The Brief Prose Reader: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing

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9780130494979: The Brief Prose Reader: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing

This brief reader helps users improve their ability to write on progressively more sophisticated levels by integrating learning tools that develop critical thinking and reading skills into every chapter. The selections are accompanied by clear, well-developed rhetorical introductions, sample essays, prewriting questions, and flexible writing assignments. Diversity is strongly emphasized through essays covering a broad range of contemporary topics portraying the universality of human experience as expressed through the viewpoints of men and women, many different ethnic and racial groups, and a variety of ages and social classes. For writers trying to compose professional pieces that express their feelings, thoughts, observations, and opinions.

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From the Back Cover:

Think Critically.

THE BRIEF PROSE READER helps you improve your ability to think, read, and write on progressively more sophisticated levels by integrating critical thinking and reading apparatus into every chapter and within the context of the rhetorical pattern you are studying.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Brief Prose Reader, like its full-length version, is based on the assumption that lucid writing follows lucid thinking, whereas poor written work is almost inevitably the product of foggy, irrational thought processes. As a result, our primary purpose in this book is to help students think more clearly and logically—both in their minds and on paper.

Furthermore, we believe that college students should be able to think, read, and write on three increasingly difficult levels:

  1. Literal—characterized by a basic understanding of words and their meanings;
  2. Interpretive—consisting of a knowledge of linear connections between ideas and an ability to make valid inferences based on those ideas; and
  3. Critical—the highest level, distinguished by the systematic investigation of complex ideas and by the analysis of their relationship to the world around us.

To demonstrate the vital interrelationship between reader and writer, our text provides students with prose models intended to inspire their own thinking and writing. Although studying rhetorical strategies is certainly not the only way to approach writing, it is a productive means of helping students become better writers. These essays are intended to encourage students to improve their writing through a partnership with some of the best examples of professional prose available today. Just as musicians and athletes richly benefit from studying the techniques of the foremost people in their fields, your students will grow in spirit and language use from their collaborative work with the excellent writers in this collection.

HOW THE TEXT WORKS

Each chapter of The Brief Prose Reader begins with an explanation of a single rhetorical technique. These explanations are divided into six sections that progress from the effect of this technique on our daily lives to its integral role in the writing process. Also in each chapter introduction, we include a student paragraph and a student essay featuring the particular rhetorical strategy under discussion. The essay is highlighted by annotations and underlining to illustrate how to write that type of essay and to help bridge the gap between student writing and the professional selections that follow. After each essay, the student writer has drafted a personal note with some useful advice for other student writers.

The essays that follow each chapter introduction are selected from a wide variety of well-known contemporary authors. Needless to say, "pure" rhetorical types rarely exist, of course, and when they do, the result often seems artificial. Therefore, although each essay in this collection focuses on a single rhetorical mode as its primary strategy, other techniques are always simultaneously at work. These selections concentrate on one primary strategy at a time in much the same way a well-arranged photograph highlights a certain visual detail, though many other elements function in the background to make the picture an organic whole.

Before each reading selection, we offer some material to focus the students' attention on a particular writer and topic before they begin reading the essay. This "prereading" segment begins with biographical information about the author and ends with a number of questions to whet the reader's appetite for the essay that follows. This section is intended to help students discover interesting relationships among ideas in their reading and then anticipate various ways of thinking about and analyzing the essay. The prereading questions forecast not only the content of the essay, but also the questions and writing assignments that follow.

The questions after each reading selection are designed as guides for thinking about the essay. These questions are at the heart of the relationship represented in this book among thinking, reading, and writing. They are divided into four interrelated sections that move students smoothly from a literal understanding of what they have just read, to interpretation, and finally to analysis.

After students have studied the different techniques at work in a reading selection, specific essay assignments let them practice all these skills in unison and encourage them to discover even more secrets about the intricate and exciting details of effective communication. Prewriting questions, designed to help students generate new ideas, precede three "Ideas for Discussion/Writing" at the end of each chapter. Most of the writing assignments themselves specify a purpose and an audience so that your students can focus their prose as precisely as possible. The word essay (which comes from the Old French essai, meaning a "try" or an "attempt") is an appropriate label for these writing assignments, because they all ask students to wrestle with an idea or problem and then attempt to give shape to their conclusions in some effective manner. Such "exercises" can be equated with the development of athletic ability: The essay itself demonstrates that your students can put together all the various skills they have learned; it also proves they can actually succeed at the "sport" of writing.

SOME UNIQUE FEATURES

  • The Brief Prose Reader is organized according to the belief that our mental abilities are logically sequential.

In other words, students cannot read or write analytically before they are able to perform well on the literal and interpretive levels. Accordingly, this book progresses from selections that require predominantly literal skills (Description, Narration, and Example) through readings involving more interpretation (Process Analysis, Division /Classification, Comparison/Contrast, and Definition) to essays that demand a high degree of analytical thought (Cause/Effect and Argument/Persuasion). Depending on your curriculum and the caliber of your students, these rhetorical modes can, of course, be studied in any order.

  • The Brief Prose Reader provides two Tables of Contents.

First, the book contains a Rhetorical Table of Contents, which includes a one- or two-sentence synopsis of the selection so you can peruse the list quickly and decide which essays to assign. An alternate Thematic Table of Contents lists selections by academic discipline.

  • The chapter introductions are filled with several types of useful information about each rhetorical mode.

Each of the nine rhetorical divisions in the text is introduced by an explanation of how to think, read, and write in that particular mode. Although each chapter focuses on one rhetorical strategy, students are continually encouraged to examine ways in which other modes help support each essay's main intentions.

  • Two separate student writing samples are featured in each chapter introduction.

