1 REFLECTIVE ESSAY Writing is like art it means different things to different people. However, writing differs from art in that it has to follow specific parameters, such as grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. We begin to learn these rules in elementary school, but writing starts as something that is fun and creative. Write about your summer vacation, teachers often say at the start of the school year. However, as students are filed through the English curriculum at the high school level, boundaries surrounding writing become solidified, hardened beyond breaking. Students learn that this is the way to write a book report, never use first person, and never, under any circumstances, begin a sentence with a preposition. This is the mentality of many students when they walk through the doors of Sparks Hall to attend their first composition course. Suddenly, the walls are broken down and creativity is permitted to reenter students writing. This experience, while slightly less dramatic, was mine. Georgia State was the catalyst that opened the doors for me to explore the English language without interruption, and as a result, I have grown as a writer and a person. Through interaction with peers, professors, and texts, I have gained knowledge that would have been utterly impossible anywhere else. Though cliché, it was the professors who sparked my desire to learn more, and I worked endlessly to gain as much knowledge as possible. It was like a firm understanding of Rhetoric and Composition was laid out like a puzzle board without the pieces. With each course I took, another piece would fit in, each course building on the learning that was achieved in the course before it. With that, I would like to introduce some work that was completed in these courses. For the sake of continuity, the pieces are listed by date of composition, beginning with the oldest, moving toward most recently written.
2 I took Business Writing (ENGL 3130) during the summer 2008 semester. It was an incredibly informative course. It focused on where writing fit in to real world situations. A large portion of the syllabus was allocated for the Employment Project. This assignment was designed to simulate a real world work experience, where a position would be available and the student would take the necessary professional steps toward obtaining it. The entirety of the project consists of a research memo to the professor, describing the position, a letter of application, a resume, a follow-up letter, and a reflection memo, also to the professor. Altogether, these pieces demonstrate my ability to write appropriately and effectively for a real world professional situation. In terms of my rhetorical puzzle, Business Writing and these pieces provided the professional audience piece, teaching the ins and outs of structuring documents for future colleagues in the workplace. I chose this piece not only because it was substantive enough to clearly demonstrate my ability to fulfill the requirement for the assignment, but also because it began with the research memo, and finished with the reflection, allowing the reader to get a complete understanding of the work in context. The next piece of coursework included is the final Proposal Project for my Argumentative course (ENGL 3080), which I took during the fall 2008 semester. Similarly to the Employment Project from Business Writing, it begins with an initial topic proposal and ends with the final product, demonstrating continuity as it pertains to a single project. As already noted, it begins with the initial proposal for the project, for this case, the installation of wind turbines to generate energy to power the US. It continues with a progress report, a revision log, and the final product. Preparing the project shows how an argument can morph over time, changing slightly to become more persuasive and effective. Given more time, I would probably
3 delve deeper into the inner workings of wind turbines in order to further stabilize and strengthen my argument against potential opposition. Argumentative Writing not only offered the argument development puzzle piece, but also the research puzzle piece. These pieces are vital to my puzzle because, together, they lay the foundation for composing an effective argument. This piece stands out to me, not only because it was the one of the most substantial pieces from the course, both in terms of length and research required, but also because it argues a claim, which is one of the fundamentals of the study of rhetoric. It utilizes rhetorical strategy, and specifically appeals to logos, in an attempt to successfully relate the claim and to get the reader to agree with it. Next, there is the Practical Grammar (ENGL 3105) project that was completed during fall The intention for this project was to take an essay, paper, or piece of work that had been written for another class and apply the grammatical lessons learned in the class to that particular piece to make it better. For the assignment, I chose an essay I had written for a British Literature course, in which I set forth an argument about the Wife of Bath from Geoffrey Chaucer s Canterbury Tales. In its original context, I had felt relatively confident about the piece, and received a good mark for it. However, it was not until I had taken the Grammar course that I realized how much work there was to do. The work involved in making the essay better was not only grammar related; I had to complete more extensive research to support my claim as well. Overall, the final piece was much stronger and grammatically correct. I chose this piece for my portfolio because it demonstrates in a cut-and-dry manner the grammar rules that I mastered and how they apply to academic writing, even rules that are as easy as subject-verb agreement and correct comma usage. For a complete rhetorical puzzle, it could be argued that
4 the grammar piece, which I acquired through Practical Grammar, is one of the most important because cohesive writing depends heavily on grammar rules. During the spring of 2009, I finally took the Introduction to Rhetoric and Composition course (ENGL 2150). The first piece that was required for this class was an analysis of the rhetorical situation of President Obama s inaugural address. For the assignment, we were to identify and apply the fundamental aspects of the rhetorical cannon, such as invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, as they appeared in the President s speech. This essay demonstrates my understanding of the cannon, and my ability to relate them to modern rhetorical events. I believe that this is important because knowing the five-part rhetorical cannon is one of the basics of participating in the Rhetoric and Composition program, and therefore, part of the foundation on which further understanding and learning in the field can be built. Taken as a whole, this essay accomplishes what it sets out to do; it identifies the elements of the cannon, applies them to the Presidential address, and gives an evaluation of the speech as well. While there were other papers written for this course that would accomplish the same goal, being able to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of rhetorical study, I chose this one because it applies the cannon to a modern and historical event. Though I did not receive this introductory piece of the puzzle until later in my studies, it is absolutely essential to a complete rhetorical puzzle because it comes with the understanding of the elementary elements of the field of Rhetoric. The next rhetoric course that I was enrolled in was Editing (ENGL 3140), which I took during the spring of Going into this class, I assumed that the coursework would be similar to the kind found in Practical Grammar. I could not have been more incorrect. In fact, I was appreciative of the fact that I had already taken Practical Grammar because much of the editing
