Top positive review
39 people found this helpful
Thoughtful, articulate, and readable rhetoric.
on November 17, 2004
"Writing Arguments" shines like a beacon in the dark and murky waters of composition textbooks. Although some have critiqued it for its "passive" approach, I support both the approach and the layout as the best way I've found to approach basic argumentation. A solid understanding of audience (in particular) is vital for successful writing, and it's also something inexperienced, self-focused writers often lack.
Rather than pushing a "win at all costs" or "go with your gut" victory-based approach to rhetoric, the authors promote rhetorical writing grounded in Perelman's audience concepts, Toulmin's warrants, and Aristotelian enthymeme. By encouraging students to locate common ground (warrants) between themselves and their real or imagined audience, this book sets them up to engage in rhetoric as participants in a broader civic culture. And this is the rhetoric that will ultimately equip them to survive in the real world--where knowing what a client or an opponent wants and believes is critical to "winning" the argument in a lasting and productive way.
No theory or approach is perfect (not that I've found so far at least), and a rigid application of the Toulmin model or the schema as outlined in this book will inevitably bog down writers as they move into more advanced composition. But that, afterall, is why we teachers are there. By focusing students' attention on the basic principles in the book--audience awareness, orderliness, situational groundedness, etc.--rather than forcing them to memorize rules or endlessly construct Toulmin models, I may just be able to help my students develop a new respect for argumentation as discovery (and themselves as rhetors) in the public sphere. And if we can do that, maybe there's a little civil light in the civic culture tunnel after all.