writer makes his/her assumptions clear, but they can be summed up as follows:

Peters assumes that everyone (“other families”) should have equal access, equal opportunity to education enrichment.  She considers that her family’s lack of access to educational opportunities which other do have access to puts her in a compromised position; she reports feeling like a “victim” of the system.  The system isn’t working for her but against her.  The “haves” can choose to pay their way, the “have-nots” can choose to can apply for assistance, but the “have-a-little-but-not-enoughs” have no choices available to them.  This leaves her with a sense that the system is unfair.

Boldt assumes, on behalf of the “taxpayers,” that Darcy Peters and her family have arrived at their situation by choice and because they have been irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, and maybe even stupid.  He implies that she and her family have been freeloading.  (“What arrangements have you made to repay this program at some future date?”)  In the name of his “constituency” (not all the taxpayers, but just the ones who voted for him),  he implies that tax dollars have been wasted and that his mandate from the voters is to slash programs that provide “no discernable return” on taxpayers’  investment.  The Peters family may want the same educational opportunities  that others have, but they don’t need the same educational opportunities that others have.

Not until these kinds of differences are acknowledged and clarified can either side begin to negotiate and find common ground.  Once Darcy Peters becomes more aware that Boldt has to consider the whole picture, the whole community, she might find more effective ways to argue that the Readiness to Learn Family Learning Center is a worthwhile program that deserves continued funding because it benefits the whole community.  She will realize she needs to provide evidence that other families have benefited, not just her own.  She’ll see the need to present factual evidence that the families who do benefit are giving back to the community in various ways—that there is a “return on the investment.”  Such a letter would have a much better chance of being persuasive.

I’m not sure if it’s possible for Boldt to change the kinds of assumptions he’s making about Darcy Peters and her family. The prejudices he expresses are probably deep-seated and difficult to budge.  But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t address them head on and refute them as best as one can.  Is the Peters family an irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, stupid pack of freeloaders?  Probably not.  If you’re aware that your opposition is likely to prejudge you or your position in that harsh a way, if you see that coming, you can take some steps to fend it off, to acknowledge and refute those perceptions before they assemble themselves into an impenetrable barrier.  


An Analysis of the Three Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

ETHOS

What image of Ms. Peters is created by her letter?
  • Humble; politely asking rather than demanding.  Makes her seem like a gentle, nice person.
  • A mother of a struggling family who cares about her children’s educational opportunities; caring mother.
  • Naïve; self-absorbed?
How would you describe her personality? Her attitude?  Does she seem fair?  Authoritative? Credible? Cit reasons why or why not.
  • She seems like a calm, rational person. She’s not hostile; she’s just expressing her belief in the goodness of this program and explaining how it positively impacted her family.
  • She doesn’t seem authoritative in the sense that she doesn’t seem to know anything about the program beyond its effect on her family.  Her credibility only extends to her own family, not the rest of the community.  Since she only talks about her own experience, she doesn’t demonstrate any awareness beyond that limited scope.  She can’t provide any information about how this program is beneficial for others, a good use of the community’s financial resources.
What image of Mr. Boldt is created by his letter?
  • Polite beginning; emphasizes his position of power: “my position…” and “I was elected…” This may be intimidating, or designed to intimidate.  
  • Capable of political spin. He rinses Darcy Peters’ comments about the value of the program and squeezes out the idea that they “go to the heart of the matter in the area of budgetary reform”—he’s not hearing what she’s saying; instead, he’s using it, spinning it to his own agenda.
  • Mean-spirited and prejudiced in his assumptions about her family.
Mr. Boldt’s personality?
  • He seems pretty mean (to me).  Without knowing them personally, he is willing to accuse the Peters family of being irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, and maybe even stupid.  
  • His last line is condescending; he treats Darcy Peters, a grown woman trying to make a difference, like a child.

PATHOS


What emotions does Darcy Peters’ letter evoke?  Marcus Boldt’s?  Are these the emotions the writers intend, do you think?
  • Peters seems completely unaware that Boldt is likely to be provoked by her declaration that she feels like a “victim.”  His conservative sensibility goes into overdrive at a term like that. He’s probably beginning to form an image in his mind of a liberal “whiner and complainer,” someone who’s “looking for a handout.”  Major prejudices and assumptions go into high gear.  This “victim” pronouncement is a sore spot; it sends him into feeling like a victim himself, because “victim” means “taxpayer program.”  Tax me and spend it on you.  He’s already against it.
  • Boldt seems completely unaware of how offensive his “expressed concerns” are; he seems completely unaware of the assumptions that underlie each one and how wrong they might be.  He also seems unconcerned that his line about “no discernable return” completely negates everything Darcy Peters explained in her letter about the way the program improved her family’s situation.  There’s no telling for sure how Darcy Peters feels about his letter, but if I were her, I’d be boiling mad.

LOGOS

How would you sum up Darcy Peters message to Boldt?  Does she use a logical line of reasoning?  What is Boldt’s message, and is he any more logical?  Does either side successfully win over the other?  
  • Peters’ message is “Save this program. It’s been extremely valuable to my family, and I think other families will benefit by it, too.”  Her line of reasoning is only half logical.  She has evidence that it helped her family (her personal experience) but no evidence that it will help others.
  • Boldt’s message is “This program is a luxury and the conservatives who voted for me don’t want to pay for it anymore; they put me in office to get rid of programs like this that don’t benefit them directly.”  

 

 

 

     

 


Questions? Contact me.

All materials unless otherwise indicated are copyright © 2001-2008 by Stacy Tartar Esch.

The original contents of this site may not be reproduced, republished, reused, or retransmitted
without the express written consent of Stacy Tartar Esch.
These contents are for educational purposes only.