5 strategies we learned and used were based on a basic understanding of grammar, something some of my peers lacked. The project that was assigned in this course was massive. It aimed to challenge the students to take a flaw-filled work written by a separate third party author and make it acceptable for Five Points, the literary journal published at Georgia State University. Thankfully, it was a group project, so that the work did not seem as threatening. My group and I worked along a strict timeline, and we set the bar very high for our finished product. The complexity of the project was mostly in the lack of academic style on the part of the author, and also his complete disregard for proper syntax and grammar rules. Beyond the content, the second hardest part was the basic formatting for the piece. Overall, the final piece not only looked exponentially better aesthetically than the original, but I believe it exhibited the author s initial ideas in a clear and cohesive manner. The piece does not appear in its entirety in the portfolio. Instead, I decided to only include the first seven pages, which exhibit the changes in grammar, sentence structure, format, source citations, and methods of incorporating quotations. Further, this piece was chosen basically because it was the only written piece of work that demonstrated editing ability completed in the course. My editing puzzle piece was one that came with the strongest sense of accomplishment; to be able to work within a group and tackle such a task, all the while applying methods of professional and literary editing, was an enormous amount of work. But with great effort comes great reward. The second to last piece of coursework included in the portfolio was chosen because it is my favorite piece that I have written during my academic career. It was written for a topics course I took during spring semester 2009 entitled Persuasion and Propaganda in Society (ENGL
6 4200). The research paper focuses on society s use of fear appeals, how they work, why they can be harmful to some people, and why they sometimes do not even affect others. It is my favorite piece of writing for a rhetoric course because it is a compelling topic, which helped motivate me to write a compelling paper. Further, the actual paper itself has images incorporated into it, showing yet another rhetorical strategy: the use of visuals. Images have the power to carry with them the potential to impact a reader or consumer in a way that is specific to them, a way that words sometimes cannot. That fact, and how it relates to the use of fear appeals was another idea addressed in this piece. The puzzle piece that this course gave me came with slightly less fundamental knowledge. Instead, I learned more about critical thinking and how to interpret pieces of rhetoric that are found in everyday situations. The last piece of my portfolio is a rhetorical analysis of an editorial found in The New York Times. The assignment was to conduct an analysis of a piece of rhetorical writing in which a rhetorical strategy or theory is applied. In this analysis, written in the fall of 2009 for my Senior Seminar (ENGL 4320) course, I examine the rhetorical strategies that the writer uses to state and support his claim. While this piece is similar to the one written about President Obama s inaugural address, it differs in some key ways. For one, the rhetorical elements in the inaugural address were rather easy to identify. President Obama used appeals to logos to create the feeling of national unity and appeals to ethos to generate an emotional response from the American public regarding foreign policy. It was straightforward. The editorial piece, on the other hand, demonstrated rhetorical methods in a more underlying way; the author barely stated his claim,
7 but it was still evident through his tone and his use of loaded language. Though, however different they were, I was still looking for rhetorical elements within the two pieces. This piece reflects knowledge of rhetorical elements that go beyond what is covered in the introduction to rhetoric courses. As an analyst, I was able to detect certain tones and instances of loaded language to argue for the author s claim. Further, I was able to pull relevant examples straight from the text to support my argument. In a way, this piece demonstrates both a solid analysis and a little bit of argumentative writing. Like the puzzle piece from my Persuasion and Propaganda course, this puzzle piece encompasses a great deal of critical thinking in association with an extended knowledge of rhetorical strategy. These papers written for my Rhetoric and Composition concentration exhibit the many ways that I have changed as a writer, as can be inferred by reading them from oldest to most recent. As if the complete change that I underwent, and continue to undergo, as a writer since beginning my coursework for this concentration is not enough, my perspectives have also changed, specifically as they pertain to the notions of good writing and revision. As initially noted, the concept of writing that is force fed to students through a high school curriculum is incredibly strict without any room for flexibility or creativity. Since starting classes here, I have realized that good writing is really up to the author and her audience. The only constants, for me, in writing are the elements of revision and editing. A work is never finished; it can get closer and closer the more it is read, reread, revised, and polished, but ultimately, more work can always be done. If it had not solidified years ago at the beginning of my program, this concept became evident when I began to work on my portfolio. Pieces that I had already written, revised, polished, turned in, and received a grade on, needed more work before they were finally included in the portfolio.
8 This ideology can be applied as much to the author as it can to her work. Even upon graduation, I will not be a completed writer. Yes, I will have written many things over the years, but I am not, nor will I ever be, finished learning or improving my writing. This is merely one of the many pieces of knowledge that I have gained through my studies at Georgia State. Going back to my rhetorical puzzle, by the end of this term, I will have completed the undergraduate portion with eight total pieces; however, much like the idea of the completed writer, my puzzle cannot ever be totally filled in. I hope that as I continue to learn, I can acquire more pieces and build upon some that I already have to extend myself academically.