Week 8 – Rhetorical Precis

Bizzell, Patricia. “’Contact Zones’ and English Studies.” Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Second ed. United States: National Council of Teachers of English, 2003. 479-486.

In the academic journal article “’Contact Zones’ and English Studies,” Patricia Bizzell (1994) argues for a change in the way English is organized based on ‘contact zones,’ which are “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in the contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt 482). The research of this paper is equal parts literature review for context of contact zones, and also empirical experience as a teacher, student, and reader.  Bizzell writes this in order to challenge existing norms in literary canonpursuing new model that “treats difference as an asset, not a liability” (483). The audience for this essay is teachers, researchers, and those who are involved in creating what is considered the “canon.” I graduated with a BA in literature and never read Toni Morrison or James Baldwin because I was unable to take an African American Literature class. I think there is something lost when so many authors are siloed under the topics that have been established for so long. This is an essay that exposed me to a term and ideas that I felt but did not know was a topic of research.  

Lu, Min-Zhan. “Professing Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone.” Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Second ed. United States: National Council of Teachers of English, 2003. 487-503.

In the academic journal article “Professing Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone,” Min-Zhan Lu attempts to contextualize aspects of multicultural writing that appears to be a mistake due to a perception of “standard” English, devoid of consideration of diversity and cultural aspects of speech and communication. Lu’s support for her argument is developed through literature review, beginning with a definition of Pratt’s “Contact Zones,” and exploring both professional and student writing. Lu’s essay is a challenge to “common” writing practices in order to change how composition is taught and graded. The intended audience is researchers, teachers, and others who touch the theory of Pratt’s Contact Zones.  This essay focuses on how diversity and contact zones relates to the act and process of composition in the classrooms, and in published works.  Lu says that there is a prevalent belief in classrooms that a “monolingual environment is the most conducive to learning of ‘beginners’ or outsiders.’ This belief overlooks the dialogical nature of students’ ‘inner voices’ as well as the multicultural context of students’ lives” (493).  This is an essay that touches on many things especially relevant to my own beliefs and future research; by creating this standard and enforcing it as “correct” and other dialects as “errors” creates a dichotomy of thought in teachers and students.  But more than that, can instill a belief of inferiority in the own language and culture students bring with them to the classroom as they are told to unlearn a part of themselves to do well in school.

 

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