This unit takes our thinking in a new direction, turning from the analysis of cultural texts to participation in public and political conversations. Rather than focusing on concepts, we will focus on positions that people take in response to public issues. We will take up our class readings not as sources to draw on in our papers but rather as models of the writing move that Joseph Harris (2006) describes as “countering.” Our work in this unit will allow you to focus on a public issue – such as race relations in the United States, poverty, climate change, or the economy – or an academic issue relevant to your major. You will ultimately be making your own argument in response to this issue, but following Harris’s thoughts on countering, you will do so by building off of and responding to another text.
In this unit, we will continue to practice activities related to invention, research, drafting, organization, peer review, revising, and reflecting. Again, the main change in this unit will involve switching from analysis to argumentation, which will affect how we approach invention and research.
Building on our literacy practices from the first two units, our observations will focus on public texts and the positions that they take in response to public issues. Conceptually, we will turn from focusing on broader concepts for analysis (mindfulness, gender, etc.) to thinking about how we frame these public issues. In terms of analysis, we will turn from the meaning and significance of a text to analyzing its argument and effectiveness in addressing an issue. We will apply what we learn from this analysis by advancing our own positions in response to the issue.
In this unit, Harris’s notion of “countering” will help us take up a particular position or argument and push back against it in some way, offering alternative perspectives or approaches to an issue. For Harris, forwarding can be described as in terms of saying “Yes, and…” to an author’s thinking, while countering works more as a “Yes, but…” (p. 56). In this case, you will take up one main text that offers an argument in response to a public issue, and your challenge will be to counter it in some way.