Review: A Responsive Rhetorical Art: Artistic Methods for a Contemporary Public Life by Elenore Long

Reviewed by Aly Higgins (she/her), University of Arizona

A yellow line stretching across the page

Future Implications

A Responsive Rhetorical Art: Artistic Methods for a Contemporary Public Life is timely and important for its emphasis not only on the public work of displaced communities, but also its commitment to theorizing rhetoric as a tool to enact humanizing action. For Elenore Long, the work of collaborative knowledge-making in emerging public spaces during early rhetorical uptake is the work that matters because the messiness of these publics necessitate reflexive and iterative responses when the issue at hand and the relationships among participants are still being defined. Her particular attention to what rhetorical concepts can do during early rhetorical uptake offers new questions to reframe community literacy and community writing program work.

In the final chapter, "Enacting a Responsive Rhetorical Art," Long synthesizes the central concepts and purposes that inform a responsive rhetorical art by reframing common questions asked by community writing programs. This makes her work pertinent for community writing program administrators, teachers, students, and partners looking to destabilize traditional hierarchical power dynamics between the university and community partners and to address tensions that emerge in institutional borderlands. Her reframing focuses on a genre ecology approach to community literacy that understands rhetorically responsive work as public work that is enacted by rethinking how we relate to one another in order to organize for change. Some of Long's reframing includes the following:

  1. Provide programmatic outreach → Become a catalyst to people in the institutional borderlands who are working to plan the next steps of their lives
  2. Design community engagement activities → Support expansive literacies as they emerge spatially and temporally
  3. Attend an extracurricular event → Critically reflect on who you are and what you do in relation to the exigency of the event
  4. Revise classroom curriculum → Reframe disciplinary concepts as collaborative knowledge-making practices that understand writing as inquiry and are rooted in experiential insights

Materially, Long does the work of knowing with others through her reflections and her collaborative chapters that offer pathways for other community scholars to write with community partners. While the concepts Long engages are fractured and difficult—publics, invention, art, humanzing, responsive, rhetoric—Long uses the complexity of disciplinary concepts to develop a nameable approach to public life that has the potential to catalyze change. As is evident in the previous sections of her book, Long is committed in this final chapter to presenting a responsive rhetorical art in terms of how it works and who it serves. A responsive rhetorical art can help us embrace the not-fully-formed and sit with the uncertainty in order to envision new pathways forward. Ultimately, the book is an important contribution to the field of community literacy that asks us all to question: where do we go from here?

About the Reviewer

Aly Higgins (she/her) is a PhD student in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English studying the rhetoric of urban revitalization in downtown Tucson. She is also a writing instructor and is currently working at the University of Arizona Writing Program as the Placement and Assessment Assistant.


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