Placing Space in an Idea: […]

Disclaimer (or whatever): Apparently this falls under some sort of graduate-level publishing dealie. Feel free to use, copy/paste, or retain; I love a good share. However, those academic forces are aware of this being where it professionally was first. yada yada ;-)


A “move,” in Swales’s system, can be understood as a “direction” in which the text proceeds to make its point, and when you look at the moves in the texts you read, you will be able to construct a map that will help you navigate…Reading rhetorically means that you read a text not only to understand what it says, but also to discern how it works—that is, how the writer structures the text and uses language to communicate ideas and influence readers. ~Irene L. Clark


What is a move but the weaving through narrative—story arcs, Freytag triangles, passive and confrontational audience construction. Moves are the spaces between places. We begin to interplay—connect—with a text the moment we look at it, and read how it is dressed. Every text dresses itself in exergue[1]: the layers of meaning we see, but also proscribe. Etching its way through the text, the exergue gathers itself in petticoats, inscriptions, and perfunctory, material properties; all of these carry individual meanings upon not just the text, but each word and phrase. To see the moves—to read rhetorically—is to disrobe the exergue. To read is to see a text not for what it is, but also what it could be. We can get underneath the layers of dress to glean meaning, see what is not being said. It is only after reading a text fully, rhetorically, do we see the ways it is working to bring us definition, modes of thought we may otherwise had not seen. To read is to see. To read rhetorically is to move. And move we must, for how else are we to go forth on our own, asking: where are we going?

            We are moving for the sake of movement—for the meaning of it. And what does that mean exactly? It means that we can never really know where we are going until we see where we are. Returning to the exergue, and to moves, we begin again and again at the text; the text contextualizes where we are. The text is our map.

            The map is a step—a step I ask you to take with me. Here we are, on this path in a garden. Is it well-manicured or completely disheveled? Let’s decide it has moments of both. Trees tower above us, their leaves dancing in the spotlights of sun. We see a bench up ahead, and that seems like a nice place to stop once we take a small walk. The grass is damp; it must have rained last night, so the dew condenses on everything, making the flowers glisten, the lamb’s ear mottled. We each put a foot down on the flat stones checkering the pathway to the chaise. Our map has been laid; we have a direction, but only so far. From there, we will not know where else to go. Each stone is a move toward—forward…


In his family, talk was used for connecting; in mine, talk was often examined and critiqued for ethnic and class markers in order to assimilate, to get ahead. ~Nancy M. Grimm


We had both started, but couldn’t agree on our purpose. You wanted desperately to get to the chaise, and I just saw it as a bench wet with rain. Dominant as only rain can be. It would soak my clothes, leaving its mark on me for hours, possibly. I liked the way I looked. I wanted to go past the rest, push myself into the dense woods. Were you going to stay behind, or would you go with me? I guess we’ll have to see; it’ll take movement to move.

            Another step in, and our breaths are even, matched, harmonious. The stones did not shudder, nor did they give way. Birds are chirping. The breeze brings sweet grass to our inhalations.


There is a code or a program—a rhetoric, if you will—for every discourse on metaphor: following custom, in the first place… ~Derrida


Was that Derrida in the cloud overhead? Shadows downed upon our heads; we looked at each other, bright-eyed wonder.

            “This must mean rain!” you gasped. I grasped your hand, held it tight, smiled.

            “No, it is just me, seeing something right here, in the place we both see, and have named different things.”


Each time a rhetoric defines metaphor, not only is a philosophy implied, but also a conceptual network in which philosophy itself has been constituted. ~Derrida


            So you see, my friend, for all our language, our discourses may very well be doing different things—seeing life in different ways. Those leaves are green to me, as they are to you. But is our green the same? Can we ever know? Your brow ever-perplexed, doubting yet daring, upturned into a smile to match mine, and we walked on holding hands. A few moves more, steps are what we are moving for. We each saw a ~~crack~~ in every stone, upturning them, and laying them on their upsides down. Echoes of voice seeped through earthen gaps; they resonated in mineral shades, flecks of fool’s gold prettier than everyday pebbles even in this shade. We looked up as the cloud floated past, taking his questions with him, letting the sun shine for us a few more. Somewhere, afar, Hendrix called out like never before.


We will guide the light / This time with a woman in our arms / We as men / Can’t explain the reason why / the woman’s always mentioned / At the moment that we die / All we know / Is God is by our side, / And he says the word / So easy yet so hard / I wish not to be alone / So I must respect my other heart…


            It had been so easy, getting ourselves this far. We made this quest fun, hopping on rock after rock—each question a spot on which to jump. You laughed; I giggled; we enjoyed every turn. But here we were: you fitting to sit down, and take a rest; me with a yearn to go on, perhaps a few paces more. Our turns through these moves turned now upon us. Your face screamed hurt! Why wouldn’t I stop here with you?

            “Oh, but I need to press on,” I pleaded.

            “But there’s room here for you. We’ve made it, you see, for people like you.”

            “Take care, friend. Benches, where I come from, aren’t built quite like those. Where yours are wrought in iron, ours woven with wood.” But I didn’t really know where I was from. I let go of your hand, but not before pressing lightly into your pulse. An “I love you” impressed in memory, for my sight looked out.


Out here there are no stars; out here, we is stoned immaculate. ~Jim Morrison


            I sought to align with the margins, but that meant forgetting all-too-certain lines. Our fingers slipped from each other’s. Released grasp. It was here that I noted—annotated—that in each raindrop covering the ground shines an in-between. Spaces between places. And when the light shines just right, the prisms collect in the ‘empty’, and refract off each other. There is color in the nothing. And maybe, just maybe, the nothing isn’t nothing at all. That was when I finally saw me: every one that never had a say before. Here they were speaking to the no one that was listening as they engraved benches in the sand.

            Standing at the edge of the perimeter—tall and unwavering—their gaze was warm, fixed. Everything about it said ‘just’ defiance. Not one thing about it said weakness. I trembled, but never blinked. My stare knew this look well; it was the one that frightened you at times. Speaking of you, my eyes broke away to steal another glance your way. Your eyes were closed; your rest complete. I grinned at your peaceful grace, then I made a choice. Darting off into companioned horizon, finding solace in the Martian castles Bradbury so desperately and horrifically saw destroyed, I clasped hands with a pen, and rewrote our end: beginning. 


Writing, thus conceived, is both a way of knowing and acting, a way of understanding the world and also changing it. ~ Bruce McComiskey


            This act of reading hyper-moves within itself; it whittles the exergue down, but that is not simply enough. It takes a courage, and a question to move away from moving—to meaning-making. New language needs horizontalism, and one striving, striking question: “What does it mean to be a human being?” (Boggs). The last (and the first) move quests toward one act: response. Because we all have a voice that speaks to be heard. That is always where we were going. The exergue unearths itself right when we need it most.


Works Cited

Boggs, Grace Lee, Daniel Levine, and Kevin Schunenberg    . “Occupy Wall Street Radio.” WBAI Archives for Occupy Wall Street Radio. WBAI-FM and the Pacifica Foundation. 16 Apr. 2012. Radio.

Clark, Irene L. Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Ellipsis of the Sun.” Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984. Print. 230-245.

Doors, The. “When the Music’s Over.” Strange Days. Elektra, 1985. CD.

Hendrix. Jimi. “The Story of Life.” LyricsFreak, 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2012.

McComiskey, Bruce. Teaching Composition as a Social Process. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2000. Print.

[1]  Derrida defines the exergue as everything “outside the work,” but also as “referring to the space on a coin or medal reserved for an inscription” (209). 


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