Reason to Believe

Romanticism, Pragmatism, and the Teaching of Writing

By Hephzibah Roskelly & Kate Ronald

Subjects: Education
Paperback : 9780791437964, 187 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791437957, 187 pages, July 1998

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Table of contents



One Is Teaching Still Possible?

Two The Doctrine of Use: Seeds of Romantic/Pragmatic Rhetoric

Three Romantic Dialectics and the Principle of Mediation

Four Imperfect Theories: The Pragmatic Question of Experience and Belief

Five A Way of Seeing is Also a Way of Not Seeing: Whatever Happened to Romanticism and Pragmatism?

Six Changing the Course of the Stream: Romantic/Pragmatic Perspectives on Systems

Seven What Difference Does It Make? Romantic/Pragmatic Rhetoric in Action

Works Cited


Explores current theories of teaching and demonstrates that English studies can benefit from the work of nineteenth-century American romanticism and pragmatism, both of which affirm the possibility of growth and development. The book argues eloquently for the importance of hope and relies extensively for its theoretical underpinnings on the influential writings of Cornel West and Paulo Freire.


Reason to Believe is about teaching and the possibility of making positive change in education. The authors explore the way that American pragmatism and the rhetoric of North American romanticism work together to create a method for restoring hope to teachers and responsiveness to the systems they work within. What the book calls romantic/pragmatic rhetoric offers teachers a way to locate the roots of their beliefs and methods, to name them, and thus to act to change and challenge systems that have become in William James' phrase "tyrannical machines. "

Hephzibah Roskelly is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She is the coauthor, with Eleanor Kutz, of An Unquiet Pedagogy: Transforming Practice in the English Classroom. Kate Ronald is Roger and Joyce L. Howe Professor in the Department of English at Miami University. Roskelly and Ronald are also the coeditors of Farther Along: Transforming Dichotomies in Rhetoric and Composition.


"'How does the history of thinking about education and learning and spiritual understanding in this country. ..connect to the work of teachers now?' This is the question that Hephzibah Roskelly and Kate Ronald boldly raise in Reason to Believe. They show, in graceful and impassioned prose, that by honoring the romantic and pragmatic traditions of the American past, English studies in general and composition theory in specific can be revitalized. Guided by Thoreau and Emerson in the nineteenth century and by Paulo Freire and Cornel West in the twentieth century, the authors challenge the cynicism and hopelessness that currently exist among prominent literary critics and demonstrate their self-defeating consequences. Reason to Believe affirms the intimate connection between theory and practice, intellect and action, and shows how teaching extends beyond the classroom into the arena of life. To the question 'Is teaching still possible?' the authors' answer is a resounding yes. Roskelly and Ronald truly give us a reason to believe in the value of reading, writing, and teaching. " — Jeffrey Berman, University at Albany, State University of New York