Pathos as Inquiry and Strategy

In a previous post I argued that logos was impossible without pathos and that considering this relation was a step toward a rhetoric of knowing the other. In this subsequent post I argue that the first step in practicing a rhetoric of knowing the other is to analyze the audience.

In Book 2 of the Rhetoric, Aristotle notes that it is necessary to go beyond the discussion of argument because arguments are heard differently by people who are friendly or hostile, or angry or calm. It is therefore necessary for the speaker to put the audience in the right frame of mind to hear the arguments. To do this, we must know which emotions produce pain and which pleasure and how to create them. Of anger, for example, we must know three things:

  • We must know the state of mind of angry people.
  • Who the people are angry at.
  • On what grounds they get angry.

Note that there is a research project implied in this list. If we do not know these things about our audience, we have to find out. Aristotle organizes his discussion of the emotions in terms of oppositions. The opposite of anger is calm, which he defines as “a settling down and quieting of anger.” Aristotle tends to see the source of anger in slights and insults committed by perceived social inferiors. He argues that we become angry at those who belittle us, but will be calm toward those who do not seem to be belittling us and instead regard us as we ourselves do. Repenting past actions against us and apologizing can also bring about calm.

This approach is clearly relevant to the politics of our times. Before we even begin to craft our arguments, there are questions that we should be asking:

Analysis Questions

  • Who is my audience?  How do they define themselves?
  • What do they already believe about my topic?
  • What do they value?
  • What do they desire?
  • What is their state of mind? What emotions do they feel?
  • If they are angry, what makes them angry?
  • Who are they angry at? Are they angry at people like me?
  • On what grounds are they angry? What arguments do they make?

Strategy Questions

  • How can I find common ground with this audience?
  • How can I present myself as someone they will listen to? (ethos)
  • How can I calm their anger?
  • How can I present my arguments in a way that will not cause more anger?
  • How can I be persuasive with this audience without compromising my own beliefs and values?

Asking these questions about the audience, whether they be about anger or some other emotion, is likely to change the speaker too. If we know why the people we are trying to persuade are angry, we may become more sympathetic and may see our own position in a different way and make different arguments. As we become more open to the arguments the other makes, dialogue becomes more possible and we may become more persuasive because of it.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: Heidegger on Aristotle

I have been reading Deep Rhetoric: Philosophy, Reason, Violence, Justice, Wisdom by James Crosswhite in preparation for teaching it next quarter in my “Composition Theory” seminar. I have taught Crosswhite’s earlier book, The Rhetoric of Reason, for many years. In that book, Crosswhite articulates a theory based on Chaim Perelman’s The New Rhetoric that the validity of an argument depends not on true premises, sound logic and justifiable conclusions, but on the quality of the audience that will accept it. One of the interesting conclusions of this book was that most logical fallacies have to do with a particular audience mistaking itself for a universal one. Interesting stuff! In the new book, I was expecting an updated version of the same theory. In fact, there is much more and it is quite different.

Back in the early ’90’s, when I was at Cal State L.A., I did a writing workshop for the philosophy department. A member of the faculty, Henry Mendell, told me that philosophers read every word that Aristotle wrote, except the Rhetoric. I was a bit stunned because the Rhetoric was dear to my heart. I defended the Rhetoric, and finally he said, “Well, maybe Californians have to read the Rhetoric, but New Yorkers don’t because they know how to argue.” Recently I met Henry again and I reminded him of his remarks. He looked chagrined and said that he had changed his mind and that Aristotle’s Rhetoric was now read carefully. This may be because although Heidegger lectured on the Rhetoric in 1924, the lectures were not published until 2002, long after my first conversation with Henry.

Deep Rhetoric

Crosswhite’s earlier book is an attempt to reconcile rhetoric with certain branches of philosophy, especially those dealing with logic and argumentation. The new book is an exploration of what a “deep rhetoric” might be, a project that is also an attempt to reconcile philosophy and rhetoric, but on a more fundamental scale. This project is largely informed by two sources: Plato’s concept of rhetoric, expressed in the Phaedrus, as an art of leading the soul to truth by means of words, and Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, expressed in the aforementioned lectures from 1924. Crosswhite defines a “deep rhetoric” thusly:

