Are Shared Discourses Desirable

Are Shared Discourses Desirable? A Response to Nancy McKoski
Patricia Bizzell

Moreover, to foster a rhetoric that represents the pluralism of the (post)modern condition, I have urged the development of collaborative processes in both academic rhetoric and a general civic rhetoric. I call for “teaching academic literacy” to become “a process of constructing academic literacy, creating it anew in each class through the interaction of the professor’s and the students’ cultural resources” (“Arguing” 251). I describe the academic discourse community as “fraught with contradiction” and “polyvocal,” and I claim that “this instability is a sign of its health, its ability to adapt to changing historical conditions. I think it would be a mistake to rush closure on a unitary conception of what academic discourse should be and then turn this concept into a Procrustean bed that all student–and professorial–writing must fit (“Beyond” 258).

“I do not know that anyone has yet articulated a truly collaborative pedagogy of academic literacy, one that successfully integrates the professor’s traditional canonical knowledge and the students’ non-canonical cultural resources. Certainly I cannot do so” (“Arguing” 251).

Admittedly, in doing this, I am attempting to reconstruct “the lass dialogue . . . hegemonic texts suppress or reappropriate,” but I don’t think this is such a bad thing. My project, in collaboration with rhetoricians alive and dead, early-nineteenth-century William Apess and late-twentieth-century Holy Cross students, is to try to construct shared discourses in which such dialogues can occur. I guess McKoski thinks we shouldn’t rush on to that project before giving individual voices enough time to be heard. But I don’t want to subscribe to this individual/collective dichotomy. I would prefer to think that the endless, ever-receding project of seeking shared discourses, pursued via persuasion exercised across cultural boundaries, is the best thing any individual can do with anyone else right now. I think we should all be helping each other to pursue this project.

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