Anatomy of an Article
Joseph Janangelo

Widening the Conversation: Introducing Professor Patti Hanlon-Baker

Professor Patti Hanlon-Baker serves on the editorial board of YSW. She worked extensively with Jonathan to steward his project toward publication. I asked Patti the same questions that Jane answered. The first was, “Please tell me how and where you sensed publication potential in the original essay—that it should be shared with others?” To that, Patti responded, “I’m not sure I remember the parts exactly, but there were places in the essay where I felt Jonathan’s analysis and discussion of Rodham’s rhetorical growth were insightful.” She noted that “The links he was attempting to make between her educational and professional experiences as ones that informed her rhetorical choices were interesting; these were ones I felt persuaded by.” To this assertion, she added some reflection: “I suppose I felt this in part because I’d taught an essay in my political rhetoric course that addressed her changes from first lady to senator candidate, and Jonathan’s seemed to be hitting similar issues and asking similar questions.” From Jonathan’s draft, Patti took this important idea: “that we should consider complex rhetorical change from a lens other than merely questioning intentional choices based on audience seems important when looking at politicians’ growth and success.” Ultimately, Patti remembered that “Jonathan asked us to think about her growth as it defined her intentions, and I felt his observations deserved to be read by others.” 

My second question was, “How did you try to intervene and mentor the student?” At that point, Patti revealed her method: “I tried to ask questions that would help him come to conclusions about his own writing that he felt comfortable with.” She added that “I was direct in some places, making suggestions I thought he had to consider—I didn’t force a particular choice, but I pointed out he had to make choices about some parts.” As Patti spoke, it became clear that her method had an underlying goal: “When I asked questions, I tried to do so in ways that would help him see where I was confused.” Such “confusion” (or at least the performance of being confused by a text) had its motives. As Patti revealed, “I sometimes knew the answer, but I wanted him to understand that there was a lack of clarity, leap in logic, or organizational problem.” Furthermore, Patti admitted that “I wanted him to not only make revisions to improve the essay, but I wanted him to understand both how to restructure an argument as well as embrace revision as a positive thing.” 

I then asked Patti whether she and Jonathan had explicitly discussed the idea of “audience” and if so, how? Perhaps commensurate with the goal of helping Jonathan write a public text, Patti outlined the ways she tried to help Jonathan become an even more conscious and deliberate rhetor than he already was. To that end, Patti focused her comments on selection and structure. As she recalled, “I tried to be gentle: I discussed audience early on. Initially, Jonathan was analyzing a lot of her material. I pointed out that his own [intended] audience needed more clear links between elements or fewer elements to negotiate.” She pointed out that “He was analyzing both her oral and written arguments and suggesting that rhetorical choices she made in writing were different from later ones she made when speaking.” Looking back, Patti remembered that “I pointed out that he needed to draw parallels between early writing and later writing with early speeches and later speeches as those audiences are different. I said his readers required clear links.”

Consonant with her dual role of mentor and reviewer, Patti also offered Jonathan some strategic advice: “I also asked him to think about what points he wanted his readers to think about.” Her strategy had purpose: “To help him determine his own rhetorical moves, I asked ‘what is it about her change that you feel is most important for your readers to leave thinking?’” As Patti articulated her goals: “I’d hoped he’d see this as a way to think about focus and emphasis.”  When asked, Jonathan explained his perceptions of Patti’s methods at the time. He reported that “Dr. Baker suggested three secondary sources and they helped get through my writing roadblock.” Patti recalled offering more specific advice. She asked Jonathan to “provide what I discuss with my students as ‘strategic sentences,’ ones that sometimes explicitly (or subtly but pushily) help readers see how they are to understand the example.” Jonathan identified the benefits of Patti’s approach: “I got a different perspective on the paper I had never considered. Dr. Baker read into my paper and offered pointers I hadn’t considered—mainly that I had ‘too many balls up in the air.’” He recounted that “in terms of my thesis. I was trying to cover ALL of her speeches and writings during that 10 year period and I needed to choose either written or oral rhetoric.” He then explained his new focus: “I chose written because I had more to choose from and she [Rodham] had undergone the most changes with her written rhetoric at this time.”

As Jonathan reminds us, “Like I mentioned before, her [Rodham’s] oral rhetoric improved most significantly during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.” He noted that “For me, that was a separate study for a later date.” He adds that “One study about her rhetoric as First Lady was the most beneficial of the three from Dr. Baker.” As Jonathan recalled, “I incorporated a few quotes into the paper. I selected them based on how they analyzed her rhetoric as a whole (see opening paragraph [of the revised article]).” Based on Patti’s suggestions, Jonathan undertook even more research in order to contextualize his argument more fully. He detailed his research process, saying that he “searched using key words ‘protest rhetoric’ and found four ‘overwhelming’ pages of entries.” He added that “I started reading articles about the history of protest groups of the 1960s and 1970s and the rhetoric they used for their groups.” Jonathan said that “I didn’t know too much about protest history but was fascinated at the different student groups that appeared during the time, i.e. liberal and conservative youth groups.” He also recalled that “I compared what she had done with her writings against the history of the protest movement and tried to see how they lined up.”

In terms of conceptual and textual revision the central win was that as Jonathan conducted further research and thought strategically about his intended audience’s knowledge, questions, and needs, he was able to preserve his passion for his subject while continuing to refine and restructure his argument. From Patti’s perspective, “the main evolution was from Jonathan defending Rodham while performing a close reading of her early texts to his offering a much more detailed and contextualized analysis of them.”  Looking back at the advice and mentoring that Jane and Patti offered him over many months and drafts, Jonathan evinces gratitude and a wonderfully insightful and precise articulation of their contributions to his development as a public author. In his interview, Jonathan recalled that “Jane became a friend and mentor,” and added that “I’m a teacher’s kid so becoming friends with my teachers isn’t new. I keep up with a lot of my former teachers. We write cards and call each other. I know their families.” Even more to the point, Jonathan remembered that “Jane was wonderful with all her insight and help” and noted that “she connected to the paper as much as I did.” Jonathan also readily acknowledged Patti’s input: “But having Dr. Baker, who didn’t know me at all, she provided a lot of objective criticism and encouragement.” According to Jonathan, “That’s the best thing you can have if you want your paper to be the best.” He described Patti’s methodology: “She would make marginal notes suggesting meanings to what I was trying to say.” Jonathan recalled that “If she wasn’t interpreting it correctly, I would know that was an area I needed to fix.” On the other hand, “And when she was correct, I would know I was on the right track and in some cases, liked how she worded it better than I did.”