Young, Richard.  “Arts, Crafts, Gifts, and Knacks:  Some Disharmonies in the New Rhetoric.”  Visible Languages 14 4 (1980):  341-350.  Print.

  • In this article Young is exploring how the differences between a “vitalist” theory of composing and a “technical” theory effect the what and how of teaching writing.  Ultimately, Young notes that both groups seems to be on the side of right (at least in some sense).
  • Y. begins by highlighting how John Genung (author of the well circulated rhetorical textbook The Practical Elements of Rhetoric [1892]) recognized the importance of rhetoric but ultimately excluded the myth of Romantic Genius from the writing of vulgar (read:non-literature) texts.  In other words, if you’re doing the practical work of writing the creative just doesn’t have a role.
  • The exclusion of the creative element from what can be taught in the composition class resulted in a heavy emphasis on the “conventions and mechanics of discourse” or many of the concerns the Scottish belletrists were similarly concerned with in their pedagogy.  The craft is the only part that is teachable.
  • Y. claims that the “New Rhetoric” is really a rhetoric of discovery, or a rhetoric that makes the process of discovery a teachable, practical component of writing teacher pedagogy (343).  This “New Romanticism” (Frank D’Angelo’s term) reaffirms the vitalist philosophy; however, it is supplemented by work in modern psychology.  Because writing can’t be “taught” as such (remember, it’s Romantic Genius), the role of the pedagogue becomes a creator of environments conducive to the creative process (343-4).
  • The “new classicists” considered the “art” of teaching writing a little differently.  Young claims that they see art as “the knowledge necessary for producing preconceived results by conscious directed action” (344).  In this sense, the new classicists see the teaching of writing as a “knack” or a habit acquired through repeated practice and experience.  In many senses this means thinking of the art of writing as Aristotle might: technical and grammatical. Y. associates this position with folks like Richard Weaver, Edward P.J. Corbett, Albert Duhamel, and Ross Winterowd.
  • Y. claims that the New Classicsts teach “heuristics (explicit strategies for effective guessing) or procedures whose questions lead to provisional answers.  By cobbling together various heuristics that aid in the creative process (through constant, conscious direction), then Y. claims that the “art” of writing can be taught (or at least certain aspects of the creative process of creating art can be taught) (344-5).  Young includes Christensen’s generative heuristics and Young, Becker, & Pike’s tagmemics as examples of this sort of pedagogy.  The danger in this pedagogy is that heuristics that provide provisional procedures can easy be transformed into rule-governed strategies that require little critical engagement with mind (348).
  • Young ends this essay by highlighting how this conflict between the classical and the romantic isn’t new; rather, it is as old as Western rhetoric itself (reference to DeRomilly).
  • Young claims that “we can consider the possibility that behind art as glamour and art as grammar there may be a more adequate conception of rhetorical art that does not lead us to affirm the importance of certain psychological powers at the cost of denying the importance of others” (349).

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