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Alexis Perez

Prof. Lasley
English 1A
7 October 2015
Rhetorical Analysis
In her essay, Its Time for Class: Toward a More Complex
Pedagogy of Narrative, Amy E. Rolbillard discusses the relationship
between time and social class, and the effect it has on narrative. As an
English professor with a working-class background, Robbillard is able to
identify with her readers and empathize with the experiences of the
working-class students that are part of her argument. Through the
structure of her essay and use of rhetorical devices Robillard convinces
her audience that the socioeconomic background of students
influences their perception of time in a way that may negatively effect
their perception of their own life.
In her work, Robillard writes to an audience of English professors
that discredit the use of the narrative as an affective and credible form
of writing. She argues for an inclusion of narrative, along with analysis
and argument, in the academia of college English because of its
importance in personal growth and understanding. With composition
being a middle-class dominated enterprise (75), it is important that
working-class students have an opportunity to understand themselves
and their background to excel in the classroom. In order to seem

credible to her peers she begins her essay with the use of epigraphs.
The use of epigraphs in her work is common and specifically used to
set a starting place for the direction she wishes her essay to go. In this
case she uses three quotes from writers Linda Brodkey and Carolyn
Leste Law two accredited writers who wrote about relationships
between social class and literacy, similar topics of interest for Robillard.
By juxtaposing her work with that of Brodkey and Law from the very
beginning and continuing to do so throughout her essay, she
essentially qualifies herself to interact with the work of these two
writers and formulate her argument. Doing this puts her in a position
that appeals to her audience because it now gives her a voice that she
intends to use to persuade them throughout the rest of her essay. The
use of the quotations, [I]n my family the past provided the only
possible understanding of the present (Brodkey, Writing on the Bias
528) and [A]utobiography [is] a sensitive instrument of critique,
certainly the only critical apparatus sensitive enough to register the
subtle rumblings of class in higher education (Law, The Making of
Working-Class Academics 7), brings to light the brings to light the
topic of a dialogue Robillard is attempting to open. She intends to
persuade professors that they should acknowledge that students, or
people in general, need to look back on their past to understand our
present. In order to do so, there needs to be a way for those in the

working class to make sense of their position in higher education and


their perception of time (the use of writing narratives).
Throughout her essay, Robillard reflects on her personal
experience growing up in the working-class then continuing on to
becoming a professor and how those experiences relate to that of
working-class students. She using these personal anecdotes in order to
make sense of what it means when describing class-based affects
[on] composition (75). By providing her personal experience in these
anecdotes she is able to give explicit examples that relate to larger
ideas; for example, the story about her mother always concerned with
being on time correlates to the over all importance of time among the
working class because they perceive time is money (85). These
various ideas and connections she makes explain the difficulty of a
working-class student trying to grow in academia that is dominated by
middle-class viewpoints (because of the fact the working class views
time as money reflects in their inability to understand the middleclass view of delayed gratification in the classroom). To persuade her
audience and back up the claim that the working-class perception of
time leads them to expect immediate gratification she looks to her own
experiences with a job that pays hourly versus having a set salary (85).
Explaining that the concept of time in her personal situation is common
amongst most if not all of the working class. She is able to gain
credibility as a primary source that has experienced this. This approach

also works to gain her audiences empathy, making them understand


what it is like being in the working class and as a result are likely agree
with her argument.
Distinguishing the difference in working-class versus middle-class
perception of time (immediate versus delayed gratification) early on
she is able to then share her experiences as a professor working in an
environment that discourages narratives as a credible form of writing.
Again she is using an anecdote to back up her claim along with various
other sources. But as she uses anecdotes throughout her essay, it
should be noted that she constantly foreshadows what she intends to
discuss and explain later. She uses this structure in her essay to keep
her reader constantly engaged in this conversation she is trying to
have and encouraging them to make connections on their own.
Describing her experience as a professor at Syracuse University, she
discusses the sensitive topic of financial aid among working-class
students while describing the lack of the personal narrative in the
program at the university. She later goes on to agree with the idea of
Stephen Garger who believes, academics are never looking for the
right answer per se; they are looking for a good discussion (83) by
explaining that the good discussion those in academia are trying to
engage in is not in the best interest of a working-class student. The
argument of these two claims was foreshadowed at the beginning of
Robillards work when she accused those in academia of being

hypocrites because they ask students to look at their futures rather


than their past and want them to create their own meaning out of
something while simultaneously accepting meanings already created
for them without objection (76). Robillard aims to encourage the
reader to make sense of the connections between her statements and
the argument she is trying to present. That argument being that a
student is not able to create meaning out of anything if they are
discouraged from discussing their personal opinions or use the
personal narrative as a way to develop as a person and writer. It was
also a call to action to her audience, other college professors, to realize
that what they are doing within the classroom is not stimulating the
growth of students. In order to educate all students on the differences
within social classes and include those with different backgrounds, it
would beneficial to make a change in teaching methods. Those
methods being an open discussion where there are not right or wrong
answers and an inclusion of personal reflection that influences
students to grow as writers.
Amy E. Robillard has a very complex use of rhetorical devices in
her essay in order to appeal to her readers and makes her argument
make sense to those reading it. As college professors they can respect
and admire Robillards complexity in the argument and she allows
them to make sense of it in their own way- empathetically as a normal
reader or logically as a professor. By opening the essay up with

epigraphs, juxtaposing herself and other writers she is able to give


herself some credibility and introduce the course she wants to take her
essay. The large and complex use of anecdotes and foreshadowing
through the essay structures it in such a way that develops her
argument allowing the reader to fully make sense of the arguments
she is introducing.