Rhetoric is a form of human transcendence, a way we open ourselves to the influence of what is beyond ourselves and become receptive, a way we participate in a larger world and become open to the lives of others, a way we learn and change. Rhetoric is also a way the world and others become open to us, open to our giving and our participation; it is a way we teach, a way we change our common conditions, a way we form relationships and bear the lives and experiences of other people. (Crosswhite 17)

Logos

Crosswhite’s definition is a very broad definition of rhetoric. This is not Aristotle’s art of “finding the available means of persuasion.” Crosswhite uses a lot of Heideggerian terminology to expand and comment on this definition, terminology which I will try to avoid here. However, the key term above is “transcendence,” the ability to transcend our selves and know others and the world. Our ability to do this is given by logos, which provides structure and makes the world intelligible. Language is logos, but logos goes beyond language to other ways of communicating and understanding.

Pathos

In this model, logos provides structure and intelligibility, but pathos provides motive and energy. Crosswhite says, “There is no understanding without pathos” (183). Logos and pathos are inextricably linked.

For example, if I am going to say something to someone about something, I need to be interested in that something and in that person. Interest, engagement, caring, are all forms of pathos. And to attend to it, the audience has to also engage. Without pathos, nothing happens, no speech, no action.

Ethos

What about ethos? In this model, ethos does not appear to have a primary role in constituting transcendence, perhaps because the Aristotelian concept is about constructing a self, rather than going beyond the self. However, ethos functions as a complement to pathos. Crosswhite says,

What is essential for a deep rhetoric is that when it comes to being a speaker, one is a speaker as such because an audience has given this attention and the speaker has received it. That is, the being of the speaker is given by an audience. The speaker’s being circulates, is, in this process of giving and receiving between the audience and speaker. (287)

In this model, ethos is a two-way street, not just a construct crafted to persuade an audience. To an extent, the audience creates the speaker.

Pedagogical Implications

What are the pedagogical implications of this view of ethos, logos, and pathos? Well, clearly logos and pathos are not separate tools to be pulled out of the rhetorical toolbox as needed. It is also clear that pathos is not some kind of fallacious appeal to be used in dire necessity with an ignorant audience. There is no logos without interest, caring, and engagement. There is thus no understanding without pathos. We have to consider both structure and motivation.

If ethos is a two-way dynamic relationship between a speaker who receives speakership from an audience, our concept of ethos is much richer and less contrived. The question becomes not “What kind of speaker do I need to be to persuade this audience?” but “What kind of speaker will this audience cause/allow me to be?”

However, the most important shift in this model, in my view, is from defining rhetoric as an art of persuasion to seeing rhetoric as an art of knowing the other. I have felt for some time now that Aristotelian rhetoric was insufficient to deal with our media and our politics. In an age of media echo chambers, information bubbles, political silos, and tribalism, an art of knowing the other appears to be just what we need.  It may even save us from ourselves.

The ERWC Approach: Inquiry-based Instruction

At our recent meeting to review ERWC modules in process, one of the issues that came up was explanation-based versus inquiry-based instruction. Robby Ching responded to one of the module writers with the following suggestions, which we thought were so good that they deserved to become a guest post on this blog. These suggestions apply to all kinds of texts–fictional and non-fictional.  Thank you , Robby!

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1. ERWC modules are inquiry-based. Their end goal is to enable students to do the work of understanding and analyzing texts independently. Instead of directing teachers to explain something, whether it is the meaning of a word, the way in which a text is structured, the purpose of a text feature, or a literary interpretation, see if you can set up an activity so that students can figure out answers themselves, either by collaborating in pairs or a group or independently.

2. Much of the inquiry students should be doing is rhetorical. At its most basic level, this is asking them to realize that the text was written by a real person who had an authentic reason for writing and hoped to accomplish something as a result. The module writer should be setting up opportunities in the form of activities in which students ask themselves why the writer chose to do whatever she or he did and what the effect of that choice is. Why did the writer choose the title or create short or long paragraphs or use a particular word or type of words (formal vs. informal, Spanish vs. English, disciplinary vs. familiar). Why did the writer structure the text in a particular way? Why include pictures or a subtitle or headings—or not? Why did the writer tell a particular story or use a particular piece of evidence? What did the writer want us to think? And then how do we as readers respond to what the writer is doing? What do we feel and think? Are we persuaded? At every point from Getting Ready to Read to Thinking Critically, there are “why” questions that can and should be asked. We don’t want to explain things about a text and its writer to students; instead we want to them to discover things—and what they discover may surprise us and enrich our own understanding. We include “possible answers” in italics not because they are right but because they suggest the intellectual bar we want to guide students toward.

