May I Teach Ender Books, Please?

So until this year, I had never read the scifi wonder-hit Ender’s Game.  (All people can be neatly classified based on if and how much they are horrified by that statement. To some, it’s like saying I’ve never seen Top Gun [I haven’t] or that I don’t like chocolate [I do].) Actually, I’ve still never read it–a buddy listened to the audio book and insisted I listen too, so I did. (This was the buddy who wisely suggested we read The Brothers Karamazov together as well, so he’s earned a few points in the book-suggestion area.)

Of all the wowzer-ish things I could say about Ender, I’m most haunted by the book’s incredible applicability in a course on digital, public rhetoric. There’s that stellar mid-book chapter where Ender’s story is suddenly, surprisingly set aside for a conversation between his two siblings, Valentine and Peter, who discuss things as varied as deliberately hiding one’s identity online, how public blogging can affect public policy, and the role of honesty and dishonesty when persuading someone to do something you want–both on a worldwide and one-to-one scale.

I was particularly intrigued for 2 reasons:

  1. I sometimes (not always) find myself frustrated with literature-lovers who want to inundate composition courses with fiction and poetry. Though I love teaching literature, and I (increasingly) see tons of important conjunctions between poetics and rhetoric, I often suspect that these teachers are going to take important focus away from the crucial task of teaching writing by spending days and days in class talking about the literary techniques used in novels. But this passage from Ender makes me seriously reconsider this stance; in moderation, in fact, and with the right focuses, it makes me want to argue that we start breaking down boundaries between poetics and rhetoric in composition classes, using stories like these to spark deep-level understandings of the complex uses of rhetoric. And indeed, this might be practically a required position for me to adopt if I want to continue argue that we study the rhetorical messages that live in the “art” created by remixed material. . . . But that’s a discussion for another day.
  2. I talk a lot about trying to find intriguing ways to gel my disciplinary focus in rhetoric with my love for scifi and fantasy studies. So far, the most exciting crossroads between the two has been studying fan fiction, but this passage opens new doors. What would it look like to catalog/study representations of digital selves (and even better, digital writing selves) in scifi lit? Yowza!

And even more intriguing, as I’ve moved onto the first sequel to Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, I’m increasingly dying to teach the very different concepts it raises, about ethnography and research and culture–again, topics that are appropriate questions in a course in rhetoric (especially a research methods course). My wheels are turning. . . .

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One response to “May I Teach Ender Books, Please?

  1. Pingback: More on Rhetoric in Fiction « Transmedia Me

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