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Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing

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This comics-style collaboration between rhetoricians Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander and illustrator team Big Time Attic presents the content of the composition course in a form designed to draw students in. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing covers what first-year college writers need to know — the writing process, critical analysis, argument, resear This comics-style collaboration between rhetoricians Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander and illustrator team Big Time Attic presents the content of the composition course in a form designed to draw students in. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing covers what first-year college writers need to know — the writing process, critical analysis, argument, research, revision, and presentation — in a visual format that brings rhetorical concepts to life through examples ranging from Aristotle to YouTube.


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This comics-style collaboration between rhetoricians Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander and illustrator team Big Time Attic presents the content of the composition course in a form designed to draw students in. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing covers what first-year college writers need to know — the writing process, critical analysis, argument, resear This comics-style collaboration between rhetoricians Elizabeth Losh and Jonathan Alexander and illustrator team Big Time Attic presents the content of the composition course in a form designed to draw students in. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing covers what first-year college writers need to know — the writing process, critical analysis, argument, research, revision, and presentation — in a visual format that brings rhetorical concepts to life through examples ranging from Aristotle to YouTube.

30 review for Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris - Quarter Press Editor

    There is a lot to like here, as Losh and Alexander have done a great job condensing many facets of rhetoric into digestible issues. Their issues on "Strategic Reading," arguments, and portions of the research and revision are fantastic. They're very straightforward, comprehensive, and easy to understand--which is always good for our students. However, at times, the book feels a bit too wrapped up in its own novelty of being a graphic guide rather than a traditional textbook. Some of this is very There is a lot to like here, as Losh and Alexander have done a great job condensing many facets of rhetoric into digestible issues. Their issues on "Strategic Reading," arguments, and portions of the research and revision are fantastic. They're very straightforward, comprehensive, and easy to understand--which is always good for our students. However, at times, the book feels a bit too wrapped up in its own novelty of being a graphic guide rather than a traditional textbook. Some of this is very tongue in cheek and rather amusing, but other portions feel a bit off--if not outright patronizing to students. Also, while the art is solid and does make for an interesting setup for such a thing, it would require a bit of unpacking in the classroom. I worry that some of the visuals, especially in the first few chapters, would need an explanation / framing for students to fully understand what is being said / discussed, especially in the visual information. Not that this is terrible, but I wonder how accessible some of the material is for those not already "in the know." Still, it is a great textbook for what it is and what it does. Not fully sure if I'm going to pilot a class with it yet, but it is an enjoyable read, especially for those interested in rhetoric but would like a different way to approach the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Silas Hansen

