assignment 3-3: reading for purpose, audience, context

Due: Monday, October 17
Format: leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

This assignment asks you to start forming a sense of Josh Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context in the September 1 chapter of his comic “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.”  First, re-read the comic.  For this second reading, try to develop your observant stance into a more advanced, critical stance. You are still composing to learn, but now composing to learn more and learn deeper.

To help you read critically, look at

These objective readings will provide the background information you need to piece together Neufeld’s context and the problem he seems to be responding to. Remember, use these articles not to bolster your own personal opinion about the issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, but instead try to find things that will help you analyze “A.D New Orleans After the Deluge” rhetorically. After you look at those articles, re-read Neufeld’s comic for a pitch, a moment, and a complaint:

  • A pitch. Neufeld’s comic makes an argument, although at first glance it might seem like a simple story about one awful day. “A.D.” does make some sort of case, even if that argument or case is never stated explicitly.  As you re-read the comic, look for language that reveals the position or positions Neufeld seems interested in having you adopt.
  • A complaint. His comic is also a reaction to some situation, some set of circumstances that he has set out to address.  To help you understand another person’s writing, it can be useful to figure out what caused the person to write the text in the first place. Look for language that reveals the writer’s starting point. If you can find the position or situation he or she is worried about and possibly trying to correct, you will find it much easier to locate the argument (or the position the comic is asking you to accept).
  • A moment. Lastly, Neufeld’s comic is a response to the world conditioned by his particular moment in time. In your attempt to figure out not only what a text says but where it is coming from, history is significant. When was the piece written? (August 2009, but he started writing the comic in 2006.)  Where? (the comic was originally published as a series on the web, and then it was revised into a graphic novel.) What else was going on at the time that might have shaped the writer’s ideas and attitudes?

Now, write two or three paragraphs explaining your sense of what Neufeld’s purpose, audience, and context (his rhetorical situation) might be. Your post could address some of the following questions, which will resonate with the critical reading guidelines above.

  • What in the world around him is motivating Neufeld to create this comic?
  • What is it about the time he is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how he sees the world?
  • How does the way he sees the world fit with the ways he sees/imagines his readers? Does he want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Neufeld relate to his readers? Is he confrontational, caring, friendly, or… ? How exactly do you get a sense of his personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • What do you know about Neufeld’s audience? Do they need any special knowledge to understand the comic? Do they come from a certain area or country, share certain values or identity markers, or subscribe to similar beliefs?
  • Why does Neufeld try to accomplish his purpose through a comic, instead of some other medium or genre?
  • Do the visual elements of the text help him accomplish his purpose? How?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Neufeld wish to change in his audience? How would he like to see his readers respond to the comic?
  • What other kinds of changes might he be seeking?

Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write this post. Avoid unsupported claims.

It is always possible that Neufeld did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in his comic, but for now assume that he did and consider how this helps you understand “A.D.”

assignment 2-3: forming interpretive questions

Due: Friday, September 23
Format: Leave a comment on this post

In class on Wednesday, we worked through some observations about “Back to the Land.” (Check out this document to see a list of these observations.)  Then, we tried to explain some of these observations as choices or strategies that Kalman is using to accomplish a purpose, with an audience in mind and a context at hand. For Assignment 2-3, write two (or more, if you like)  interpretive questions about “Back to the Land.” We will discuss these questions on Friday.

You can use the DK Handbook page 108 and page 120 to help you. Please give your questions a lead-in or a bit of context so that we know where you’re coming from and so that you are not just rephrasing an oberservation from the list as a question. For example, don’t simply ask

Why does Kalman compare agrarian lifestyles with city lifestyles?

This question is too broad, and it gives no context for how you believe Kalman defines “agrarian lifestyle” and “city lifestyle.” The question doesn’t add anything to the discussion because it simply takes a binary from the list and poses it as a “why?” question. Instead, do a bit more work by being specific and adding some interpretation to your interpretive question.  To be more specific, you could cite a passage as an example of what you mean, you could define/analyze a key term in your question, or you could explain a point of uncertainty in your thinking so that we know where the question comes from. For example,

It seems to me that Kalman defines agrarian living in connection with democracy–but not just any democracy. The democracy of a simpler, “happier” past. A democracy defined in contrast to the city lifestyles so many Americans lead today. Is there any truth to this vision of America’s simpler, more wholesome/healthy past, or is it just an ideal or a rhetorical move intended to show us readers how their lives and “way of being” (127) has changed over the centuries?

Finally, here are some links I showed in class to give more context to Kalman’s essay:
NPR article on Tea Party and history
Wikipedia on Food, Inc. (the documentary)
Wikipedia on organic farming history etc.

assignment 2-2: reading for purpose, audience, and context

Due: Wednesday, September 21
Format: leave a comment on this post
Length: two or three paragraphs

This assignment will ask you to start forming a sense of Maira Kalman’s purpose, audience, and context in her visual-verbal essay “Back to the Land.”  First, re-read the essay.  For this second reading, try to develop your observant stance into a more advanced, critical stance. To help you read critically, look for the following in “Back to the Land”:

  • A pitch. Kalman’s essay is an argument; it presents information to make some sort of case, even if that argument or case is never stated explicitly.  As you read, look for language that reveals the position or positions the essay seems interested in having you adopt.
  • A complaint. Her essay is also a reaction to some situation, some set of circumstances that she has set out to address.  To help you understand another person’s writing, it can be useful to figure out what caused the person to write the piece in the first place. Look for language that reveals the writer’s starting point. If you can find the position or situation he or she is worried about and possibly trying to correct, you will find it much easier to locate the argument (or the position the essay is asking you to accept).
  • A moment. Lastly, Kalman’s essay (like all pieces of writing) is a response to the world conditioned by the writer’s particular moment in time. In your attempt to figure out not only what a piece says but where it is coming from, history is significant. When was the piece written? (Nov. 26, 2009)  Where? (The New York Times blog in the “Opinion Pages” section) What else was going on at the time that might have shaped the writer’s ideas and attitudes? You don’t have to do hours of research for every essay you read, but on the other hand you don’t want to ignore the context of a writer’s moment.

Now, write two or three paragraphs explaining your sense of what Kalman’s purpose, audience, and context (her rhetorical situation) might be. Your post could address some of the following questions, which might resonate with the critical reading guidelines above.

  • What in the world around her is motivating Kalman to create this piece?
  • What is it about the time she is living in? What historical events or changes are shaping how she sees the world?
  • How does the way she sees the world fit with the ways she sees/imagines her readers? Does she want to draw their attention to some issue or problem they might not be noticing?
  • How does Kalman relate to her readers? Is she confrontational, caring, friendly, or… ? How do you get a sense of her personality or attitude towards the audience?
  • What do you know about Kalman’s audience? Do they need any special knowledge to understand what she is saying? Do they come from a certain area or country, share certain values, or subscribe to particular beliefs?
  • Why does Kalman try to accomplish her purpose through this combination of handwriting and photography?
  • How do the photographs add to or take away from the effectiveness of Kalman’s text? Do the visual elements of the text help her accomplish her purpose? How?
  • What thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors might Kalman wish to change in her audience? How would she like to see her readers respond to the piece?
  • What other kinds of changes might she be seeking?

Keep pushing yourself to find and cite specific evidence from the text as you write this post. Avoid unsupported claims.

It is always possible that Kalman did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in her essay, but for now assume that she did and consider how this helps you understand her text.

“The Victory Garden movement began in 1917 in response to World War I food shortages. Since food had to be sent abroad to troops, families were encouraged to grow their own fruits, vegetable, and herbs.”  — from Everyday Health