Reflection: The RWD’s were the most important aspect of the course. The RWD’s introduced the main concepts of the course in addition to providing us practice with the concepts. The RWD’s changed my idea of what writing is through the ideas that we read about. I had never considered language as the source of all thought and reason until reading Richard Rorty. The readings of Fish and Curzan expanded the role of language and rhetoric in the world and more specifically argument.

My writing improved immensely from the first summary in RWD #1 to the last reading analysis done on Dr. David Osterholm’s podcast. The sentence exercises done in many of the RWDs played a large role in my writings improvement. I learned forms that I can implement in my writing. An important factor of the form used for the summaries (seen at the end of RWD #7) is its ability to work the exigence into the very beginning. As I improved my use of the forms, the ease at which I could work in exigence improved as well.

RWD #10

Osterholm’s View on the Current State of Coronavirus Fatigue in the United States

During episode 26, “Planes, Trains, or Automobiles” of the Osterholm Update, Osterholm argues that the United States is transitioning from only having Coronavirus fatigue and entering a new phase of Coronavirus fatigue that includes what he calls Coronavirus anger, resulting in people flouting Coronavirus regulations and guidelines. Much of the cause for Coronavirus anger is that many people do not personally know anyone who has contracted the Coronavirus, yet their lives have been affected in such a drastic way. According to Osterholm, there is “roughly a third of the population, it’s been estimated, that believes that this is just a hoax” and that these people believe “it’s just a political issue” (Planes, Trains, or Automobiles). As a result, these people have become angry that they have lost their lives and their economic security over something that they believe is not real. The recent disregard of Coronavirus restrictions has led to more cases. So many more cases that Osterholm says “if you look at across the country, this looks to me very much like what it looked like in early July” (Plains, Trains, or Automobiles). The result of Coronavirus anger mixed with Coronavirus fatigue is that the United States as a country has gone backward in its Coronavirus response. As the holidays come closer Osterholm warns of making plans early to accommodate for the Coronavirus to avoid contentious arguments because “some people will find any kind of restriction on what was normal holidays as being irresponsible and without a basis” (Plains, Trains, and Automobiles). According to Osterholm the Coronavirus situation is “not going to suddenly be magically different, if anything” (Plains, Trains, and Automobiles), meaning that the holidays are a prime time for Coronavirus anger and fatigue to have a great effect. 

Osterholm, Michael. “Planes, Trains, or Automobiles.” Osterholm Update, By Chris Dall, 2020.

RWD #9

In his “Universalist Grandeur and Analytic Philosophy,” Richard Rorty argues that because words do not have a set in stone meaning or definition, a greater conceptual clarity and the real truth can not be discovered, only new definitions. More specifically, achieving conceptual clarity is impossible and instead philosophers should strive to create a better story about the past.  For example, he writes, “the most important human activity is not attempting to get things right but reinterpreting and recontextualizing the past”. In other words, humans are not searching for a truth of the present but a better picture of the past. In sum, then, Rorty suggests reinterpreting the human story should be the goal, not understanding. 

In his “On Matters of Doubt” Lewis Thomas argues that science and the humanities have much in common, especially in the area of bewilderment. More specifically, Thomas argues that in both the humanities and science knowing more leads learning that there is so much more we have no understanding of.This is shown when he writes, “the more we learn, the more we are—or ought to be—dumbfounded” (Thomas). In other words, gaining knowledge should teach someone how little we actually know about the world. In sum, then, Thomas suggests that humans should continue as a species to strive for bewilderment.

“They do not have a place in a universal scheme of things, nor a special relation to the ruling powers of the universe.” 

  • “Universalist Grandeur and Analytical Philosophy” (Richard Rorty)

This is a striking essay because it attacks a notion that many people believe very deeply in. Much of religion is based on the idea that humans play a central role in the universe and are connected to a higher power. The idea that humans are not special is an idea that frightens many people. If humans are not special in the universal scheme of things, then essentially anything that they do has no meaning in the end. I am impressed by this sentence because of how open it is to essentially denying the existence of a higher being, or at least in the way we most commonly see it. Stating that humans as a species have no more significance in the grand scheme of things than any other being such as a fly is a very bold statement. 

