Summary Synthesis #3

In chapter 11 of “What Writing Does and How It Does It” entitled “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Charles Bazerman discusses the power behind the various documents that make up our society; the meaningful social action contained within these texts and the multiple genres that group the various documents in our society together. According to Bazerman, all documents and texts fit together as “genre sets” within “genre systems” which ultimately make up systems of human activity. In the text Bazerman states that “Understanding the form and flow of texts in genre and activity systems can even help you understand how to disrupt or change the systems by the deletion, addition, or modification of a document type.” This quote sums up the vast power that these documents have on all of us in our day-to-day lives. In this section, Bazerman uses the example of a B.A program which requires a certain number of courses to complete the program. In that example, he explains how students will go through the necessary steps (and most times challenging) in order to receive a particular document. In short, Bazerman highlights the power of documents.

In chapter 9 of Scrolling Forward Levy, in a similar way that Bazerman does in What Writing Does and How It Does It, explores and expands upon the significant power that documents hold. In this section, we explore the idea of how each and every document in our lives are “tailored to operate within a particular sphere of life”. He cites examples such as receipts to regulate sales and transactions, cards to convey certain messages to people depending on the occasion, and to “sing the praises of the world” through lyrics. What Levy argues is that these documents are what constructs our understanding of reality. Levy states that “We create the material, social, symbolic, and spiritual environment we inhabit: we build cities; we tell stories; we manufacture goods; we develop knowledge of the world and ourselves; we fashion individual and group identities and ideologies. In short, we create culture”. These documents and all of their forms are what creates the reality of our society. This relates back to the ideas proposed by Bazerman in that they are describing the overall significance of written texts and documents. Both Levy and Bazerman argue that documents have the power to shape and mold the actions of people and track their progression.

In the following chapter of Scrolling Forward, Levy expands even further on the power of documents and their ability to construct and alter the reality of people. In this section, he recounts the story of house sitting for friends when an earthquake hit and how when he visited his friends home following the earthquake (and what he encountered that would later inspire this chapter of Scrolling Forward). He found on the table a line from the Bible that he was translating into English that read “God has set the earth on a firm foundation so it won’t shake”. What Levy conveys in this section is our reliance on documents, in this instance the Bible, in order to obtain stability in our day to day lives. In this section Levy states “So it isn’t hard to see great documents like the Bible, the Constitution, or the works of Plato and Shakespeare as sources of stability, providing meaning, direction, and reassurance in the face of life’s uncertainties”. Levy’s argument doesn’t only extend to religious texts but to everything in our society. This connects back to the point that Bazerman was making in chapter 11 of What Writing Does. We create and design our lives on the basis of these documents. Like Levy says, it gives us a sense of identity and stability.


Summary Synthesis Response 1

Summary-Synthesis Response 1


In Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color, Victor Villanueva examines the significance of language and its ability to stratify people on the basis of race by reflecting on his life as a young Puerto Rican man in Brooklyn. The core message of Bootstraps, which is centered around the authors experiences, sheds light on major disparities between the dominant group versus the minority group. Not only is this an autobiography but Villanueva includes various political and theoretical considerations to formulate his argument which uses his experiences as the guiding force. The minority group is described by Villanueva as the “other”. This included the African American students in his neighborhood and the other students of Latin American descent. All of these students were lumped together as the collective “other” who were socialized into believing that they could not accomplish certain things such as attending university. The idea that Villanueva wanted to emphasize was that through the use of language, he could break down the barriers that were built around him. Another prominent concept that is discussed in Bootstraps is the various forms bias that exists within the minority group. There’s the contrast between “immigrant” and “minority” bias which examines how immigrants tend to assimilate to the dominant group more easily then the minority group. Overall, Bootstraps discusses the power of composition and its ability to oppress various groups of people who cannot assimilate to the dominant group.


