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In 1990, Patricia Bizzell suggested that, in the next rhetorical turn of composition research, scholars might begin to find an alternative to the current anti-foundation "smirk of skepticism" that teacher-researchers can agree upon. Bizzell points to the student's need for "usable truths" from a trustworthy authority. But what constitutes a "usable truth" in the composition classroom? One such concept could be developed from the "epistemology of contradiction" that Peter Elbow has been advocating for the past 25 years. In this epistemology, the aim is to teach and keep what D. H. Lawrence called the "trembling instability of the balance" in writing pedagogy. This kind of collaboration among conflicting views creates what Elbow calls the "large-minded dialectic" that seeks to move from rhetorical warfare to rhetorical cooperation. As Elbow points out, holding on to oppositions or "embracing contraries" is hard work. It is easier to do one thing or the other, to believe or to doubt. Bizzell, in her critique of James Berlin's experimental writing class at Purdue University, shows that an open and large-minded dialectic or an embracing of contraries is more effective with students than indirect scripting and false pretenses. The exploration of contraries, finally, has a place in expressivist pedagogies because contraries must be embraced by the individual; it has not been that long since women and minorities, as individuals, did not have a voice at all. (Contains 12 references.) (TB)

Descriptors: Critical Theory, English (Second Language), Higher Education, Ideology, Student Needs, Writing (Composition), Writing Instruction

Autor: Stilwell, Rosalee


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