3. Academic discussion is central to ERWC and to the goals of the NPD project. Most activities should take the form of a series of questions or collaborative activities that students respond to or work on in pairs or small groups. This then dictates the format: the purpose, the procedure, and the student activity done in pairs or small groups followed by some kind of reporting out, debriefing, or reflection that takes their understanding to a new level. Often this involves further questions for them to consider as a class.

4. Writing during the reading process is important both to get students thinking before they begin an activity and to reflect on what they learned at the end. Quickwrites can be used for multiple purposes, but keep them short. They should be focused on a single question. Reading a few aloud lets students benefit from what their peers are thinking. You can also provide formative assessment guidance to the teacher by suggesting what she may want to look for to guide her future instruction.

What Is a Mini-Module?

After we started getting feedback from the study of our first i3 grant, we found that there was a lot of evidence that some of our modules were too long and too complicated to finish in the alloted time. The teacher version of my 1984 module was 70 pages long! Because teachers were worried about not being able to finish the required eight modules in the year, they were sometimes getting to the end of the “Reading Rhetorically” section, having a discussion about the writing topic, and moving on to the next module. I began to think about how to make modules shorter.

The first move was to start talking about the ERWC “arc.” We saw an ERWC module as moving from a professional text to a student text, with defined stages in-between. We started telling teachers in professional learning sessions that the module wasn’t completed unless they completed the arc. We also started emphasizing using formative assessment activities to determine what students actually needed, rather than just going through each and every activity in the module.

Second, I started experimenting with mini-modules (6-8 pages) and even micro-modules (2-3 pages).

Third, I started promulgating the slogan, “Shorter, Simple, Smarter” to module writers, hoping that the final products will be slimmer.

Fourth, we are revising our recommended module writing process. Most of us tended to write a full-blown teacher version first and then extract the student materials to make the student version. Now we have an initial proposal, then a mini-module, and finally the full module. Some modules will stay in the mini-module form.

Which brings us to the question at hand, “What is a mini-module?”

I usually say this:

A mini-module is a module that is teachable in a week or less. It is a complete teachable module with at least one activity under each secondary heading of the template. It has a limited number of short texts, probably one or two. If it deals with a longer work, such as a novel, the mini-module serves as a kind of pilot for the approach the module writer is going to take. In that case, it deals with a passage, a page, a section, or a chapter. It accomplishes a piece of what the entire module will do.

Here is a chart that might help with thinking about designing a mini-module:

mini-mod-chart2
mini-mod-chart

“Reading Rhetorically” is a primary heading with three secondary headings–“Preparing to Read,” “Reading Purposefully,” and “Questioning the Text”–under it. A mini-module will have at least one activity under each one of those secondary headings. The next primary heading, “Preparing to Respond,” has only one secondary heading under it: “Discovering What You Think.” Most mini-modules will present the writing topic here under the first cell, “Considering Your Task and Your Rhetorical Situation.”

The final primary heading is “Writing Rhetorically.” There are three secondary headings: “Composing a Draft,” “Revising Rhetorically,” and “Editing.” Again, there should be at least one activity under each secondary heading.

All of this means that a mini-module will have seven activities as a minimum number. However, some of these activities can be quite minimalist. For example, in one of my Lydia Davis micro-modules, the activity for “Reading for Understanding” is simply, “Read the following stories, thinking about ‘relationships.'” Of course, you could have more than one activity under a secondary heading.

Once you have a functioning mini-module, you can begin to think about how it might be developed further. What other activities could be productively added? What other texts might be added? What other learning goals might be addressed? How could different student populations be better served? However, be careful about what you add. Make sure that whatever you add is necessary, or at least useful. After all, we want the completed module to be “Shorter, Simpler, Smarter.”

Updated Gatsby Module

I have updated the module on The Great Gatsby to ERWC 3.0.  This version includes the new 3.0 cells.  I eliminated some of the possible literary approaches and streamlined it a bit.  I now have a short writing assignment after each section so that instead of one module “arc” it has four mini arcs.   It is currently being piloted by at least one teacher.  After the pilot, I will create a teacher version.  If you have a chance to pilot it, please give me feedback.

The post on the older version is here.