RWD #8

Fish on Plagiarism: An Issue of Academic Rules, Not Morals

In his “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal,” Stanley Fish attacks the notion that plagiarism is based on a moral philosophy of originality, and instead presents plagiarism as rules that must be professionally followed. For Fish, then, tThe philosophical arguments claiming that plagiarism can not be committed because there is no true originality fail because the idea plagiarism is not based in philosophy. In fact, according to Fish, “the ground plagiarism stands on is more mundane and firm” and that it is in “the ground of disciplinary practices” (“Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal”). In other words, the basis for plagiarism is the discipline’s own rules. Depending on the field, what constitutes plagiarism changes because those are the rules that those fields have created. Therefore, no philosophical argument can affect plagiarism, because “everyday disciplinary practices do not rest on a foundation of philosophy or theory; they rest on a foundation of themselves.” Plagiarism exists as a practice because without it institutions would not be able to function. Just as criminal law can only exist with the assumption of choice (Fish, “Political Arguments” 10), many institutions can only exist with the assumption of originality. Plagiarism is a result of this assumption of originality, not the result of a moral belief. As long as people maintain this assumption of originality, plagiarism will continue to be something that is punished. In conclusion, Fish argues that plagiarism can not be attacked from a moral or philosophical standpoint, because the argument of plagiarism is not built on moral or philosophical grounds. 

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal.” The New York Times, 9 Aug, 2010, Accessed 3 Oct, 2020.

Fish, Stanley. “Political Arguments.” Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom, Harper, 2016.

While most people view plagiarism as a moral issue, Fish argues that plagiarism is based on the assumption of originality that is necessary to maintain many institutions. 

While many people believe that dictionaries are the determinants of what is a word, Curzan claims that dictionary editors are simply trying to keep up with the changes in language usage in our society. 

RWD #7

An Analysis of Fish’s Views on Case Law

In his“Legal Arguments”, Stanley Fish argues that because there are almost an unlimited number of ways to form an argument and use pieces of evidence, case law has and needs specific rules on what is considered usable evidence, creating what he calls  “enabling fictions,” where lawyers then argue. For criminal case law to be impartial, a fiction has to be created that presents everyone as being equal (Fish 5). In addition, for criminal law to exist, there has to be a narrow time frame that is examined. If a wider time frame is examined, it can no longer be assumed that people “author their actions and are therefore responsible for them” (Fish 10). A broad time frame opens up the argument that the cause of a person’s actions is not their decision, but the experiences that they have had in life, indicating that the person in question did not have the ability to act in free will. If a broad time frame is used, there is no point in criminal law because there is “no intentional act to fault or criminalize” (Fish 10). Fish expands on the idea that all legal arguments involve “some authorized institutional fiction” (Fish 6) when discussing First Amendment Law. He claims that there is a fictional distinction between speech and action, which without First Amendment Law would not exist (Fish 6). Further evidence of the fictional distinction between speech and action is provided by the fact that an action can be designated by law as speech, and speech can be designated as an action. The back and forth nature of judicial decisions “is evidence of the malleability of the speech/action distinction” (Fish 8). In other words, speech’s ability to be considered action and action as speech goes to show that the distinction between the two is subjective and is created by a judges interpretation of the arguments. The distinction between speech and action relies not on the speech or action that occurred, but on the lawyers arguing the case and the judges hearing it. 

Works Cited

Fish, Stanley. “Political Arguments.” Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom, Harper, 2016.

Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word”: Word Meanings Come From Context

In her “The Meanings of a Word,” Gloria Naylor argues that the meaning of a word can change within different contexts, becoming something positive or negative, depending on the situation. As she puts it, “it is the consensus that gives [words]them true power”; (Naylor). In each situation that a word is used in, there is a consensus of what the underlying meaning of the word is. For example, Naylor explains that in certain situations the n-word could be “applied to a man who had distinguished himself in some situation” (Naylor).” When the n-word is used in this context, there is an understanding that it is not a derogatory term, but a term that demonstrates pride in someone who has accomplished something significant. When used as a possessive adjective, the n-word can be viewed as a term of endearment between a woman and her man (Naylor). In each situation the same word is being used, but it carries a different significance. This context becomes very important for Naylor when she discusses the first time she heard the n-word used in a negative way. Every time before that she had heard the n-word in her life, she had heard it being used in a way that “rendered it impotent” (Naylor). Now it was being used as a “way to humiliate” (Naylor) her. This distinction between the effect that a word can have on a person highlights the importance of context when deciphering the meaning of a word. Who uses a word and when a word is said has as big of an importance as the sounds that come out of a person’s mouth. In sum, words do not receive their power from the actual sounds that are made to say them, but from the intention and feelings of the person from which they were spoken. 

