I should be working on my second chapter

by now. But I’m not. . .I’m still overwhelmed by the joy of knowing as much as humanly possible about invention studies. Ack.

On the bright side, I’ve been thinking of other ways to complicate my place as topos in invention studies discussion, thanks to the (old) review-essay I just finished–“A Critical Survey of Resources for Teaching Rhetorical Invention” (in College English 40.6 (Feb. 1979): 641-662) by David V. Harrington, Philip M. Keith, Charles W. Kneupper, Janica A. Tripp, and William F. Woods.

  1. Maybe I should be thinking about my discussion of teaching invention theory in the classroom as a discussion of the mechanics of invention versus a theoretical or self-referential discussion of invention. In other words, I think the problem with invention pedagogy so far is that historically teachers have focused on finding “good” invention or prewriting techniques to help students. Yes, it helps to have heuristics or questions or brainstorming sessions with students as they begin a composing project. The problem, though, is in helping students better understand how these strategies work and the contexts in which these heuristics might be appropriate. Am I asking for a more rhetorical view of invention here? In other words, am I promoting a view of the rhetorical situation and kairos in helping students choose appropriate heuristics based on the task at hand? If we don’t explore the ways in which invention strategies lead to certain kinds of products, we cannot help our students become independent, rhetorically savvy writers.
  2. It’s all about definitions here: many invention theories rely on narrow (in my opinion) definitions of rhetoric, usually seeing rhetoric as a means to persuasion only and, therefore, defining invention as a “process of inquiry” (649) only. . .what about Cicero’s 3 purposes of rhetoric: to delight, to inform, and to persuade? Is it only within the realm of composition studies to discuss invention strategies that lead to persuasive texts? It’s as though no invention is necessary to delight (because that relies on inner genius and creativity) or inform (because the focus here is more about finding an interesting topic than developing the topic later). . .for some reason, I’m not buying this point as I type it out, though it does lead to my third idea:
  3. There are at least three different kinds of invention strategies, with correspondingly different focuses. An invention strategy or heuristic focuses on either finding a topic; narrowing a topic; or exploring the knowledge one needs to find out about a topic. This isn’t any kind of a new revelation, really, but I believe it is important to recognize that these different points of processes of invention are often jumbled together as though they all achieve the same end result. In other words, maybe we do need to reivive the view of invention as a process in order to help students see that they will continue to invent throughout the composing process and that some of these heuristics that have been created aren’t appropriate for every part of the invention process. Does that even make sense? Does this connect somehow to my place topos idea? Maybe in thinking about borderlands in invention and identifying where different invention strategies are placed theoretically (inner/outer), I need to emphasize movement in invention. . .but I don’t know that this is really that “revolutionary” or important.
  4. We need more texts that put theories of invention into terms students can understand. Theory doesn’t have to be a teacher-only thing. Students need to conceptualize the strategies they use theoretically.

And now some quotes from the review and some texts I should come back to later:

  • This review essay identifies 4 schools of invention: neo-classical invention, pre-writing, tagmemic invention, and the dramatistic method (Burke).
  • Steward La Casce and Terry Belanger’s The Art of Persuasion: How to Write Effectively About Almost Anything. (1972)
  • Cleanth Brook and Robert Penn Warren’s Modern Rhetoric 3rd ed. (1970)
  • Richard Weaver’s A Rhetoric and Compostion Handbook 2nd ed. (1974)
  • invention: exposition=definition, analysis; argumentation=the topics, logic (642)
  • lots’o’neoclassical invention texts collapse invention and arrangement together
  • John Mackin’s Classical Rhetoric for Modern Discourse (1969) argues for Socratic rhetoric instead of Aristotelian, but it’s out of print. figures.
  • Richard Larson tried “revitalizing” the topics by converting them into questions students could answer (644)
  • big trend in seeing invention strategies and principles (topics, inductive or deductive logic) as tools for paragraph development and essay organizational strategies (644)
  • Randall Decker’s Patterns of Exposition 6 6th ed (1978).
  • This essay distinguishes “prewriting” from “invention” as “a special approach to the teaching of rhetorical invention observable in a number of successful textbooks published in the late 1960s and early 1970s” (645).
  • Prewriting textbooks often include “a statement of purpose in teaching composition: the teacher’s goal is the self-actualization of the writer, to make the student more aware of the power of creative discovery within her or him. . .They are student-centered texts” (645) a la Elbow or Macrorie.
  • I need to learn more about the prewriting technique of the “existential sentence” (645)
  • Prewriting texts often rely on metaphors to describe the writing process (646)
  • In the whole idea of “self-actualization” mentioned above, it appears that a large strain of textbooks focus on self-actualization of language use. . .through writing about writing. . .sounds familiar. . .I am writing this dissertation 30 years too late.
  • INTENTION (647). . .that’s what I’m getting at. Maybe.
  • Need to tie prewriting strategies to other invention strategies. . .maybe my discussion of place as a topos is one way to connect this different strategies and heuristics?
  • Tagmemic invention: identifies 4 stages of invention: “preparation, incubation, illumination, verification” (649)). . .problem with tagmemics is the use of specialized vocab (from physics). . .this is an excellent example of the epistemological underpinnings of a strategy and the effects those warrants might have on the final product.
  • finding arguments different kind of invention strategy from using formal structures, “which might be called a ‘coloring-book’ technique for generating ideas” (650).
  • Another view of place in invention: “our world, the one in which we live and perceive and act, rather than the subterranean, purely theorized world of language processes” (650).
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I am an associate professor of English and writing center coordinator at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. I teach courses in composition, creative nonfiction, fundamentals of English, and peer tutoring.

Posted in Dissertation, Inspiration, Invention

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