The World is a Text: The Writing, Reading, and Thinking About Culture and Its Contexts (2nd Edition)

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9780131931985: The World is a Text: The Writing, Reading, and Thinking About Culture and Its Contexts (2nd Edition)

The book teaches readers the usefulness of learning to actively "read" their surroundings. The new edition features a greatly expanded section on writing, editing, and making arguments. This cultural studies reader directly engages the process of writing about the "texts" one sees in everyday life. Its comprehensive and inclusive approach focuses on the relationship between reading traditional works–such as short stories, and poems–and other less-traditional ones–such as movies, the Internet, race, ethnicity, and television. For anyone who enjoys provocative and engaging material, and is interested in developing an appreciation for diverse cultural literary works.

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From the Back Cover:

Writing, Reading, and Thinking About Culture and Its Contexts

The new cultural studies reader is devoted to teaching you how to "read" all kinds of texts. Its comprehensive and inclusive approach focuses on the relationship between reading traditional works (short stories and poems) and less traditional ones (movies, the Internet, television, etc.), as well as encourages you to read the everyday world around you.

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

From an early age, we are readers, both of so-called traditional texts—fiction, poetry, and drama—and nontraditional texts-movies, television, and especially people. While the schooling process focuses on the former, our everyday living focuses on the latter.

As a human being, this type of reading is crucial for being an active participant in the world. But too often this "informal" reading is given short shrift in the classroom. While we agree that training in reading traditional texts such as novels, short stories, poetry, and plays is a crucial aspect of an education, perhaps the crucial aspect, we also believe that the methods used in learning to read traditional texts can be applied to nontraditional ones as well—with the overall goal of understanding the world around us and reducing the distance between the classroom and the "real world."

Our book comes out of these ideas. While there are many popular culture readers out there, good ones in fact, we never quite found the book we wanted; one that focused on the classroom experience and the writing situation. We think the classroom should be a dynamic place, and we think writing and discussion is crucial to learning how to think. The World Is a Text is as much a book for teachers as it is for students in that regard. We hope that our questions, introductions, and exercises give teachers the tools they need to teach students how to write with clarity and intelligence, to read more actively and astutely, and finally to engage the world more actively. While all three missions are crucial, the first two are clearly more aimed at academic achievement. The last we think is critical in our missions as teachers. We believe students who read their worlds more actively are not only better students, but better citizens of the world.

For its pedagogy, The World Is a Text relies on a modified semiotic approach; it is based on the assumption that reading occurs at all times and places. It also relies on traditional critical skills employed by literary scholars and the generally contextual approach employed by cultural studies scholars. The book also features a sophisticated way of thinking about texts, writing, and the rhetorical moment. Taking as its major theoretical framework I.A. Richards' claim that rhetoric is a philosophic inquiry into how words work in discourse, The World Is a Text considers how various texts enact rhetorical strategies and how students might begin not only to recognize these strategies but write their own. Textual analysis (reading) and textual formation (writing) jointly contribute to the larger process of knowledge making. Thus, The World Is a Text is interested in helping students to ask not simply what something means but how something means.

And because knowledge making requires knowledge of how we make arguments and sentences and theses and assertions, this book goes one step further than similar readers in that, in our experience, writing remains a secondary concern for most anthologies. One of our goals is to make the writing experience a vital part of the entire book from the introduction, to the section on writing, to each individual reading. For instance, Section I, "The World Is a Text: Writing" takes a comprehensive approach to the various stages of the writing process. We walk students through selecting a topic, brainstorming, outlining, developing a thesis, and revising. We offer help with research and citation. We even provide a unique chapter on making the transition from high school to college writing. One of our goals is to help students make these connections between reading and writing, thinking and writing, revising and revisioning.

The World Is a Text also has its focus in encountering media and texts in general; each chapter has questions that encourage students not only to respond to readings but the texts and media themselves. Every chapter has an introduction that focuses on reading media and individual "texts" (not the readings themselves). In the readings that follow, each piece features questions geared toward both reading and writing. And its general apparatus in the form of worksheets and classroom exercises encourages students to use the readings as a starting point for their own explorations of television, race, movies, art, and the other media and texts we include here.

On a more theoretical level, we show how language in text and context functions to produce meaning. And we talk about how writing is fundamentally linked to other aspects of critical inquiry like reading, listening, thinking, and speaking. Ultimately, part of our approach comes from Kenneth Burke. Just as he argues that all literature is a piece of rhetoric, we suggest that all texts are rhetoric and that every moment is a potential moment for reading and therefore for writing.

What we envision this book will do for students is help them bridge culture and text. However, we present material in a way that provides context, direction and structure. In that sense, the book is traditional; however, the expanded nature of what a text is makes our approach innovative. We hope that, in turn, this will allow students to expand their idea of reading and therefore expand their critical relationship to the world. In an academic setting, where accountability and practicality are watchwords, giving students a more interpretative way of looking at and writing about the world seems especially appropriate.

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