Works Cited

Naylor, Gloria. “Meanings of a Word.” New York Times, 1986


While many arguments exist with no rules on what can and cannot be used to persuade, Fish argues that there is a necessity for fictional rules to be put in place in the case of law, because without, law would be unable to function. 


While many people believe that words are given their meaning by an object or characteristic they are assigned to, Naylor believes that in many cases context creates the meaning of a word, and in different contexts the same word can have different meanings. 

His soul swooned as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their end, upon all the living and the dead.

Her sight sharpened as she saw the horses rumbling slowly across the field and slowly rumbling, like the drums of their tribe, into all the hearts and the minds.

A silver-and-sable skybab squirrel sat sampling a cone on the back of a bench.

A strong-and-nimble husky ran chasing a squirrel in the outskirts of a park.

The intentions of these sentences are to describe something using a unique sentence structure. In the first sentence the repetition of faintly falling but backwards helps connect the descent of their end to the way snow falls. In the second sentence the squirrel is given many humanoid characteristics. This is very different from mine, because in my sentence the dog is simply acting like a dog. Most humans would not chase a squirrel. What I found interesting about the second sentence is the use of silver-and-sable, which is referring to a part of hamlet. This characteristic adds an extra dimension to the squirrel being described. The use of silver-and-sable skybab squirrel is a very unique way of describing the squirrel found at the north rim of the grand canyon. Most people have never seen these unique squirrels, and making a reference to Hamlet can help readers to picture the coloring of these squirrels. 

1 minute self-assessment

I believe that one thing I have done well in college so far is grasping the ideas that have been taught, one thing that I need to improve on is making sure I know the finer details of what I am learning.

RWD #5/6

In your own Google group Google docs, discuss the following (you can communicate via slack on how you all want to accomplish this. You needn’t all do it together as a group, I don’t think. I particularly don’t want those of you who live in distant zones to work synchronously unless that’s just want you want to do):  

Obviously, you all could treat this as a hoop jumping exercise, but I hope you’ll use this as an opportunity instead to really kind of discuss these issues amongst yourselves and share your ideas and concerns and uncertainties and so on. The more you all can push this, the more we can all learn from each other. 

  • In my individual conferences with you all, many of you have raised some fascinating and important questions and concerns about the implications of these texts. 

I want to use this space for you to ask those questions and share those concerns. So what questions does your group have about the readings? Come up with as many as you can. If some group has already stated a question you have, then try to expand on it or come at it a little differently. Let’s not repeat the same questions over and over cause obviously. 

  • Look at the Chapter 1 Fish text “Living in a World of Argument” and answer one or two of the annotations Tagged: Discussion or Step 5. 
  • Choose a reading or two in the #applied_readings channel and annotate moments that relate to a text or texts we’ve read so far. Let’s begin focusing on how these ideas play out in the lived world. 
  • Take all the asynchronous class docs (ways to connect ICs; comma patterns; and the answers to how you knew how to complete the mad libs and making sentences) and see if you all can come to any resolutions on how you knew how to do it. 
  • Take a look at your reading summaries from RWD 1 and those after. How do you all feel the template changes your approach to the text? What does that say about the relationship between “form” and “content”? 

1) Generate as many questions as you can about the ideas each of these writers has raised. Try to ask at least two (but more if possible!) for each essay / chapter we’ve read so far this semester, including the ones from RWD 1. We’ll work with these questions later, so really attack these articles hard. Be obstinate about it. Push the texts as hard as you can from as many perspectives as you can. 

******are we supposed to put these questions here, or just in the annotations?

2) Consolidate—with textual examples from essays we’ve read thus far—your answers to the 4 Ways to connect ICs. Hint: Three are punctuation marks, and one is a word type. 

*****what are the four ways to connect ICs???

  1. IC.  IC 
    1. Ex: “We moralize reading.  Reading is an unquestioned good.” (Boyle, “…something like a reading ethics…”)
  2. IC, and/but IC
    1. Ex: “But Hegel phrased his doctrines in terms of the Platonic-Cartesian distinction between material and immaterial being, and he was inspired by the hope of transcending the finite human condition.” (Rorty, “Getting Rid of the Appearance-Reality Distinction, p. 77)
  3. IC: IC “Let me be more specific: what are white people to do now that they know that they know what Amy Cooper knows — assuming they want to do anything?” (Massingale, The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It)
  4. IC; IC
    1. Ex: “The career of argument is always running ahead of the intentions and desires of those who engage in it; as an arguer you’re always playing catch-up, trying to deal with the twists and turns you had not anticipated.” (Fish, “Living in a World of Argument”, p.2 (pdf p. 4))

3) Consolidate—with textual examples from essays we’ve read thus far—your answers to the 5 main comma patterns. Hint: One will come from the list above. 