The chapter introductions contain a sample student paragraph and a complete student essay that illustrate each rhetorical pattern. After each essay, the student writer has provided a thorough analysis, explaining the most enjoyable, exasperating, or noteworthy aspects of writing that particular essay. We have found that this combination of student essays and commentaries makes the professional selections easier for students to read and more accessible as models of thinking and writing.

  • Each chapter includes user-friendly checklists at the end of its introduction.

These checklists summarize the information in the chapter introduction and serve as references for students in their own writing tasks. Students should be directed to these lists as early in the course as possible.

  • The prereading material encourages interactive reading.

We precede each reading selection with thorough biographical information on the author and provocative prereading questions on the subject of the essay with space for students to respond in writing. Because our own experience suggests that students often produce their best writing when they are personally involved in the topics of the essays they read and in the human drama surrounding the creation of those essays, the biographies explain the real experiences from which each essay emerged, while the prereading questions ("Preparing to Read") help students focus on the purpose, audience, and subject of the essay. The prereading material also foreshadows the questions and writing assignments that follow each selection. Personalizing this preliminary material encourages students to identify with both the author of an essay and its subject matter, thereby engaging the students' attention and energizing their responses to the selections they read.

  • The essays in The Brief Prose Reader represent a wide range of topics and are committed to cultural and gender diversity.

The essays in this edition were selected on the basis of five important criteria: (1) high interest level, (2) currency in the field, (3) moderate length, (4) readability, and (5) broad subject variety. Together, they portray the universality of human experience as expressed through the viewpoints of men and women, many different ethnic and racial groups, and a variety of ages and social classes. The essays in this volume feature such provocative topics as discrimination, ethnic identity, job opportunities, aging, war, nature, self-esteem, the media, women's roles, prison life, time management, e-mail, romantic relationships, family values, immigration, physical handicaps, books and computers, and the writing process itself.

  • The "Argument and Persuasion" section (Chapter 9) includes two essays and one set of opposing-viewpoint essays.

The essays in Chapter 9 are particularly useful for helping students refine their critical thinking skills in preparation for longer, more sustained papers on a single topic. The first two essays in this chapter encourage Students to grapple with provocative issues that make a crucial difference in how we all live. Then the opposing viewpoint essays help students see coherent arguments at work from two different perspectives on a single issue. The essays in this chapter cover such timely topics as gun control, immigration, and the relationship between computers and books.

  • "Documented Essays: Reading and Writing from Sources" (Chapter 10) features a research paper in MLA documentation style.

By including a documented essay, we intend to clarify some of the mysteries connected with research and documentation and to provide interesting material for creating longer and more elaborate writing assignments. We offer a full range of apparatus for this selection, including a list of Further Reading and suggested topics for longer, more complex essays and research papers.

  • Four progressively more sophisticated types of questions follow each selection.

These questions are designed to help students move sequentially from various literal-level responses to interpretation and analysis; they also help reveal both the form and content of the essays so students can cultivate a similar balance in their own writing.

  1. Understanding Details—questions that test students' literal and interpretive understanding of what they have read;
  2. Analyzing Meaning—questions that require students to analyze various details in the essay;
  3. Discovering Rhetorical Strategies—questions that investigate the author's rhetorical strategies in constructing the essay;
  4. Making Connections—questions that ask students to find thematic and rhetorical connections among essays they have read.
  • The writing assignments ("Ideas for Discussion/ Writing") are preceded by Preparing to Write questions.

These questions are designed to encourage students to express their feelings, thoughts, observations, and opinions on various provocative topics. Questions about their own ideas and experiences help students produce writing that corresponds as closely as possible to the way they think.

  • The writing assignments seek to involve students in realistic situations.

The three writing assignments after each essay often provide a specific purpose and audience for the essay topic. In this manner, student writers are drawn into rhetorical scenes that carefully focus their responses to a variety of questions or problems. These prompts are designed for use inside or outside the classroom.

In addition, more writing assignments appear at the end of each chapter. They are divided into two categories, offering (1) more practice in a specific rhetorical mode and (2) assignments that focus on interesting contemporary topics regardless of rhetorical mode. In this way, you have a variety of prompts to choose from if you want your students to do additional writing at any time.

  • We offer our popular "Thinking, Reading, and Writing" section (Chapter 11) at the end of the text.

This chapter includes essays on writing for survival, reading fiction, and writing and technology. In addition to demonstrating all the rhetorical modes at work, these essays provide a strong conclusion to the theoretical framework of this text by focusing intently on the interrelationships among thinking, reading, and writing.

  • The book concludes with a glossary of composition terms (along with examples and page references from the text) and an index of authors and titles.

The glossary provides not only definitions of composition terms, b>zt also examples of these terms from essays in this book. The index lists both the author and title of each essay in the book. Both the glossary and the index serve as excellent reference tools for students as they progress through the material in the text.

WHAT SUPPLEMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

Available with The Brief Prose Reader is the Annotated Instructor's Edition for the full-length Prose Reader. Designed to help make your life in the classroom a little easier, the margins of the AIE are filled with many different kinds of supplementary material, including instructor comments on teaching the different rhetorical modes, provocative quotations, background information about each essay, definitions of terms that may be unfamiliar to students, a list of related readings from this text that can profitably be taught together, innovative teaching ideas, detailed answers to the questions that follow each selection, additional essay topics, and various revising strategies.

In addition to the Annotated Instructor's Edition, we have created the Instructor's Resource Manual with Quiz Book, which is available through the companion website (explained in the next paragraph). Related directly to the full-length Prose Reader, this manual identifies and discusses some of the most widely used theoretical approaches to the teaching of composition; it also offers innovative options for organizing your course, specific suggestions for the first day of class, a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of using different teaching strategies, and several successful techniques for responding to student writing. Next, it provides two objective quizzes for each essay in the full text to help you monitor students' mastery of the selection's v...

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