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Everyday Ethos: Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 13-16, 2012
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The theme for the CCCC 2013 conference is “The Public Work of Composition,” with particular attention to basic writers. An interest in writing as a public work naturally invites consideration of the moral questions inherent in writing for a public audience. (e.g., What is my relationship to my readers? By what means should I persuade? And so on.) The rhetorical concept of ethos should be a natural part of this discussion, given that a rich understanding of ethos leads writers to reflect on the manifestation of their identity in public discourse and the related ethical questions that such presentation entails—among them the age-old question of whether an author must be a “good man,” vir bonus, and by what means that goodness may be measured.
Important as the concept of ethos is, many of us struggle to teach it well, and often we find that writers, particularly basic writers, struggle to understand it. At the same time, however, many of our students quite skillfully present their own identities, and encounter others’ presented identities in myriad ways—via clothing and accessories, profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, avatars developed for online gaming, to name just a few. Twenty-first century society offers more and more ways for students to deal with the presentation of identity and, by extension, it offers we as composition instructors, myriad resources for diversifying our means of instruction.
We propose a panel that will examine the ways in which students manifest, create, and manipulate identity in their everyday lives. We will look at ways that we, as composition instructors, can use these concepts of “everyday ethos” to enrich our teaching of ethos, helping students to understand more deeply the many questions and dilemmas that are posed by the presentation of rhetorical identity. In addition, then, we will also discuss how students can use their enhanced understandings of ethos from the classroom to go back out into the world and to do the valuable public work of composition.