*****what are the five main comma patterns

  1. Listing

Ex: “––the City of Paris, the State of Iowa, Cambridge University, Woods Hole, the succession of travertine-lined waterfalls…––” (Thomas, “The Wonderful Mistake”)

  1. Joining two independent clauses

Ex: “The argument that we need to disseminate information about dialects is far from original, and recent years have witnessed the publication of many important books that tackle dialect issues in informed and often very accessible ways…” (Curzan, “Teaching the Politics of Standard English”, p. 3)

  1. Joining an introductory dependent clause with an independent clause

Ex: “In my courses about the English language, I have used this column and the responses to it to talk with students about attitudes toward American dialects and standard English.” (Curzan, “Teaching the Politics of Standard English”, p. 2)

  1. Introducing a quote

Ex: “Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan certainly thought so when he famously said, ‘You are entitled to your own opinions….’” (Fish, “Political Arguments”, p. 1)

  1. Including dates

Ex: “The controversy was reignited on June 18, 2014, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the name ‘Redskins’ was a slur disparaging to a racial minority and could no longer enjoy federal trademark protection.” (Fish, “Political Arguments”, p. 3)

4) Discuss—and put into a group google doc—how the template changed your approach to the text (RWD 1 to the rewrite in RWD 2). 

In my RWD 1, our responses were much more emotionally charged and stream-of-consciousness styled.  Added the template in RWD 2 helped us to focus less on our own opinions toward the writings and more on the structure of the writings and the arguments they put forth. Templates helped focus the piece but limited our creativity. We were forced to focus our attention on one main point.

5) Discuss—and put your thoughts in a group g doc—Casey Boyle’s point about Legere in his . . . something like a reading ethics . . .  What are the implications of legere  in terms of “reading” and “writing” and “temporality.” The point isn’t to come up with a perfect answer; rather, the point is to thoughtfully speculate.

(from Boyle’s piece) “… the Latin word for reading ‘lego, legere’ means simultaneously ‘to read’ and ‘to choose’…”

We thought it was interesting that Boyle brought this up.   We did not realize that reading and choosing were the same word in Latin.  When Boyle mentioned certain cognates, such as “selection”, it made sense.  “Selection” can relate to choices, but it can also relate to a particular set of writings.  We think that Boyle included this to support his proposition that when looking at academic writings, we should not read word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence.  Rather, we should choose points in the reading to focus on, think critically about, and respond to. 

6) Choose one of the essays in #applied_readings and try to apply it to an idea you’ve encountered so far in this class. 

 The article “Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live” stood out to me because it talks a lot about “pattern recognition”.  It gives the example of seeing a lion.  The first time we see a lion, we have no idea what it is.  The more often we see images of lions, the better our brain gets at recognizing them.  This reminds me a bit of the asynchronous work we did with making sentences in the “Structure 2 Ways” document.   In one exercise, we were given the words “green”, “furiously”, “ideas”, “colorless”, and “sleep” and told to arrange these words into a sentence.  I did this automatically without thinking about why I put certain words where I did.  This is a similar sort of pattern recognition, I think, as the one discussed in the article.  The first time my brain analyzed a written English sentence, I had to be taught parts of speech and the general structure of an English sentence in order to figure it out.  Now, I have seen so many written English sentences that my brain can recognize patterns without thinking, just like we can see a lion and know that it’s a lion without thinking about why.  When I saw the words given to us, my brain automatically arranged them into a sentence because of this sort of pattern recognition.  It was not until we were asked why we came up with the order that we did, that I actually thought about how I knew where to put the words.

7) Discuss your answers in this exercise

 (Links to an external site.)

 and this exercise

 (Links to an external site.)

: how did you all know how to do what you did? And try to guess the point the exercises are trying to make. 

