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Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts

Joseph Harris
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 150
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    "Like all writers, intellectuals need to say something new and say it well. But unlike many other writers, what intellectuals have to say is bound up with the books we are reading . . . and the ideas of the people we are talking with."

    What are the moves that an academic writer makes? How does writing as an intellectual change the way we work from sources? In Rewriting, a textbook for the undergraduate classroom, Joseph Harris draws the college writing student away from static ideas of thesis, support, and structure, and toward a more mature and dynamic understanding. Harris wants college writers to think of intellectual writing as an adaptive and social activity, and he offers them a clear set of strategies-a set of moves-for participating in it.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-539-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    My aim in this book is to help you make interesting use of the texts you read in the essays you write. How do you respond to the work of others in a way that is both generous and assertive? How do you make their words and thoughts part of what you want to say? In the academy you will often be asked to situate your thoughts about a text or an issue in relation to what others have written about it. Indeed, I’d argue that this interplay of ideas defines academic writing—that whatever else they may do, intellectuals...

  4. 1 Coming to Terms
    (pp. 13-33)

    In his short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” Jorge Luis Borges tells of an obscure modern artist who decides to rewrite a passage from Don Quixote, the famous seventeenth-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes. What makes this goal interesting, and more than a little crazy, is that Menard doesn’t want simply to copy or transcribe the Quixote but instead “to produce a number of pages which coincided—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.” And to make matters even more difficult, he resolves to do so without referring back to the text...

  5. 2 Forwarding
    (pp. 34-53)

    Academic writing is often described as a kind of conversation. You read a text, you talk about it, you put down some thoughts in response, others respond to your comments, and so on. Or as the poet, novelist, philosopher, and critic Kenneth Burke once put it:

    Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion has begun long before any of them got there,...

  6. 3 Countering
    (pp. 54-72)

    I recall writing an essay in graduate school in which I did everything I could to rebut the views of a certain scholar. I was determined to prove my opponent wrong, and I seized upon every gap, contradiction, or misstep that I could find in his text in order to do so. After reading my essay, my professor evidently agreed that I had won the imaginary debate I had set up, since he made no effort to find fault with my argument or examples. But rather than congratulating me, as I had expected and hoped, he asked instead: “Why are...

  7. 4 Taking an Approach
    (pp. 73-97)

    The various moves I’ve talked about so far in this book—coming to terms, forwarding, and countering—are ways of marking out your words and ideas from those of the texts you are working with. The very typography of academic writing speaks to this concern, with its use of quotation marks, text blocks, separate fonts, and notes to distinguish the separate voices that make up an essay. By noting what others have had to say on a subject, defining where their thinking ends and yours begins, you can make your own stance as a writer all the more clear. Indeed,...

  8. 5 Revising
    (pp. 98-123)

    So far in this book I’ve offered you four moves for rewriting—for making the words, ideas, and images of others part of your own project as a writer. In this last chapter, I propose some ways of using those moves in revising—that is, in rethinking, refining, and developing—your own work-in-progress as writer. Revising is thus a particular form of what throughout this book I’ve called rewriting; it names the work of returning to a draft of a text you’ve written in order to make your thinking in it more nuanced, precise, suggestive, and interesting.

    My method here...

  9. Afterword: Teaching Rewriting
    (pp. 124-134)

    I began this book by arguing that academic writing is characterized by a responsiveness to the work of others and went on from there to offer students a set of moves for making strong and generous use of the texts they read in their own work as writers. What I have not tried to do in this book, though, is to sketch a plan for a specific sort of writing course. I have instead imagined this as a book that might be read alongside a wide range of other texts, that might inform a particular aspect of the work of...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 135-136)
  11. Index
    (pp. 137-139)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 140-140)