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Assignment #1: Call and Response

Background on Call and Response as a Rhetorical Strategy


The rhetorical strategy of call and response is used in music and in oratory. In music, one piece
of music is composed in direct response to another piece of music—one piece calls to the other.
Call and response also has a rich history in African traditions, where it is used in religious
ceremonies, public discourse, and in song. Call and response continues to be a common feature
of contemporary African-American religious ceremonies, wherein a preacher speaks and the
congregants respond in an affirming or punctuating way. In her dissertation Call and response:
communication in the historically Black college and university (HBCU) classroom, Patrice
Boone writes, “call and response is viewed by scholars as a reciprocal speech event, which
serves to unite speaker and audience in a collective display emphasizing the community rather
than the individual” (11). Citing Geneva Smitherman, Boone explains that “In fact, she maintains
that because the dynamics of call and response allow for ‘individual variation,’ all responses are
correct and that the only incorrect thing one can do is to not respond at all (p. 108)” (10).
While there is much more to know about call and response, I want to highlight the following
elements that will serve our composing purposes:
• The unification of speaker and audience
• Emphasis on the community, rather than the individual
• All responses are correct
• Variation is key

Assignment Description
For this assignment, you will choose a “call” to which you will compose a “response.” A “call”
might be a tweet, an article, a documentary, a poem, a song, a piece of graffiti—anything that
argues something and provokes a response from you. You will then craft a response to that call
in a modality and genre that you deem as appropriate. You will learn about the appropriate
citation practices of the call genre and the response genre. A reflective essay will accompany this
assignment.
Part I
• Choose a “call”
o Think about what you read, listen to, watch. What has impacted you? What do
you care about? What speaks to you? What inspires you?
o A “call” can be any text: song, poem, billboard, tweet, Facebook post, magazine
or newspaper article, TV show, movie, documentary, short story, novel,
photograph, painting, sculpture, etc.
• Choose and compose an appropriate “response”
o How do you want to respond to the arguments in the “call” you chose? What
genre would be the most effective? What modality would allow you to respond
meaningfully?
o For example, let’s say you chose an episode of HBO’s The Deuce as your “call.”
Broadly, this show investigates topics like prostitution, pornography, gay rights,
drug use, feminism, the revitalization of neighborhoods, the influence of
organized crime, and so on. In response to this “call,” you might consider writing
an opinion piece about one of the topics as it relates to your neighborhood; you
might write lyrics to a song that could be played within the episode; you might
create a billboard that addresses the importance of safe sex (a topic the show
addresses), etc.
o You will investigate the appropriate conventions for your chosen genre and
modality. For example, let’s say you were responding to the “call” of a tweet—
you would need to be aware that a tweet is no more than 280 characters, often
uses abbreviations, and can include hashtags and @ symbols. These are the
features and conventions of a tweet. Every genre has certain features,
conventions, and general rules that you should learn about and follow—this is
particularly relevant when you craft your “response.” If your response is a tweet,
you wouldn’t write a 500-word essay, nor would you include a title or follow
MLA guidelines.
Part II
• You will write a 3-5 page reflection that explains and justifies your generic, modal, and
rhetorical choices. This reflection will also be where you self-assess and talk about your
composing process. You will answer the following questions:
o Why did you choose the “call”?
o What were the reasons for the type of “response” you chose?
o Why is your “response” an effective reaction to the “call”?
o What affordances does your “response” allow? What drawbacks does your
“response” have?
o In what way does your “response” place you in a community and contribute to the
debate and discussion of important topics?
o Who is the intended audience for your “response”?
o What was the most challenging aspect of this composing process?
o What are you most proud of in this process?
o In what ways might you consider putting your “response” in the world beyond our
classroom?

Purpose of Assignment
• To recognize that all texts are calls to specific audiences, and that, as engaged citizens, it
is our responsibility to respond—this response involves us in a community of ideas and
implicates us in the way our society develops.
• To understand how topics are addressed through different modes and genres.

Works Cited

Boone, Patreece R. Call and Response Communication in the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Classroom, Southern Illinois
University at Carbondale, Ann Arbor, 1999. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.library.arizona.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-
com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/docview/304525551?accountid=8360.