In the first chapters of Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness Krista Ratcliffe examines the power of listening as a rhetorical device when engaging in discourse. Rhetorical listening is described as “a trop for interpretive intervention and more particularly as a code for cross-cultural conduct” (Ratcliffe, 17). Rhetorical listening also takes into account the various biases that people may experience such as race and gender. Each bias carries the potential to limit a person’s ability to understand the ideas being presented. The chapter continues to explain how listening is commonly joined with critical reading but due to its complexity and depth, it requires its own comprehensive analysis. One of the major commonalities between Rhetorical Listening and Bootstraps is in the ultimate gain of engaging in rhetorical listening. When a person employs rhetorical listening, they are trying to understand a particular discourse that goes beyond their experiences. Bootstraps highlights the importance of composition and how the discourse that is accepted by the dominant group wasn’t shared with the people on his block. If a person engages in rhetorical listening, you’d be attempting to cross those cultural barriers that was created by language.

In chapter 3 of What Writing Does and How It Does It Ellen Barton discusses the basic concepts and approaches to discourse analysis. Discourse analysis is described as “a method for analyzing the ways that specific features of language contributes to the interpretation of texts and their various contexts” (Barton, 57).  Barton continues to explain that discourse analysis is created organically through the field of linguistics that is primarily focused on the structure of sentences. Barton would likely agree with the concepts presented in Bootstraps considering the similar purpose that is associated with discourse analysis. Barton explains that “discourse analysis looks at the ways in which language in different communicative events functions to create and reflect aspects of culture, including world views; his work also suggested that discourse analysts look at communication cross-culturally” (Barton, 60). This idea also relates directly to the ideas presented in Bootstraps. Understanding in terms of discourse analysis is developed from a broad scope and takes into account various factors.

Chapter 2 of Do You Speak American, the author begins to explore various types of dialects that are present in the American context. The author explores the stark contrasts in how people write versus how they speak. Depending on the region you’re from, they way to you communicate an idea could vary. However, the idea of changing dialects goes beyond just how people talk but is relevant for people trying to establish their identity. The author states that “Johnstone thinks this local accent, which is different from how people talk elsewhere, is really a way of identifying and affirming their place: they are talking about who they are and where they live and what it means to live here” (MacNeil, 45). This concept relates back to an idea presented in Bootstraps in which Villanueva states “A teacher would have to go a long way to understand and convey an understanding of all those where-at” (Villanueva, 2). Villanueva explains how the culture of the “other” was significantly different than that of the dominant group. They did not know about the “dialects of the prestige”. The context in which he grew up in was centered around a different way of speaking and sharing ideas than that of their counterparts. It went far beyond the way in which they spoke but the sense of unity that came from their shared dialects.

Chapter 3 of Composition and Cornell West explores the idea of critical literacy. Critical literacy is defined as “a social practice itself and as a tool for the study of other social practices” (West, 28). “It enables students to consider a wide array of ideological perspectives and develop facility in interrogating those positions” (West, 29). Critical literacy is designed to consider various ideologies and question the power structures that are in place. The author goes on to argue that language is crucial to liberation. The more that the text is interacted with, the more you can participate in the discourse. The ideas presented by Villanueva relates to the idea of critical literacy when discussing the disparities that the students from his block were facing. The way in which they had been socialized into believing that they would be unable to accomplish certain things can be challenged by engaging in the discourse. This idea is further exemplified when Villanueva discovers his passion for reading and writing.


  • How can engaging in discourse allow for a marginalized group be liberated? Are there examples of such?
  • Do minorities have to assimilate to the dominant groups form of composition? Is assimilation beneficial or detrimental?

Word Count: 1025

“This I Believe” Project Proposal

In the current administration, the integrity of the press has come into question. Dubbed as “fake news”, institutions that are charged with reporting on the truth and serving the people have faced undue scrutiny. Reporters play a vital role in our democratic system, and serve as almost an additional check to the government. From the publishing of the Vietnam Papers to the expose on President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, the press are crucial to maintaining a true democracy. I believe that the media, and the stories they tell, serve as additional protection for the citizens they serve.