Thu, 8 Aug 1996 13:54:53 -0600

At 4C's '96, I attended a roundtable with Neil Daniel, Brad Herzog,
Patricia Gillikin, and Kathryn Summers (see K.17, p. 162 if you have the
program) entitled "Textual Poaching," Sacrilege, and the Rewriting of
Authoritative Texts." All of them looked at ways to use assignments
asking students to rewrite sacred texts from their own and other
religions to launch discussions of the rhetoric, ideologies, gender bias,
and so on. Can't remember which one of them noted this point, but one
observed that students seemed to be able to analyze the texts of
religions not their own, but tended to have more difficulty looking at
texts from their own traditions with that kind of objectivity.

I've observed the same difficulty in world literature classes when I
include selections from Hebrew scriptures. Many students resist
looking at those texts from any scholarly viewpoint whatsoever. The best
tool I've found so far for getting over this hump is from the MLA
booklet on teaching the Hebrew bible. Have students compare the language
of five different English translations of the 23rd psalm (using the King
James, Rheims-Douay, Geneva and Great Bibles, and the Masoretic text) and
look at the political contexts within which those translations were
made --especially the Puritan versions, with their downplaying of royal
imagery, and the King James's use of it where the others, including the
Jewish version, have none. You can imagine the discussions that might
ensue. Something like this might be adapted for a comp class.


Margaret Barber
Dept. of English
Univ. of Southern Colorado
Pueblo, CO

On Thu, 8 Aug 1996, Nick Carbone wrote:

> Following this thread religiously has got me thinking, expecially with the
> mention of Tillich who, in the _Dynamics of Faith_wrote that one
> definition for God is 'ultimate reality,' or whatever a person believes
> to be their ultimate reality, has got me to thinking....
> Maybe I'll ask each student to bring in a religious text of their choice,
> whether from a holy book (Bible, Koran) or teachings of a philosopher
> they find that gives them religious or personal guidance. Then I'll ask
> them to write their interpretation of the piece. They'll do it once,
> just using their own wits and habits. I want to see this version to get
> a sense of their dogmaticity. We've all noticed that first year students
> come into classes and often write very opiniated essays that brook no
> deviance or questioning of their premises or principles. So I figure
> their interpretations, or exegiseseseseses, might reflect that, what they
> are predisposed to.
> Then I'll ask them to swap essays and have their peers read it by asking
> the seven questions appended below.
> Then I'll ask them to redo the interpretation of the passage using the
> seven questions.
> Course, as with most ideas, not much may come of it, but it should be fun
> to see if students will take a rhetorical look at religious writing.
> Thanks to all for solving my what to do in the first week dilemma. Talk
> about your deus ex e-machina !
> Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
> Marlboro College
> Marlboro, VT 05344
> Lee Odell presented the questions as part of a workshop he lead at
> Wellesley. Here are the questions:
> 1. Do writers understand their audience?
> Can they identify salient features of what their audience knows,
> and needs?
> Do their choice (of language, content, organization) seem
> appropriate for their audience?
> 2. Have they explored their topics in ways that make sense for audience?
> 3. Does the text move effectively from given to new? That is, does it
> start with something people know about, and give new information or insight.
> 4. Is there a dissonance that prompts the reader to read the text?
> Conflict, problems, tension, uncertainty?
> 5. Does the text create and fulfill expectations? What does the writer do
> to present movement?
> 6. Does the text help readers find what they are looking for?
> 7. Is there a voice in the text that's appropriate for the audience and
> their purpose?