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In Provocations of Virtue, John Duffy explores the indispensable role of writing teachers and scholars in counteracting the polarized, venomous “post-truth” character of contemporary public argument. Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned to address the crisis of public discourse because their work in the writing classroom is tied to the teaching of ethical language p In Provocations of Virtue, John Duffy explores the indispensable role of writing teachers and scholars in counteracting the polarized, venomous “post-truth” character of contemporary public argument. Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned to address the crisis of public discourse because their work in the writing classroom is tied to the teaching of ethical language practices that are known to moral philosophers as “the virtues”—truthfulness, accountability, open-mindedness, generosity, and intellectual courage.   Drawing upon Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the branch of philosophical inquiry known as “virtue ethics,” Provocations of Virtue calls for the reclamation of “rhetorical virtues” as a core function in the writing classroom. Duffy considers what these virtues actually are, how they might be taught, and whether they can prepare students to begin repairing the broken state of public argument. In the discourse of the virtues, teachers and scholars of writing are offered a common language and a shared narrative—a story that speaks to the inherent purpose of the writing class and to what is at stake in teaching writing in the twenty-first century.   This book is a timely and historically significant contribution to the field and will be of major interest to scholars and administrators in writing studies, rhetoric, composition, and linguistics as well as philosophers and those exploring ethics.  


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In Provocations of Virtue, John Duffy explores the indispensable role of writing teachers and scholars in counteracting the polarized, venomous “post-truth” character of contemporary public argument. Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned to address the crisis of public discourse because their work in the writing classroom is tied to the teaching of ethical language p In Provocations of Virtue, John Duffy explores the indispensable role of writing teachers and scholars in counteracting the polarized, venomous “post-truth” character of contemporary public argument. Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned to address the crisis of public discourse because their work in the writing classroom is tied to the teaching of ethical language practices that are known to moral philosophers as “the virtues”—truthfulness, accountability, open-mindedness, generosity, and intellectual courage.   Drawing upon Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the branch of philosophical inquiry known as “virtue ethics,” Provocations of Virtue calls for the reclamation of “rhetorical virtues” as a core function in the writing classroom. Duffy considers what these virtues actually are, how they might be taught, and whether they can prepare students to begin repairing the broken state of public argument. In the discourse of the virtues, teachers and scholars of writing are offered a common language and a shared narrative—a story that speaks to the inherent purpose of the writing class and to what is at stake in teaching writing in the twenty-first century.   This book is a timely and historically significant contribution to the field and will be of major interest to scholars and administrators in writing studies, rhetoric, composition, and linguistics as well as philosophers and those exploring ethics.  

26 review for Provocations of Virtue: Rhetoric, Ethics, and the Teaching of Writing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Provocations of Virtue: Rhetorics, Ethics, and the Teaching Writing is a wise, eloquent, and timely book. Duffy explores how writing scholars and teachers might respond to the “toxic” quality of our current public discourse, and he advocates teaching “rhetorical virtue” as one answer. Provocations is comprehensively researched, and Duffy both writes clearly and offers specific strategies for teaching an ethical use of language. The genius of Duffy’s approach to defining rhetorical virtues is tha Provocations of Virtue: Rhetorics, Ethics, and the Teaching Writing is a wise, eloquent, and timely book. Duffy explores how writing scholars and teachers might respond to the “toxic” quality of our current public discourse, and he advocates teaching “rhetorical virtue” as one answer. Provocations is comprehensively researched, and Duffy both writes clearly and offers specific strategies for teaching an ethical use of language. The genius of Duffy’s approach to defining rhetorical virtues is that, rather than deducing them from abstract principles, he infers them from looking at some of the best practices recommended by leading textbooks on writing. That is to say, he offers writing scholars and teachers language to use in redescribing practices of argument that we already value. His virtues are grounded in practices—supporting claims with evidence, responding to counteraguments, using revision to actively rethink an argument—that writing teachers have long been committed to. But what Duffy emphasizes is that these practices are not simply strategies for successful academic writing, but actions with ethical implications. Duffy proposes a series of practical strategies for making the teaching of rhetorical ethics more deliberate, including: Grounding our teaching of skills in meaningful situations, naming the ethical qualities we value and wish to teach, modeling the ethical moves we hope students will make in our own discourse, locating exemplars of the rhetorical virtues in real world writings, cultivating the expression of competing views or dissensus, and working to build a broader institutional culture in our programs and departments that promotes the discussion and teaching not only of rhetorical skills but also the values that underlie them. Duffy strives to articulate a vision in which not only individual writing teachers but entire programs can work to resist the technocratic reduction of teaching to the transmission of instrumental skills. He restates this goal with particular eloquence in his brief conclusion, in which he argues that we should measure the value of our teaching not by a set of quantifiable outcomes but rather by the kinds of writing and thinking that our classrooms make possible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Manery

