Connecting with the Audience

I wasn’t a huge fan of Gayatri Spivak; I found some of her responses to be cold and political—“I can’t really comment on what goes on in the discipline of rhetoric” (2), “A domestication, a circumscription” (5), and “It is not possible not to retain the memory of tradition while reshaping what is taught” (5). Despite my slight dislike of her rhetorical style, I did find her ideas about supplementing traditional texts with contemporary ones and writing intriguing.

When Spivak talks about eliminating traditional texts in English, I would have liked some specifics. What texts? Should we eliminate them on a rotating basis? Who decides what’s eliminated and what’s kept? Even though she was a little vague for me in this section, I did like her ideas about not relying solely on traditional texts in teaching. I think that courses, which focus on a single author, need to be accompanied by modern authors in order to survive. If students are always studying the same traditional texts, how can they learn anything new? I realize that different people can have various perspectives on and interpretations of the same book, so students could learn new things, but I also think that a text can only be looked at so many times before ideas begin to repeat themselves. In order to maintain student engagement and help students to develop innovative ideas, traditional authors should juxtapose authors having new and potentially different ideas on the same subject. I think using texts in combination can help create the “productive crisis” that Spivak refers to (9).

I liked what Spivak said about writing being “a tool that goes across the board” (9). I often find myself turned off by articles littered with jargon, grammar, and methodologies I can’t comprehend. I don’t want to read them, which to me, defeats the purpose of writing the article. Why would writers want to alienate those outside their field? What’s the point of writing something that the audience has to be specially taught to read? I understand that this is appealing and impressive to colleagues in the same discipline, but I don’t see it as impressive or appealing to the general public. I think that, like Spivak, students should learn how to write for a general audience first and a specialized audience second. This way their skills can be interchangeable; they can be “bilingual” writers.

The idea of being able to write for a general audience connects with the ideas discussed in Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus—a good rhetorician has the ability to appeal to all audiences, not only a specialized one. If a doctor wants to be able to explain how a new vaccine works or the benefits of a particular medication to a patient, or general audience in a publication, she needs to have the skills to do so. A doctor who can’t do this will lose her audience—patients.

The ability to appeal to an audience, whether it’s a group of students or the general public, is essential to maintaining interest in a topic.

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