Research, Rhetoric, and the Writing Curriculum: Consciousness Expansion Through Bi-Hemisphericity
Hoyle, Steven G.
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This study gives implications for teaching composition based on current rhetorical and psychological theory. It examines what recent brain research has to say about left-hemispheric verbal skills and right-hemispheric imaginal skills. A survey of literary, philosophical, and rhetorical expressions shows that man has for a long time "known" what brain research bears out: verbal and imaginal skills must work together for one to exercise a balanced mind. One objective of the paper is to identify the pathological situations arising when a writer fails to qualify by either failing to specify or relate. Aristotle's rhetoric is examined for the balance of right hemispheric image (example) and left hemispheric idea (enthymeme) it requires and the psychological perspective (the value of audience participation) it lacks. The discussion then reveals how metaphor is able to function bi-hemispherically to allow us to spring from images to abstractions and back. With the knowledge of how image and idea works, this paper offers a theoretical foundation for a practical program for teaching rhetoric in which poetic or reflexive skills (right-brain functions) and reportorial or extensive skills (left-brain functions) can be coordinated. Since encoding (the rendering of a-sequential, a-temporal right hemispheric functions into verbal symbols) requires active participation and is more difficult than decoding (the passive reading of verbal symbols), the writer must be sensitive to his audience--be able to exercise the devices of inventio and dispositio--as well as be knowledgeable of style--be able to practice the techniques of elocutio. Sentence combining does double duty for balancing mind and rhetoric: it not only gives one a form, but that form itself generates content. Included is a list of techniques or activities which strengthen right-brain functioning. Each activity is explained as to how it may be implemented in the classroom setting. In addition, a sample curricular plan (for first semester college freshman composition) exhibits how activities for strengthening and applying both pre-verbal and verbal processes might be used for teaching the whole mind.
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