Problems into PROBLEMS: A Rhetoric of Motivation

By Joseph M. Williams

CoverProblems into PROBLEMS: A Rhetoric of Motivation provides a thoughtful analysis that offers much to both writers and teachers of writing. Joseph M. Williams situates his monograph by referring not only to existing work on problem solving in rhetoric and composition, but on our treatment of problems in our writing and teaching:

... [I]f the literature on solving such problems is thick, our understanding of how we articulate the substantive problem that occasions our efforts to solve them is quite thin. By "substantive problem" I do not mean the local and ongoing struggle toward the discovery and articulation of meaning, but the significant question whose answer justifies the effort, the problem in the world or mind whose solution repays our time spent writing and our readers' spent reading. We criticize the writing of our students and colleagues on many grounds, but none is more common – or devastating – than the observation that they have failed not just to solve a problem, but even to pose one that we think "interesting." And as teachers, we experience no failure more common than our inability to explain what we mean by "pose" or "interesting" or "problem" and what it is about a text that elicits such criticism.

About Joseph M. Williams

Joseph M. Williams was University of Chicago Professor Emeritus. Born in 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio, he passed away on February 22nd at his home in South Haven, Michigan. Williams was the author of what has been characterized as among the most influential books on the teaching of writing, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. He was a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago for more than three decades and co-founded the University's writing program. In addition to Style, Williams wrote or edited more than 10 books, including a sweeping history of the English language, The Origins of the English Language.

Publication Information: Williams, Joseph M. (2011). Problems into PROBLEMS: A Rhetoric of Motivation. Practice & Pedagogy. Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse. Available at

Publication Date: January 1, 2011

Table of Contents

Open the entire book: 1.01 MB

Front Matter

Series Editor's Introduction


Part 1. The Structure of Problems and PROBLEMS

Part 2. Reading, Learning, Teaching

Part 3. Teaching and Further Research




Works Cited

Practice & Pedagogy

Series Editor: Mike Palmquist, Colorado State University

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