The ERWC “Cell”

Why are the third-level headings in the ERWC Assignment Template called “cells”? Are we supposed to imagine them looking like this?

purplecells1

When we designed the first ERWC Assignment Template, we created a two column table with the ELA standards on the left hand and a description of an activity that addressed those standards on the right. As we added activities, we added rows, and eventually, we started naming categories of activities and describing the kinds of things that would happen at that point in the process. We started calling these categories “cells” because they were inserted into cells in the big table that was developing.

Recently, as we work on designing ERWC 3.0, some members of the committee began to question the term “cell,” saying that it wasn’t intuitive and that it reminded them of a prison cell. One even said that the term was “just weird.” I found myself defending the term, having used it without thinking much about it for more than 14 years.

Element

One of the suggested replacements was “element.” I took an immediate dislike to this, but I had to think carefully about why. In one sense, an “element” is a substance with a unique molecular structure that is uncombined and pure. In another sense, it is a necessary part of something else. Neither of these descriptions fit what we have in mind when we imagine our activity categories, which are not unique, pure, or necessary.  And “element” seemed solid and static. It didn’t feel right.

A Container

I began to think about the connotations of “cell.” A cell is a space with boundaries in which things happen. Yes, there are prison cells, but there are also monk’s cells. A cell has an inside and an outside. A biological cell is full of activity, consuming energy, processing things, accomplishing tasks, performing functions. A biological cell has a role to play, connects and collaborates with other cells, does work and passes the results on to other cells with different roles. A cell is part of a whole, part of an organism without which it cannot survive.

So a “cell” is an activity node, a waystation in a network of activity. I think this is exactly what we are trying to accomplish in naming the places and pathways of the template. We fill the cell with possible activities, processes, and products that connect to other cells and other products. And moving from the template cell to the module cell is a kind of reproduction, mitosis if you will. So yes, I think we should imagine a module to look something like the picture at the beginning of this post.  It is a pretty good metaphor for what we are doing. I think we should keep the term.

Module Writers’ Workshops: Key Points

The ERWC program recently conducted two two-day sessions for module writers to prepare them to develop new modules for ERWC 3.0. This post summarizes the key points we addressed during these two days.

Process for Developing New and Revised Modules

We are asking module writers to submit a Module Proposal Form (Page 1, Pages 2-3), which contains six questions. The first three concern the issue or question for the proposed module, the texts, and the possible writing prompt. Answers should be submitted mid to late October 2017, to the Module Review Panel. Writers whose proposals are approved will be assigned to a writing group led by a member of the ERWC Steering Committee. The answers to the last three questions, which concern learning goals, California English language arts and English language development standards, and the rhetorical concepts emphasized in the module, will be submitted in late November.

Module writers will submit a mini-module by late November, 2017, that includes at least one activity under each of the secondary headings and thus completes the ERWC “Arc”: Preparing to Read, Reading Purposefully, Questioning the Text, Preparing to Respond, Composing a Draft, and Revising Rhetorically. This should be a potentially teachable module that would take two to three days of class time. Once approved, the writer will expand the module to include appropriate scaffolding for different populations and to address an expanded number of learning goals and standards.

ERWC 3.0 Assignment Template Outline with Key Questions

The handout “ERWC Assignment Template Outline with Key Questions” functions as a quick reference for module writers and is the starting point for most module development. It is also useful to help teachers get a quick overview of the full Assignment Template. The latest version is available here.

ERWC 3.0 Mini-Module: Jimmy Kimmel Monologue

The workshop used this module designed around a Jimmy Kimmel monologue on health care to introduce the concept of mini-modules and to demonstrate the new template.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL is a philosophy and a set of concepts designed to make learning tasks accessible to any student, regardless of background or possible disability. In general, this involves offering multiple choices in media, ways of engaging texts, and ways of responding. The goal is to produce expert learners who are motivated, resourceful, and goal-directed. You can access more detail in the Universal Design for Learning Principles handout.

Integrated & Designated English Language Development in ERWC

Many students in ERWC classrooms will be English Learners who should receive integrated and designated English language development (ELD) instruction. All new ERWC modules will provide resources suitable for integrated ELD, and some modules will also include guidance for providing designated ELD. Module writers should consult the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework and the English language development standards. An executive summary is available here.

The design of ERWC already incorporates much that facilitates both UDL and ELD, but increased attention to providing appropriate scaffolding and choices for different populations will further enhance the effectiveness of our curriculum.