    Not perfect--a little corny at times--but it's one of the best textbooks I've seen for first-year writing/rhetoric/etc. Great advice in here for students and it's easy to read and understand without simplifying it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    Excited to try teaching this book. It's fun... Sometimes a little silly, but based in rigorous scholarship. It's been a while since I used a textbook and I can really imagine myself using this one effectively. Will update the review if I end up teaching from the book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A lot of the information presented in this book is engaging, thus hopefully helpful for students, especially since the multimodality nature of having a textbook in a comic form could reach different learners and learning styles. Some of the smartest panels use the images to break down ideas shown in text or, even better, present useful metaphors to further clarify points. And what good teacher doesn't like a helpful metaphor to use in class? In particular, I loved the chapter on Strategic Readin A lot of the information presented in this book is engaging, thus hopefully helpful for students, especially since the multimodality nature of having a textbook in a comic form could reach different learners and learning styles. Some of the smartest panels use the images to break down ideas shown in text or, even better, present useful metaphors to further clarify points. And what good teacher doesn't like a helpful metaphor to use in class? In particular, I loved the chapter on Strategic Reading, as it presented the text of Lincoln's speech alongside images a reader might picture in her head while reading, revealing useful tools for textual analysis to students. Losh and Alexander's sections on Rethinking Revision as well as Argument Beyond Pro & Con also portray useful "unloosening" or "unfolding" of complicated concepts from a composition course #alliteration. In the issue on Research, it was great to have actual screenshots of journal articles and library pages along side or underneath the comic's own characters and drawing style, to directly show students research while keeping interesting through the comic itself. For these reasons, I am excited to try the book in a class or at least start with an excerpt and get a feel for its student response. Things I'm wary about: so maybe 3 stars or 3.5? As a writing instructor and comp nerd, I enjoyed a lot of the humor in the book. And like in a lot of comics, some of the best humor is in the details and the background--e.g. a book cover a character in the frame is holding with a silly title. However, whenever a full panel was used to tell a joke about the authors (like Alexander being hungry), it seems to detract from the work itself, and I assume could distract readers or even confuse them if they are new to visual literacy. At the end of each issue there are additional info: one being Drawing Conclusions with exercises for students and another being The Reframe with Luis & Cindy, another comic of two students in a comp classroom applying info learned in that issue. These sections often felt uneven. Some Reframe issues seemed really helpful (like the ones on researching or revision), providing other break downs of the text's ideas for better understanding while others seemed unnecessary (like in Going Public)--or just unnecessary for my class since the Reframe on Strategic Reading focused more on how to read images/comics. Other pitfalls: The introduction could probably have been condensed since it felt as if it was either justifying the book or touting its own cleverness--didn't need to be the length of whole issue. And the last issue, Going Public, seemed the least helpful, as first year composition students aren't yet worrying about publication. Although the authors hit some important points on audience and genre there, it didn't seem to warrant a full issue on the matter. In place of these less successful components, I would've liked to see more strategies on application for students in their writing, perhaps a full section on make transitions and connections between ideas or saying why arguments matter.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ava Butzu

    Great handbook to serve as a primary or supplementary source for teaching argumentative and research writing. GREAT for my AP Language teaching pals - so worth reading just for the single-page treasures that reframe how to think about many of the concepts you may have struggled with explaining to your students.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Some sections are so brief and over viewed that the complexity of the task is tough to understand. Other portions put in visual and text partnership succinct and clear information. The assignment suggestions fit smoothly with the visuals and text.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Hanzman

    This graphic novel reads a bit too childish for a college level class. I quickly became frustrated with the book simply because I felt it was being dumbed down and I wasn’t getting quality college level information.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Six

