Contrastive Rhetoric and Resistance to Writing
The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes “one’s own” only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent.
—M.M.Bakhtin (1981, p. 293)
Although research in contrastive rhetoric has been successfully applied to the prescriptive writing pedagogy it was originally designed to support, compositionists have found it less relevant to contemporary pedagogies that focus on the social construction of knowledge.1
Kaplan (1988) suggested a new research paradigm that responds to this problem by focusing on the sociolinguistic functions of texts. However, many researchers continue to apply studies with this broader focus to a prescriptive pedagogy, rather than using them to address the concerns of the contemporary writing classroom.2 Leki (1997) argued that this is appropriate for second-language (L2) students because they are not interested in maintaining the differences they bring from their own languages, as social constructionists urge them to do (p. 242). She concluded that these students should be taught to “reproduce English norms” without being concerned about maintaining the rhetoric of their first language or about the “colonizing effects” of reproducing the rhetoric of the English language (p. 244).