Quotation as a Site of Invention And Student Ethos

Back in June of this year, I started reading professor John T. Gage’s “An Adequate Epistemology for Composition: Classical and Modern Perspectives” from the collection titled, Landmark Essays in Rhetorical Invention in Writing. I only read half way through it.  Why? Because I had an idea–here’s where my idea started. To badly paraphrase and summarize Gage and put what he said into the interrogative: what if the epistemology (or ways of knowing)  in writing about and teaching composition go beyond students, writers, and academics moving outside of formal practices and into something more akin to guided invention. As I said, I didn’t read the rest of it (yet), so he probably answered his argument about classical composition and rhetoric’s reputation for formulaic approaches with a more modern approach, but I digress.  My idea? I began to wonder (in both the denotative and rhetorical sense) if quotation, a standard practice and pedagogical topic for first and second year composition, could be a site for guided invention.  

Though I haven’t worked out my use and extension of the canonical definition of invention right now, I am clear on my hypothesis. If I teach quotation as a site of invention, given Van Fuller’s work on quotation, Making Use of Others’ Work, Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst’s introduction to academic writing textbook, They Say; I Say, and the commonly known practices of quotation’s three main moves: introducing the quote, quoting the original words, and explaining what those words, ideas, and concepts in the quote mean, then, perhaps, I can invite my students into quotation from the creative angle.  

Moreover, I was teaching quotation as a way for students to support their arguments, make their claims more credible, and confirm that they didn’t knowingly or unknowingly take someone else’s work. To me, this approach is not only about formality and legalism (keeping them from plagiarizing), but also about teaching a form of attribution, or giving credit to the original author.  I’m not saying that teaching students these standard ideas is wrong, but I see something beyond that older method and mindset. That being said, if I open quotation up with invention and move it beyond formality and legalisms, perhaps invention and wonder-focused quotation pedagogy and methodology can actually confer an ethical and rhetorical responsibility to my composition students. More specifically, this practice and methodology might give students more insights into contextualizing and explaining quotes  (with an awareness that all interpretations of quotations are not equal or correct). 

Right now, I need to get back to grading. I’ll post more later this week. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s