    more of a book to teach from and not a book to read. sections good for instructing teens.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    This is a textbook--written in a graphic form (my husband asked if I was reading a comic book when he caught a glimpse of a page)--and there are a lot of really good things about it that I think will appeal to younger readers more adept at reading graphic texts than I am. I really appreciated the kinds of assignments the book gives (one example: look online for an image for Aristotle, Plato or Cicero and compare the image to the way the rhetor was portrayed by the book's artists, then write why This is a textbook--written in a graphic form (my husband asked if I was reading a comic book when he caught a glimpse of a page)--and there are a lot of really good things about it that I think will appeal to younger readers more adept at reading graphic texts than I am. I really appreciated the kinds of assignments the book gives (one example: look online for an image for Aristotle, Plato or Cicero and compare the image to the way the rhetor was portrayed by the book's artists, then write why the book's artists might have portrayed the man the way he or she did). I just had a difficult time because reading images with words is really challenging for me (something the book's authors acknowledge on p. 103). reading both images and words slows me down so much (and, I guess, is a good reminder of how some students react to texts with all words that I appreciated better) that I tend to read mostly the words and miss some meanings until I reread. Still, for those who CAN read the images and words together, the book has solid information about all the things teachers expect students to learn about rhetoric to improve as writers--just in a format they might appreciate better (for instance, comparing surface errors in spelling and grammar to a particularly explicit image of nose-picking).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    I am piloting this book in the summer for my "Introduction to College Composition" courses and I am really conflicted about this book. I want to like it, but I can't help but think this is not appropriate for the entirety of "Introduction to College Composition" students. It is VERY dense, content-wise, and the focus wanders for the first 50 pages or so. It is trying to be UNDERSTANDING COMICS, and it fails at that. But really, why try to reinvent the wheel? Hubris? Zeitgeist? Additionally, ther I am piloting this book in the summer for my "Introduction to College Composition" courses and I am really conflicted about this book. I want to like it, but I can't help but think this is not appropriate for the entirety of "Introduction to College Composition" students. It is VERY dense, content-wise, and the focus wanders for the first 50 pages or so. It is trying to be UNDERSTANDING COMICS, and it fails at that. But really, why try to reinvent the wheel? Hubris? Zeitgeist? Additionally, there are several instances that perpetuate stereotypes about gay men. Clearly someone needed to vet the "old professor in the dress on top of the piano singing showtunes" and the "let's put the author in make-up" sections of the book before sending this out for public consumption. I'm all for advocating for visual literacy (and do so regularly in my assignments), but the product has to match the outcome. I'm afraid this isn't a good example of that, and I'm going to try and make it work for this one term. Then I'll return to THEY SAY, I SAY.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This is the first graphic college writing textbook I have seen, and it is well done. The authors cover major concepts, such as purpose, audience, genre, revision, visual literacy, and Aristotelian rhetoric, in a lively fashion. I like their analysis of several writing examples, including one by Frederick Douglass. Their suggestions for writing activities at the end of each chapter are fresh and promising. I look forward to trying this with one of my first-year writing classes, though for this fa This is the first graphic college writing textbook I have seen, and it is well done. The authors cover major concepts, such as purpose, audience, genre, revision, visual literacy, and Aristotelian rhetoric, in a lively fashion. I like their analysis of several writing examples, including one by Frederick Douglass. Their suggestions for writing activities at the end of each chapter are fresh and promising. I look forward to trying this with one of my first-year writing classes, though for this fall I am inclined not to use a textbook. (They always seem so expensive to me, though this one is certainly cheaper than the standard big composition books.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    An interesting take on teaching rhetoric. A graphic novel that uses both authors (and others!) to teach various elements of effective writing, from audience to persuasive appeals to research. As I read, I marked various chapters that I thought would be helpful to classes I teach. It was fairly word heavy for a graphic novel, in my opinion, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it required a much closer attention to detail than graphic novels generally require of me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    D'Anne

    The chapter on Writing Identities is really good and I could totally imagine myself using it in my class. But I would not assign the whole book. I'm glad to see a book like this in comic form because I love comics, but some of it is too corny for me. It is, however, a quick read and does a nice job highlighting the salient points of academic argumentation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Teachers will love this book. Set up like a graphic novel with lots of humor, this book teaches textual analysis and argument in an easy to understand manner. I cannot imagine teaching without it. The cartoons rock. The authors understand their student audience. Teachers switching to the Common Core need to look at this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    A. David Lewis

    Genuinely, I found this to be marvelous. Not only is the material useful and carefully considered, but -- and this is from someone who both studies and creates comics -- it blends words and images sensationally. Students have a whole new opportunity to access ideas on composition where, ironically, words might usually fail.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nordy

    So many of my students come into Jr. AP and struggle with the concept of rhetoric. I feel like this text book is a great beginners guide that would work well to begin the year with or assign for summer reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Some decent things for my students but kind of superficial.

  18. 5 out of 5

    BJ Brown

    Good book! Clear, nicely recursive, raises unexpected but important considerations about visual literacy, audience, and author's authority. Definitely appropriate for HS and college writers!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    The graphic novel would make a great tool in any classroom. The chapters that cover arguments, research, and revision are well written and will clear up the mysteries of this type of assignment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Randy Cauthen

    Severely tight-ass trying to sound hip.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deke

    Clever, thoughtful, great way to present this material

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pierce Marks

  25. 4 out of 5

    Addie Macioce

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dayna Himot

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marlee

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alan

  30. 5 out of 5

    RHPD

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