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Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies

Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies

Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines

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Laura Wilder


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
248 pages, 6 x 9, 4 illustrations


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About the Book

Laura Wilder fills a gap in the scholarship on writing in the disciplines and writing across the curriculum with this thorough study of the intersections between scholarly literary criticism and undergraduate writing in introductory literature courses. Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies is the first examination of rhetorical practice in the research and teaching of literary study and a detailed assessment of the ethics and efficacy of explicit instruction in the rhetorical strategies and genre conventions of the discipline.

Using rhetorical analysis, ethnographic observation, and individual interviews, Wilder demonstrates how rhetorical conventions play a central, although largely tacit, role in the teaching of literature and the evaluation of student writing. Wilder follows a group of literature majors and details their experiences. Some students received experimental, explicit instruction in the special topoi, while others received more traditional, implicit instruction.

Arguing explicit instruction in disciplinary conventions has the potential to help underprepared students, Wilder explores how this kind of instruction may be incorporated into literature courses without being overly reductive. Taking into consideration student perspectives, Wilder makes a bold case for expanding the focus of research in writing in the disciplines and writing across the curriculum in order to grasp the full complexity of disciplinary discourse.


Laura Wilder is assistant professor of English at the University at Albany-SUNY and has published essays in Rhetoric Review and Written Communication.


“What exactly are the rhetorical strategies of literary criticism, and how can they best be taught? This book tells us, applying a sure grasp of theory to rich empirical case studies.”—John L. Schilb, Culbertson Chair of Writing and professor of English, Indiana University

“As some current writing theorists have it, literary critics do not share any rhetorical conventions in common, or if they do these conventions can’t be explicitly taught, or they should not be taught lest we impose an oppressive dominant discourse on students. These views are devastatingly refuted by Laura Wilder’s well-researched book. As Wilder shows, literary critics (and academic writers generally) do employ a common set of conventions, and if we fail to teach these conventions explicitly, we simply hide the secrets of success.”—Gerald Graff, University of Illinois at Chicago, author of Clueless in Academe