Assignment Template 3.0: New Key Cells

The ERWC 3.0 Assignment Template has many features retained from the previous template. Some sections (internally we tend to call them “cells”) have been renamed and some deleted. Some new key cells have been added, based on evidence from our previous i3 study, feedback from teachers, and new interpretations of theory and research.

Negotiating Meaning

This cell is about making meaning from text, including identifying points of difficulty and developing strategies for overcoming it. We want activities that develop both individual strategies and social strategies that involve pooling knowledge and working together.

Considering the Rhetorical Situation

When we started designing the original version of ERWC, most teachers were not very familiar with rhetoric. We decided to keep things simple and relied mostly on the Aristotelian concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos. At this point, these concepts are much better understood by teachers, and we want to include a wider range of key rhetorical concepts. The basis for this expansion is close analysis of “the rhetorical situation” of a text, which includes the author’s audience, purpose, and occasion.

Synthesizing Multiple Perspectives

At one level, a paper that contains words, facts, and ideas from multiple sources is a kind of synthesis. However, this cell is about more than that. Every reading has at least two perspectives: that of the author and that of the reader. A perspective is a viewpoint, a way of seeing. We can see the same object from different perspectives and thus have different interpretations of its value or significance. As authors engage multiple philosophical, political, and personal perspectives, and readers with different backgrounds engage their texts, confusion can ensue. Activities in this cell will be about strategies for recognizing different perspectives, engaging them, accounting for them, and representing them.

Considering Your Task and Your Rhetorical Situation

This cell in the second main section of the template, what used to be called “Connecting Reading to Writing” but which is now called “Preparing to Respond,” is where the writing task for the module is normally introduced, causing the student to begin to reconsider the readings, his or her notes and annotations, and previous activities in the light of the writing task. The focus is now on “How can I use this material?” This is relatively unchanged from the previous template, except that we are placing new emphasis on the student’s rhetorical situation, his or her audience, purpose and occasion for writing.

Making Choices as You Write

Previous versions of the template were somewhat weak on the writing process. We wanted to steer away from the five-paragraph essay, but offered an intro-body-conclusion model that was not much different. Our directions assumed for the most part that students were writing short essays. In ERWC 3.0, we are expanding our horizons considerably. We recognize that a student’s writing process may be recursive and non-linear. We support a variety of genres and organizational patterns. We allow for multi-modal projects that have written elements, but could also include visual and auditory components. And as indicated in the heading for this cell, we facilitate student choice throughout.

We have also renamed sections or strands of the template to more closely mirror the language of the “arc.” Instead of Prereading, Reading, and Postreading, we now refer to Preparing to Read, Reading Purposefully, and Questioning the Text within the domain of Reading Rhetorically. See the draft Assignment Template here for other changes.

Learning Goals & Formative Assessment

The previous version of ERWC offered numerous opportunities and suggestions for formative assessment. However, these tended to be assessments of the students’ ability to perform the tasks of the current activity. They were fairly local. In part, this was because the learning goals of the module were often written after the module had been completed. In ERWC 3.0, learning goals are front and center. In addition to a carefully designed short list of learning goals for the module, we also have opportunities for teachers and students to set their own personal learning goals. Learning goals, readings, activities, and formative assessments will all be aligned.

Course Matrices & Modules in the Mix

ERWC 3.0 will consist of two courses, a new 11th grade course and a revised 12th grade course. The current model is for each course to consist of eight major modules with mini-modules on rhetorical concepts and other key strategies in between them. Modules will be sequenced according to multiple variables including text complexity and length, rhetorical concepts, implementation of standards, genres, writing tasks, and other factors. In some cases we may ask a module writer to tweak the module for a better fit in a possible course position. We are still thinking about the “arc” of the course in relation to the “arc” of a module and how to incorporate specific text types required by the standards, such as Shakespeare, American drama, full-length novels, foundational American documents, poetry and short stories. In addition, we are creating four modules for each grade in high school that will incorporate both integrated and designated ELD. We will revise some existing modules and create new ones in order to support the implementation of comprehensive ELD within existing ELA courses.

Module Writing Tips

My mantra for module writing in ERWC 3.0 is “Shorter, simpler, smarter.” Because we have added some new and important cells, and because we are trying to address both UDL and ELD, with the added requirements of increased scaffolding and multiple pathways, it will be hard to achieve the first two terms. Still, it is a goal to keep in mind. I have made some suggestions for how to achieve this in another post on “Module Writing Tips.”