We knew how to do what we did by creating a context around the words and by using the words in a grammatically logical way. The point of the exercise was to understand how we put words together, taking into account both context and grammar. For the first exercise, where taking a set of unrelated words and creating a context around them that made a sentence. In the second exercise, we were tasked with placing the seemingly unrelated words into a logical sentence. This made us focus on what each word was actually doing in the sentence, and the relationships between each of the words.

RWD #4

In his  “The Wonderful Mistake”, Lewis Thomas argues that nature’s greatest achievement has been the perfect imperfectness of DNA. More specifically, DNA’s ability to make errors is what has made it such an effective molecule for advancing life. For example, he writes, “the capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA.” In other words, DNA’s ability to make mistakes when being replicated allows it to have random mutations which have then led to the development of life as we know it. For Thomas then, errors are not a failure but a way to discover new things that were not even thought to be possible.

In chapter two of his novel Winning Arguments, Stanley Fish explains how opinions and facts are argued and made through politics. More specifically, he describes what it takes for an opinion to cross over the line and become a fact. For example, he writes, “you are entitled to your own facts if you can make them stick.” In other words, if you can defend your opinion well enough from attacks, it can then become a fact. For Fish then, the difference between an opinion and a fact is how persuasively an opinion can be argued.

RWD #3

In her “Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar” Anne Curzan argues that students should be taught to question everything they are taught, including grammar and standard english. More specifically, standard english should not be taught as the only proper way to write, and students should question the reasoning behind which standard english has been created.  For example, she writes “who said we can’t write they?” In other words, she is insisting that students and teachers should question the reasoning behind the rules of standard english.  In sum, then, Curzan suggests students should be taught how the rules of standard english have been created so they can then decide whether or not it is truly necessary to follow the current grammatical beliefs.

In his “Living In a World of Argument” Fish argues that authority is a rhetorically made construct that can be broken simply by creating doubt. More specifically, to win an argument against a seemingly impeachable authority, it is necessary to make others doubt the legitimacy of the argument of authority being presented. For example, he writes “simply by subjecting the divine prohibition to the mild interrogation of “Indeed?” Satan opens up a space of doubt that he then fills with alternative readings of God’s utterance”. In other words, Satan created doubt out of a doubtless command simply by saying indeed.  In sum, then,  Fish suggests anything can be argued with. All that is needed is a skilled rhetorician who is able to create doubt.

The common idea being shared between Fish’s “Living in a World of Argument” and Anne Curzan’s “Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar” is authority is not final. In writing, the grammar rules of Standard English are seen as the ultimate source of authority of what and how someone may write. For much of her work, Anne Curzan attacks this notion, suggesting that other dialects of English are just as valid and that students “should not accept ‘Because’ as an appropriate answer if a student asks, ‘Why do I have to write this way?’” (Curzan 3). Curzan is creating doubt in the notion that Standard English is the end-all in formal writing. Just as the serpent creates doubt by asking Indeed? (Fish 14,15), Curzan is creating doubt by making why an acceptable question to ask. Consequently, the teacher now must provide a reason-based argument as to why this rule must be followed. The burden of persuasion now falls on the teacher’s shoulders. Because, “failure, at least as a possibility,  is a  condition of argument” (Fish 7), the teacher has the possibility of failing to argue the necessity of the rule persuasively. No longer is the authority of Standard English grammar unimpeachable. Its authority has been doubted. Curzan fills the new space created by doubt with her own belief that “English teachers have a responsibility to foster systematic, informed, and reflective knowledge about the English language” (Curzan 10) instead of simply forcing students to follow a laid out set of rules. Curzan is changing the grammar rules for Standard English from a formal authority on how to write to a writing guide. While “written Standard English has a more extensive formal vocabulary and set of stylistic conventions, given its use in formal writing,” that does not make it “structurally better than other varieties of English” (Curzan 8). Standard English is an effective tool for writing, but aspects of other English dialects are acceptable to use as well.

RWD #2

In her “Teaching New Worlds / New Words,” hooks argues that language can be used as both a tool to oppress and to liberate. More specifically, Hook argues that standard english has been used as a means to oppress people of color but by changing the way the language is used, people of color turn the language into a tool to resit white oppression.  For example, she writes “I imagine, then, Africans  first  hearing  English  as  “the  oppressor’s  language” and then re-hearing it as a potential site of resistance”. In other words, Hooks points to the realization that Africans had that english could be used as a language of resistance, instead of it only being the oppressive standard english. In sum, then,  Hooks suggests that Africans were able to take something that symbolizes the oppression they face and create their own symbol of resistance. 