    I respect and admire this book, Dr. Duffy, and Dr. Duffy's intentions for this book. In just 145 pages, Duffy lays out the argument that first year writing courses that teach rhetorical virtues could at least offer the possibility of producing "virtuous" writers and rhetors and could ultimately lead to a more civil and reasoned discourse in the public arena. Despite the problematic term "virtuous" (Duffy acknowledges that "virtues" have historically been gendered and used to oppress women and up I respect and admire this book, Dr. Duffy, and Dr. Duffy's intentions for this book. In just 145 pages, Duffy lays out the argument that first year writing courses that teach rhetorical virtues could at least offer the possibility of producing "virtuous" writers and rhetors and could ultimately lead to a more civil and reasoned discourse in the public arena. Despite the problematic term "virtuous" (Duffy acknowledges that "virtues" have historically been gendered and used to oppress women and uplift martial values of courage and determination over benevolence and understanding), I am intrigued with the idea of rhetorical virtue despite my skepticism. After all, Duffy reasonably asks, we are already teaching rhetorical virtues; why not say so explicitly? The rhetorical virtues Duffy advocates for the first year writing classroom include truthfulness, accountability, open-mindedness, intellectual generosity, and intellectual courage, although he acknowledges that many others are possible. The "pathways for promoting ethical awareness and practice" in the writing classroom include introducing situations (real or imagined) that provide students with opportunities to practice and develop greater ethical sensibilities; naming the virtues inherent in claims (i.e., "Is this an argument for fairness?"); modeling ethical rhetorical practices through unrehearsed discussions with a colleague in the classroom and through published writing and public discourse; providing exemplars (people and texts); encouraging dissensus, and developing an institutional culture that affirms and supports the teaching and learning of rhetorical virtues. None of these practices, I hope, will strike teachers of writing as unusual or revolutionary in any way. And that, perhaps, is my main objection. In a time of "ab-normative ethics," we may not be able to rely on deontological, consequentialist, or "postmodern" ethics to guide the decisions we make in the writing classroom, but is a return to Aristotle the best alternative? Why is critical pedagogy given such short shrift here, dismissed as being divisive and inconclusive without any further unpacking of its aim as a tool for resisting and disrupting exactly the kinds of unethical words and deeds that are the subjects of daily headlines? How do we teach truthfulness in an era when lying not only doesn't lead to negative consequences but is actually rewarded? Wouldn't it be better to teach the technological and hegemonic structures that allow lies to be amplified and broadly disseminated by bad agents? I suppose my other objection is based on my experience of teaching four courses in Rhetoric and Writing at Ball State University in the fall of 2016. I grounded our discussions of making and supporting claims, evaluating evidence, and detecting logical fallacies in the context of the presidential campaign. My students could readily point out instances of straw men or Ad Hominem attacks when watching the debates, but I am fairly sure this exercise changed no one's opinion. Explicitly naming truthfulness as a virtue (who thought it would come to this), modeling truthfulness, and providing instances for students to practice making and evaluating truthful statements couldn't do any harm, but I'm not convinced it could do much to block out the sea of vitriol and paranoia in which we currently swim.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Lewis

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leanna

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Qualls

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Martin

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    James

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    Grant W Currier

  9. 5 out of 5

    cara

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

  11. 5 out of 5

    Greg Dyer

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Stahl

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nataly Dickson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ellery

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

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    Joe

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Turnip Van Dyke

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    Kit Shum

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisamr8

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    Reid

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Bastien

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Johnson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

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