GWRIT 103 Jefferson
Due Monday, September 27, the final draft of a 3+ page paper, formatted as shown on your syllabus, that closely analyzes a single argumentative tactic employed in one of our political texts in order to arrive at an understanding regarding the text’s effectiveness as an argument. Include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper.
We have discussed the idea of argument throughout the first weeks of class. The ideal argument, we said, is not an altercation, but a reasonable discussion of a question that is at issue for the audience. An argument organizes and then asserts its perspectives in order to reason the opposition toward agreement. Each side in an argument enters the debate willing to acknowledge and consider the opposition's point of view. Views are aired, shared, compared.
I suggest none of our four texts actually meet these criteria for ideal argument. The arguments that our texts offer focus on non-issues no one would disagree with and depend on leaps in reasoning that no one should be able to follow; they assume understandings that should not be assumed; they alienate the very audience they seek to persuade; they hide their flaws in flowery language or facile examples; or they obscure the real-world considerations inherent in the issues they promise to engage.
Your assignment is to agree or disagree with my assessment above by reading one of our texts closely. If you disagree, you are focusing on a particular tactic that the author uses to show how he (in this case) argues effectively. I suggest that you spend a good chunk of your space analyzing a small bit of text to really show how the tactic works: what it does, how it functions, the way it (fairly) moves the audience to insight/agreement. You are writing about the way the author tailors argument to audience, about the way the author defines the issue, or about the way the author makes discussion possible. You are not writing about your views on the issue that the text addresses, but instead are writing about how the author addresses the issue in a reasonable, thoughtful, productive way.
If you agree with my assessment above, you are identifying a particular tactic in one of our texts to show how the author's argument fails (or is less than completely successful). Again, I suggest a close focus on a relatively small bit of text. You are identifying where and how the author assumes, leaves out, skims over, or overlooks a key problem. Or you are commenting on how the author misses his intended audience with his argument. Or you are showing how the author shuts argument down, refuses argument altogether, or argues ineffectively. Again, you are not writing your views on the issue that the text addresses, but instead are writing about how the text fails to argue effectively, or fails to make discussion possible.
You may reference and quote the text beyond the small bit of text that you take as a focus. You may also use other texts if you need to, if it helps, but . . . REMEMBER . . . the closer your focus and the more specific you are in stating how you will engage it—these are concerns you will need to address in your first paragraph—the better your paper will be. You can of course use your position papers and the discussions we’ve had in class. I assure you that you DO NOT need to go beyond the text to fill 3+ pages (at least to the bottom of page 3 or on to page 4, but not on to page 5. Your Works Cited page does not count as one of your 3+ pages).
George Bush’s “Nomination Acceptance Address,” John Kerry’s “Nomination Acceptance Address,” William J. Bennett’s “A Nation Worth Defending,” and Howard Zinn’s “A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism” are all fair game. Complete versions of the candidates’ speeches are available online at http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com.