In his “The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It,” Father Massingale argues that Amy Cooper’s action illuminates the privilege in white America. More specifically, he argues that by analyzing Amy Cooper’s thought process, it is seen how white recognize and expect their privilege.  For example, when describing why Amy Cooper did what she did, he writes that “the fundamental assumption behind all the others is that white people matter, or should matter, more than people of color.” In other words, Amy Cooper acted the way she did because she believes what she says has more value than what he, a black man, says simply because she is white. In sum, then,  Massingale suggests that why people need to recognize systematic racism and that “by being white you could make things hard — much harder — for others.” Once this is recognized white people then must start having discussions about topics of race, and begin feeling discomfort. When there are enough people who are angry at the system that hold racism in place, then people can start making change. He advocates for white people to educate themselves on racism and to check other whites when they act racist. While much of what Massingale suggests for whites to do seems minuscule and insignificant, he ends by saying “just because we cannot do everything doesn’t mean we should not do something.”

While many  people believe they should read the entirety of a text, Boyel argues that people should view reading as a “map” and instead focus on one particular part of the text to respond to. 

While many people believe that there is a distinction between Appearance and Reality, Rorty argues that instead of arguing over what is really real people should reject the idea of a real real all together and instead focus on expanding our imaginations to improve the poem by which we see the world, creating a better poem for our descendents to experience the world in. 

RWD #1

The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It Summary

“The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It” begins by highlighting the recent injustices happening to people of color in the past few months, and then transitions to the case of Amy Cooper. By going through the thought process of Amy Cooper as she called the police on an innocent black man, Massingale highlights the privilege that Amy Cooper feels entitled to. Amy Cooper feels that a black man doesn’t have the right to tell her what to do. Amy Cooper feels that as a white woman her word would be worth more. This all highlights the belief that “white people matter, or should matter, more than people of color.” Massingale then goes on to discuss the ways of whiteness. He illuminates the fact that white people hold power over the lives of colored people. That we live in a country favored toward white people and that white people know this and many times exploit it. He then moves on to discuss what to do with this information. The first thing that Massingale says to do is to recognize the difference between feeling uncomfortable and threatened and “the only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it.” Massingale advocates for people to let the discomfort caused by these discussions to stew and to let it become anger. Once there are enough people who are angry at the system that hold racism in place, then people can start making change. People need to actively educate themselves on the issue of racism. Without an understanding of how the racist system in the United States was created and functions, people will not be able to create change. Massingale ends the article by asking people to confront their family and friends and to be unconditionally pro-life. Many of the conversations that preserve racism in the United States are between white people. By checking other white people, whites will no longer assume that other white people will always support them when they are being racist. For many acting in this way might not seem like enough. But as Father Massingale puts it, “just because we cannot do everything doesn’t mean we should not do something.” 

Hook Summary

The chapter “Teaching New Worlds / New Words” is centered around the idea that language is used as both a tool to oppress, and as a tool to resist. Standard english for many stands as a symbol of colonialism and oppression of minorities. Standard english is described as “the language of conquest and domination.” An example used throughout the chapter was the experiences of slaves when they were first brought to the Americas. When slaves were first brought to the auction block, Hooks describes the fear that comes from not understanding english. A fear from not understanding the language of those oppressing them. The lack of a common language among the slaves left them without the sense of community. After describing the effects that the oppressive language had on slaves, Hooks then transitions to discuss the power that slaves found by learning english, and creating their own way of speaking english. Slaves were able to take a language and change it to fit their own personal experiences, as they did in their spirituals. Hooks describes this as “in the incorrect usage of words, in the incorrect placement of words, was a spirit of rebellion that claimed language as a site of resistance.” As Hook comments on modern day usage of black vernacular, she lobbies for the use of black vernacular in academic settings. Black vernacular needs to be seen as something more than just “the speech of those who are stupid or who are only interested in entertaining or being funny” in contemporary popular culture, otherwise it will loose its power. In Hook’s personal life, she struggled to incorporate black vernacular into writing. Most times the editor would return her work with it translated into standard english. Not only did Hook begin to use black vernacular in her writing, but also her teaching. As she encouraged students to use their first language in her class, she found that the white students became uncomfortable and unable to understand black vernacular. The chapter is concluded with Hook highlighting the fallacy of understanding something in its entirety, but that we can understand something by parts and fragments. She advocates for the use of passion in language and to “make English do what we want it to do.”