CCCC 2016 in Houston: New/now cognitivism proposal accepted

The organizers have accepted the roundtable proposal that I spearheaded for the 4Cs in Houston in April 2016. “New/now cognitivism: Strategies for theory and ‘literate action'” will include presentations from five scholars: Deborah Rossen-Knill, University of Rochester; Erin Williams, University of Saint Francis; Airlie Rose, UMass-Amherst; Jose Gomez, University of Texas, El Paso; and me.  Dr. Peter Elbow, Professor Emeritus at UMass-Amherst, will chair the roundtable.

In my talk, titled “Relevance, cognitive environment, and audience,” I’ll offer a cognitive model for analyzing rhetorical performance by explaining the writer’s and audience’s “cognitive environments.” As used here, this concept originated with Sperber and Wilson (1995) in linguistic pragmatics but retained rationalist assumptions that have made that field difficult to reconcile with rhetoric (Dascal & Gross, 1999; Liu & Zhu, 2011). Strassheim (2010) extended the model to account for goals as part of the cognitive environment. And finally, I extend the model further, accounting for writers’ and readers’ emotions, habits, and cognitive biases or “heuristics” (Gigerenzer & Brighton, 2009). Relevance is the ratio of desired cognitive effects to cognitive effort in the cognitive environment: The greater the effect-numerator, the greater the relevance; the greater the effort-denominator, the lesser the relevance. Writers and readers seek increased relevance. The writer, reader, and researcher all can use the model of the cognitive environment and relevance for generating, interpreting, and explaining written texts as literate action.

I’m as excited about the other presenters’ talks as I am about my own! Pity we are scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning!


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