In Support of a Contemporary Reading Pedagogy and Discipline

In Elizabeth Kalbfleisch’s article, “Imitatio Reconsidered: Notes toward a Reading Pedagogy for the Writing Classroom”, she makes the claim that reading pedagogy is immersed and founded in classical rhetorical instruction. She asks her readers to examine the historical aspects of rhetorical pedagogy, and suggests that historically reading was taught alongside writing. Her historical perspective is particularly interesting given California community colleges (CCC) having recently been struggling to keep their reading departments alive. While CCCs are struggling to keep reading classes on the schedule, some universities such as University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) and University of California at Berkeley (UCB) are developing new reading curriculum. Why the diametrical positions? Understanding the historical background helps us understand why reading as a discipline has been disregarded, and it also helps us understand the current institutional need for it. The scholarship emphasizes how the concept of imitatio, an exercise used in classical rhetorical studies, was dismissed and then forgotten when we entered modernity. This change turned to a focus on progymnasmata, which emphasized the practice of writing exercises. Kalbfleisch would argue that the field of composition, as we know it today, omits teaching reading because the trends of modernity emphasized writing while neglecting its sister discipline of reading.

She suggests the teaching of reading has been historically disregarded, and her work aims at examining the history while proposing reading pedagogy be rearticulated into the academy. The history acts as a framework from which to draw from and form a contemporary approach to the teaching of reading. Her article states this classical framework is from Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria; “lectio…praelectio…memorize models…paraphrase models…transliteration… recitation [and] correction of transliteration” which served as exercises for an academic foundation for current reading pedagogy. She further states the importance of reading practices for invention. Kalbfleisch explains that reading “fell out of fashion” during the onset of modernity. Her extensive review of the historical implications of current reading practices helps us understand how reading became a limited field.

Her avant-garde article explains why reading pedagogy is systematically viewed as secondary in educational institutions. She mentions that for the last few hundred years the focus has been on writing, and she is asking her readers to consider a reintroduction to reading pedagogy. Kalbfleisch wants us to see reading as an autonomous force, and for her this means a “…viable work on imitation [needed] to understand its engagement with reading rather than conflating it with writing exercises.” She further expands her argument for reading pedagogy by stating how Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory of reading and John Bean’s reading rhetorically theory are, in part, based on imitatio. Rosenblatt argues that there is a transaction between text and reader, while Bean would say that the reader brings a perspective based on their background. Both concepts encourage a deeper reading process. It surpasses a basic comprehension of a text, and instead forces the reader to think critically about the text. This type of reading intimately engages the reader with the text. Rosenblatt and Bean provide a means for a richer discourse, which leads to invention, because the reader becomes a critically aware and immersed in the text.

Kalbfleisch further states that if

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