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Discovering Your Passion in the Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me

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Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

Most college freshmen are confused when they are asked to read or write academically. They expect what they have learned over the years in their English class to be the same as a college English class. After some time, they realize that what they have been taught and what they are used to doing or practicing are not the same as in college and that there are different sets of rules they are meant to follow. Students are most easily confused when they are trying hard to adjust to the requirements of a college writing class which also requires them to read.

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L. Lennie Irvin, Karen Rosenberg, and Sherman Alexie have been in this kind of situation and have been in a college setting long enough to know the things college freshmen are supposed to know in order to be successful in their reading and writing. These authors have the same goal, their goal is to help college students be successful in their reading and writing. They discuss in their piece how to comprehend the nature of college writing, how to read smarter and the experiences they had on reading and writing growing up. Irvin explains the types of assignments his audience, should expect, the skills and mentality they will need for a successful academic career, Rosenberg, on the other hand, gives college students whose reading assignments frustrates them guidance to help them read smarter not harder and Alexie focuses on his past and ways he mastered reading and writing to encourage anyone that reads his piece.

Irvin is an Associate Professor of English at San Antonio College and helped establish the San Antonio Writing Project. He has been involved or has written various articles, books, presentations and so on to help students understand the nature of college writing and the expectations associated with it. Irvin’s What is “Academic Writing”? explains the myths about writing, the types of assignments they should expect, and appeals to his audience to think about the writing situation and how they should go about it. Irvin’s text was to make his readers more aware of what their professors or instructors may expect from them in the prompts they will be given and provides them with tips on what they should be considering whiles answering the prompt. Who is the audience, what message is being implied, what is the purpose being achieved, what the occasion is, and what kind of documents can be used to back up the evidence are the questions Irvin makes clear his audience should be thinking of as they are writing rhetorically. He educates his audience on techniques or methods to use to obtain appropriate writing skills and for them to think about the writing situation and making their audience understand it too.

Irvin is known to write about academic writing that will help students have an idea of what college writings is about and what is expected from them. He noted that he struggled as a freshman in college with his writing, and because of this struggle, he has a unique perspective of understanding students with the same problems he faced. Because of his experience and achievements, Irvin can establish ethos, his credibility. The fact that he is an academic writer and has a good understanding of the rhetorical appeals, makes him more than able to give advice on the strategies that can be adopted in the writing process and how to develop a “writer’s sense” within the writing situation. He also makes his audience aware that they are not the only ones having a hard time with writing and even all successful writers struggled at some point whether as a freshman in college or as a college graduate. He makes his audience feel as if he is giving them information on college writing that could possibly save their lives. Lennie Irvin writes “I freely admit mu own past as a clueless freshman writer, and it’s out of this sympathy as well at twenty years of teaching college writing that I hope to provide you with something useful” (172).

Irvin’s audiences are more likely to listen and follow the advice and techniques he gives because as a successful writer he admitted to something that most writers do not like to admit to. Most writers do not want their readers to know that they once had trouble writing because they believe it could reduce their credibility.

Rosenberg is the Director of the Writing and Communication Center at the University of Washington-Bothell. She has published a few articles on academic writing and gender studies, reading, and pedagogy. Currently, she published a collective work called “Simulations and Social Empathy: Domestic Violence Education in the New Millennium”. In “Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources” Rosenberg describes ways college students can read smarter not harder. She advises students to get to know the structure of any scholarly article. In her piece, she gives her audience some ways and guidelines on how to go about reading any educated article. She explains the process of rhetorical reading, that is students must understand and engage in the texts they are reading to allow them to identify the ways the authors present their argument in a more explicit context. She makes students understand that when reading they must think of the connection between the author, the reader, and the text. Rosenberg successfully writes to her audience on ways to go about reading successfully.

Rosenberg in her article “Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources” she makes her audience understand that she loved to read until she started reading things she did not like, college reading. She shares a common ground with her audience when she began to talk about her eyes will usually tend to her surroundings, like the cute boy, when she was asked to read a long educational article. As she continued to read those scholarly articles she began to understand that the one way to not get bored of the readings assigned to us and for us to understand the message the writer is trying to put to across is to think as the reading as a communication between the reader and the writer. Rosenberg’s experiences with reading over the years make her able to define rhetorical reading as “A set of practices designed to help us understand how texts work and to engage more deeply and fully in a conversation that extends beyond the boundaries of any particular reading” (343). Her definition of rhetorical reading makes her audience understand how to properly go about their readings as she puts them in simple terms and not complicated ones like most writers would. Even though in her piece she appeals to her audience’s emotion by giving them relatable instances she also uses her career and achievements in reading and writing to make her instructions or guidance something her audience ought to follow.

Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer who has received a couple of awards as an author and on his poetry, and filmmaking. In his piece “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Me and Superman” he uses his past to describe his writing and how it has led him to who he is today. As a descent of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene tribe, he has a history of living on the reservation and later leaving to attend a white school. Because of his experience in living on and off the reservation, he writes as someone who has lived in two different worlds and therefore knows what to expect in both worlds. Alexie’s goal in this piece is to outline the cultures of both the Native Americans and Whites. He explains how he learned to read and write as a kid and how stereotyping of Native Americans has left many of the kids to decline education. His goal is to change the perception the whites have on Native Americans and to describe how he learned to read and write living in that situation.

Alexie in his piece persuades his audience by using his past to make his readers know the situations he was in as a kid and how he still found motivation and urge to learn to read and write. He emphasized the fact of how poor he was and how his parents had to work multiple jobs to be able to take care of him and his siblings. Sherman Alexie writes, “We lived on a combination of irregular paychecks, hope, fear, and government surplus food” (6). He makes his audience or readers know the level of how much he lacked as a kid and how in that situation he still taught himself to read. He makes his audience know that he did not let the way he was viewed by society stop him from being successful. Alexie makes it clear in his piece that reading can make a big difference in a person’s life and can save them from a life that will cause them to struggle. He also stated at the end of the piece that he became a teacher who traveled to the reservations to appeal to the students who do not take their readings seriously to make it part of them as it will help save their lives. He does not view reading as something that every person must be able to do as a form of entertainment but to prevent them from living a life of destitute.

Ethos is the appeal to credibility. Irvin, Rosenberg, and Alexie used ethos to bring their message across to their audience. Irvin used his background to convince his audience that he is more experienced in academic writing than they are. On page 172 of the Language Acts, Lennie Irvin writes, “I urge you to consider this class as a gift and make the most of it”. Even though he is making his advice to his audience seem like a gift, he is also making it seem as if he is in a more comfortable or a higher position to give them a kind of gift that is really important to their writing process in college. In the same way, Rosenberg establishes ethos by using her experience in reading. She makes it clear to the reader to be active and ask questions as they read. She gives her readers advice to understand why the professor wants them to read and what they are reading. While they are reading, they should understand what the writer’s message is and how they are conveying that message. Alexie does not use ethos in his piece as much as Irvin and Rosenberg did. The ethos he uses to appeal to his audience is him being able to teach himself to read and him being able to write books, articles, and presentations that other people can read too. 

Alexie uses pathos to appeal to his readers by making himself seem like the Native American boy who taught himself to read and was able to do it well and make a career out of it. Alexie stating the past about him living on the reservations, having to be poor and looked down on by other races causes his readers to feel pity for him. With the use of pathos, his readers can connect with him no matter what race they are as a young boy who thrived to succeed. “If he’d been anything but an Indian boy living on the reservation, he might have been called a prodigy. But he is an Indian boy living on the reservation and is simply an oddity” (Alexie 7). This makes the reader feel as if Alexie was cheated on in life because of his race and feel sorry for him for the circumstances he had to endure as a kid. At a young age, his determination and dreams were looked down on and not recognized because of his race. The other two authors also use pathos to appeal to their readers but not as much as Alexie did. Irvin used his experience as a college freshman to give advice to incoming freshmen on how to successfully go about their college writing. He gives his advice out as a gift that can be used at any time his readers will need it. His audience is more likely to feel appreciative of the generous gift he gives and is more likely to follow his advice. Rosenberg also used her past to influence her audience by making humor out of the time she was not able to read her assigned readings in college. She shared a common experience with her readers about how she would start thinking about other things or focus on her surroundings rather than what she will be reading. This allows Rosenberg’s readers to laugh at the commonality between them and her and how she is stating something they all do as they read. With that, they will be more comfortable accepting what she has in her article. 

Irvin and Rosenberg were both able to make their advice relevant to their readers by using their background as professors in college reading and writing. Both of their pieces were divided into different sections that made it easy to understand. Alexie uses pathos as his main appeal. He also wrote his piece in a story form to cause a smooth flow for the readers as they read. He also successfully gets his point across on how reading is essential to a person’s future.

Irvin, Rosenberg, and Alexie were very successful in getting their point across. They were able to use their knowledge and past experiences of reading and writing to influence their audience. The way the authors structured their pieces also have an impact on how the audience would process the information. Alexie is not able to have as much impact on his audience as the other two authors did.

Work Cited

  1. Irvin, L. Lennie. “What is ‘Academic’ Writing?” Language Acts, edited by Omar Montoya et. al., 3rd edition, Hayden McNeil, 2019, pp. 171- 183.
  2. Karen, Rosenberg. “Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources” Language Acts, edited by Omar Montoya et. al., 3rd edition, Hayden McNeil, 2019, pp. 341- 349.
  3. Sherman, Alexie. “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Me and Superman” Language Arts, edited by Omar Montoya et. al., 3rd edition, Hayden McNeil, 2019, pp. 5- 8.

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