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Approaches to Teaching Writing

The purpose of this research is to examine the tension attending organicist and mechanist approaches to the teaching of writing. Staunch organicists, such as Knoblauch and Brannon, assert that it is not possible to combine organic and mechanic theories in the writing classroom. As they put it, "the two traditions are essentially opposed, representing a disjunction in intellectual history because they derived from two different and incompatible epistemologies, two irreconcilable views of the nature of knowledge and the functions of discourse" (Knoblauch and Brannon 78). This research will assert that the two traditions, while materially distinct, are not so irredeemably opposed as Knoblauch and Brannon insist, and further, that combining the two ideologies is not only possible but desirable and necessary.

Let us accept that, as Knoblauch and Brannon assert, ancient rhetorical principles "dramatically affect instruction" in a negative way and that such ideas "must be frontally assaulted" (Knoblauch and Brannon 79). This idea has obtained currency with other commentators as well. Warnock asserts that what is known as the "new" rhetoric "does not partake of the error that deceived the linguists who tried to use their subject to teach writing" (Warnock 1). In other words, the new rhetoric is decidedly and determinedly not prescriptive but inductive, a means whereby the learning writer can gradually discover intelligibility and make sense by virtue of his own good efforts. Or, as Berthoff puts it, "A composition is a bundle of parts: students are invited to explore for themselves how discovering the parts and developing ways of bundling them are interdependent operations" (Barthoff 3).In the organicist view, as opposed to the classicist or mechanicist view of composition, there is no single rhetorical method, the employment of which will yield readable writing. Specifically, Knoblauch and Brannon argue, classical rhetorical te...

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Approaches to Teaching Writing. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:41, February 23, 2017, from