ACMB01 – Argument Essay Prompt – Spring 2019


Scholars and social critics have long been concerned with the issue of language: the ways in which linguistic articulations (whether verbal or textual) shape our reality, the ideology reflected in the language we use, who has the power to speak and be heard, and the consequences of each of these have all been debated, critiqued, and reflected upon in the academic context. Novelist and critic George Orwell (author of the infamous dystopian text, 1984) and linguist William Lutz have both taken on such issues, pointing – in particular – to the ways that language can function to script our experience and perception of reality. For both thinkers, the malleability of verbiage, connotation, and representation in language makes it not merely a facilitator of meaning, but a means for encouraging, disrupting, or enforcing certain kinds of thinking. As well, both Orwell and Lutz explicitly acknowledge the political implications of language; in this context, language often functions to conceal, rather than convey, meaning. Considering how integral language is to 2 our process of understanding the world, such obscurantist language interferes with our ability to make informed decisions as political subjects. The texts we read, the ideas we engage, and the written works we compose all necessarily utilize language, so an understanding of what is at stake in such reading, thinking, and writing is crucial. Our readers will always enter our textual space with a wealth of preconceived biases, theories, ideologies, or other lenses through which they will engage, and thus interpret, our work. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire explored the act of reading as a vulnerable component of human engagement with the world. For Freire, reading is not merely a passive exercise, but rather a creative act, which can provide new insights about the world around us and which allows us to contribute to the shaping of that world in ways that foster liberation, freedom, and fulfillment. On the other hand, and as feared by Orwell and Lutz, both what we read and how we read may also contribute to political apathy, social control, and manipulation of everyday citizens. Instructions: There are many possible intersections between Orwell, Lutz, and Freire. For the argument essay, you should consider your perspective on one of the following questions and use your response to that question as the basis for your argument, drawing on Orwell, Lutz, and/or Freire to support your claims. All essays must include Freire and either Orwell or Lutz, and essays that bring all three thinkers into conversation are welcomed as well. You should not draw only from Orwell and Lutz.

Option 1:

In “The Importance of the Act of Reading”, Freire insists that teaching adults to read and write is “a political act” (10). Why does he make such a claim, and how does this understanding of literacy intersect with Orwell and/or Lutz’s observations around political uses of language? 

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