I've been away on holiday and haven't had a chance to keep up with this
conversation though the subject interests me . . . so forgive me if I'm
being redundant. Most recently I've been thinking about teaching reading
and writing about literature as critical thinking. I taught a junior
introduction to critical reading course last year which has recently been
taught as "baby critical theory." I like the idea of exposing young
undergraduates to contemporary critical theory, but also thought it a great
opportunity to teach some rhetorical theory: invention, evaluation, and
argumentation strategies for example. It not only helps to demystify
academic discursive practices, and lets students be critics rather than
parrots, but trains students to think about how value language functions.
While I might not want to teach a *particular* set of cultural values in a
literature/writing course, I do see it as a great opportunity to talk about
the rhetoric of evaluation. Some rhetoric programs in the States, have a
narrow understanding of rhetoric as civic discourse that appears in
recognizable political genres--political speeches, newspaper editorials etc.
They tend to ignore or even oppose the study of those more literary/cultural
genres that also have tremendous political impact. This is not to argue
that "everything is political" (I don't want to "go there" right now), but
that rhetorics of socio-cultural value permeate a wide variety of genres,
and that teaching critical reading, as critical writing, as critical
thinking, teaches skills that are transferable to other academic
disciplines, various professions, and ethical living. Any takers . . .