Writing About Writing (p. 1-21)
“Argument as Conversation” by Stuart Greene
In “Argument as Conversation,” Stuart Greene attempts to convince readers that argument is conversation. The audience is composed of students and Greene’s focus is explaining that an argument is not a dispute, but rather an ongoing discussion. Greene’s reasons for questioning this writing construct include the historical context behind any given argument and the fact that engaging in and leaving an argument does not mean that it is over. He also introduces his view on framing and research as inquiry, cites other authors, such as Kenneth Burk, and writes in the way he is describing (or practices what he preaches). To Greene, the dialogue related to an argument justifies it being a conversation.
“Before you read” Excercise:
I define an argument as a conflict or an upsetting conversation. I’d say that in everyday conversation, “argument” would be a bit of a buzz kill. In mostly everyone’s eyes, and argument is a negative thing. However, in academic setting, I feel that the word argument refers to an opinion or a view on a particular topic- not necessarily a dispute. The difference between an “everyday argument” and an “academic argument” is that the later is more civil.
Questions for Discussion and Journaling:
2. Greene used an oft-quoted passage by Kenneth Burke in his work titled, “Argument as Conversation.” I feel the answer as to why Greene did this lies in his choice of title. The passage outlines a story of a man walking into an on-going argument, listening, formulating his own opinion on what he has heard thus far, engaging in the argument, and then finally leaving even though the argument continues. The argument itself is a conversation. Greene used the quote as an example of historical context, or the dialogue behind the argument. By using Burkes passage, Greene is demonstrating that the conversations that happened previous to the man walking in to the argument are part of the argument’s historical context. According to Greene, every argument has a historical context and by using this passage he could support his own argument while providing an image for the reader to relate to.
Burke’s passage is essentially a metaphor about writing. A writer does not start from scratch; they walk into a topic that had started long before they arrived just as the man walked into an on-going argument. The writer has to do his research before formulating their opinion, just as the man listened to the argument before he made his. A writer makes their mark in the argument by producing a work to persuade the readers and by opening a door to anyone else who has an inquiry on the topic, just as the man left the argument and made room for someone else. From my personal point of view, I think Burke’s explanation is very accurate and is a great way to paint the picture of writing as conversation.
3. The concept of framing in terms of writing is fairly simple. Framing is essentially an organizing strategy in which a writer outlines their work by identifying their position for a particular argument, explaining the particular notion they derived from the argument, and specifying any details about the topic at hand. The idea is that a writer can utilize framing to “orchestrate different and conflicting voices,” as Greene explained it. Framing is important to Greene because he uses it in his own work, and it is a good way to structure any writing. Also, Greene explains framing as “a strategy of critical inquiry.” He states that framing is a way to present ideas and also a way to unveil ideas.
The metaphor underlying framing is the “lens” metaphor. This metaphor shows that framing is like the lens a writer looks through when writing, or like the perspective they use while writing their argumentative piece.
Overall framing is a critical strategy in writing that allows a writer to put into perspective all the key points of an argument in an organized fashion while sharing ideas and connecting to the reader.
Applying and Exploring Ideas
2. Greene’s article is a conversation. He framed his article knowing that his perspective was going to be viewed by an audience of college readers such as myself. So, in turn, the article is a conversation with the reader, ultimately the person he is presenting his framework to. With that said, it is clear that Greene certainly writes what he preaches. In paragraph 3 (p. 11), Greene states, “…you will need to support your claims with evidence in order to persuade readers to agree with you.” Shortly after, he demonstrated his own advice with the use of Kenneth Burke’s passage. That was his way of practicing what he was preaching and providing his evidence to me, the reader. All in all, I would have to say that Greene’s framing was successful and his conversation with me was effective. It was clear to understand his claims and his overall argument about writing because he was executing his own statements.
My Personal Thoughts:
In my opinion, I did not particularly like this article at first. Perhaps that was because it was my first assignment this year for college, or maybe because it actually challenged what I wanted to believe. I did not like that someone was telling my that the definition I have always known for “argument” was actually false. However, the more I read, the more I understood. By the end of that article I was completely interested in the conversation, or argument, I was having with the text. It helped me understand so much more about how to write, how to read, and how to do research that actually had a meaning to me. My previous experiences with challenge texts have never ended this well. I actually agree with this writer- mostly because I know that reading exactly what he was preaching about will help me in my future writing endeavors. For once, I enjoyed an assigned reading.