Some textual markers of awareness of the reading and writing community

It's true as well that occasionally you can see dialogic awareness of audience and rhetorical situation develop even in writers who exhibit considerable fluency and competence from the beginning. Ken, for instance, very early in the term, before we had started posting reflection on the Web site, posted on the classroom wall a reflection on a film, Longtime Companion, about the devastation caused by AIDS in the gay community.  In it, although there is a clear focus and a real power, there's little sense that it would have been written differently if it had anticipated other readers.  By the end of the term, however, Ken responds to a production of David Mamet's Oleanna with an almost painful awareness of who's going to read and respond, and a sense of the consequences for his future conversations, both online and in the classroom, of his politically incorrect siding with the teacher against the student. He begins by acknowledging, "Alright, I'm going to be called some horrible names for this," concedes that "I know for a fact that there are those who disagree with me,"and concludes with "That's my two cents. So, who's up first to tell me to take my evil currency elsewhere?"

Ken's sidelong (and, at the end, direct) acknowledgements of an ongoing relationship between reader and writer are, it seems to me, direct markers of an awareness of a rhetorical situation which is different from any that most students have had experience with. The extent to which these markers (and others) are evidence of a developing set of generic conventions is not easy to establish.

There are more markers (direct address, allusion to the existence of audience, etc.) visible in the postings which are more explicitly dialogic -- the responses to the reflections of others. It is, however, in the original reflections that I think the impact of the rhetorical situation is most reasonably tested, since response isn't insisted on there, but the writers' awareness of the addressed nature of the text (as shown particularly dramatically in Ken's last posting) might be displayed.

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