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CCCC 2006 in Review

A5 Building Coalitions between Rhetoric, WAC, and Literature: Using Special Topoi to Introduce Students to the Work of Literary Analysis

Laura Wilder, "What are the Special Topoi of Literary Analysis?"

I only attended one paper in this session, but it was especially good. Laura Wilder reported on a study that extends earlier work by Jeanne Fahnestock and Marie Secor. Fahnestock and Secor studied professional literary criticism over a long period to identify the topoi-the forms of argument-peculiar to this discipline. Prominent among the forms they described were appearance/reality, paradigm, ubiquity, paradox, and contemptus mundi. Wilder's study updates the earlier one (which was published in 1991), focusing on articles published from 1999-2001. She found that some of the earlier topoi had changed in prevalence in the interim, and also described three forms of argument that were not popular in the earlier criticism but were prominent in the later sample: social justice, mistaken critic, and context. As rhetorical research, Wilder's work is interesting in its own right, but she also drew connections to teaching both fluently and with a light touch. As someone who no longer teaches much literary criticism, I may make less direct use of the topoi she identified than another teacher, but I am sure to adapt-as well as I can-her practice of identifying and exemplifying the argumentative structures in what might be called the target discourse of her teaching.

— Alfred E. Guy, Jr.

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.