Uhhh… Let’s see; premise: “to set forth beforehand, as by way of introduction or explanation.” Also “in logic, “a previous proposition from which another follows,” Again, I wonder as I read Frank Farmer’s essay on imitation… Why do many of these writing pedagogy people write so… shall we say: uniquely?

A premise is a starting point. If these were my student, I would write in the margins, “Just make the assertion” or something like that. I hate this kind of redundant writing (probably because I see it in my poor writing, but I’m not a “lit” guy, right? I read the stuff; I don’t necessarily write it). Now that I am completely off topic, let me get to the article.

I do like Farmer’s idea of imitation. I am amazed that the hippie expressivist were against imitation. Wouldn’t “finding your voice” and your “true self” be helped with reading people who have found themselves, and with reading text that “speak” to you? Maybe I am too Bloom-anxiety-of-influence-y on this, but doesn’t every great writer find his/herself through imitation? Through grappling with a literary fathers?

Grappling with literary fathers is not to say that the fight is done once King Laius is defeated. Rather, like Farmer says, we should teach students to seek out new fathers to kill because, “…if they have no opportunity to develop new perspectives by entering into, trying on, the perspective of another, then, indeed, we have taught them little more than to be content with the immediate position they assume…” (421); my question to this is: how do we get them to NOT be content with their immediate position–their starting point, their premise, if you like?

I understand that with imitation, students need to realize that the point is for them to “come to terms” with the language of another so that the student can make the language his/her own, but in all of Farmer’s praise of Bahktin, where does Farmer talk about actual pedagogy that can be used in a classroom? And while I agree with Farmer that parody is “…useful because it offers an excellent way to braoch some of the complexities of three enduring staples of rhetorical education: context, audience, and purpose”(425), I have to disagree on purely theoretical terms.

Yes, I believe that imitation is useful, which is why I always have my students read an expert or ‘A’ paper; the idea is that this example is one to be imitated and used to begin to craft a voice of their own– where I disagree is on Bahktin’s essentializing. All this talk of double-voiced discourse as if we could ever be objective. The idea Farmer brings up at the beginning of the essay of appropriating “someone’s else’s words” (416), as if there was ‘somone’ out their who owns the words that students will appropriate. All that said, I repeat that I fully agree with Farmer and the usefulness of imitation. To illustrate how echoing someone else can transform the person echoing, here is Derrida discussing how echo, by repeating the last words she hears, turns the words repeated into her own, which I believe is what students can do in imitation:

“she speaks in her own name by just repeating his words” -Derrida