5390: Article Commentary 8: Argument con Pico de Gallo

Sirc, Geoffrey. (2009). Writing in the Post-“Man-of-Letters” Modern World. College Composition and Communication, 60(4), W16-W31.

Part of the brief “Extended CCC” experiment of 2009 (wherein the journal took a ‘hybrid’ format, with some articles appearing in full in print and a large number of articles appeared online, with only the first page included in the bound journal), Sirc’s piece is more scholarly argument than inquiry, but academic article nonetheless.

Immediately, Sirc speaks of designing writing assignments for students–a clear hand reached out to the core CCC audience: the composition, rhetoric, and writing teaching professoriate. With his direct “I” (six times in the first opening paragraph), he immediately strikes a conversational, reflective tone. Yet his language and sentence style are appropriate for his topic–style and how the “man-of-letters” uses language, and how New Media is bringing about a new style for a new man of letters. “Dehumanizing effect of modernity,” “cynical power state,” “mystical participatory exchange,” “soul-crushing force” are powerful emotional and intellectual phrases, and Sirc relies on such throughout this piece–along with a healthy dose of rhetorical question.

His claim is actually quite sweeping–he calls iTunes a special site, one “drenched in the language of virtual desire” and an “ideal vehicle for the critical output of the contemporary letters.” With his own stylistic flourish and the definite New Media-ness of the sample iTunes reviews he draws upon (his main form of evidence is block quoted passages of other scholarly arguments and the reviews that are his subject), I at first thought that Sirc was being hyperbolic in this claim for a “true site of rhetoric.” Indeed, that may have been part of his plan, to unseat the reader with the kind of highly engaging and–dare I say–florid language that is atypical in most of academic publishing, thus preparing them to accept his outlandish claim.

The main force of the first paragraph is its directness. The final paragraphs balance between making a claim for change and an almost mournful recognition of the status quo of “objects of practice for the field.” The last paragraph, though, ends again with rhetorical questions (in the form of a direct challenge to his readers’ attitudes) and a note of tempered excitement about the “cheesiest little blog post” over the academic expository prose, “dead on arrival.” It’s a powerful ending to a powerful argument.


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