Is the essay dead?: revitalising argument in the era of multiliteracies

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Publication details

Gyenes, T & Wilks, JL 2014,'Is the essay dead?: revitalising argument in the era of multiliteracies', English in Australia, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 7-15.

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While the essay is the default assessment tool of the Humanities in upper secondary and tertiary education, it is a text type that has been slowly bled of communicative purpose. It is suffered by students, taught according to restrictive formula and ignored in the literature. Evidence from the tertiary sector, employers and public examinations suggests that students are struggling to become effective writers in this form. This paper advocates the need to apply renewed critical attention to the educational potential of argumentation, rhetoric, dialogic teaching, functional linguistics and multiliteracies. It is proposed that essay-writing can be revitalised with attention to argument as a mode of discourse with the academic essay as one possible realisation of this way of thinking and communicating. In this way a school-wide orientation to argumentation, expressed in a wide variety of argumentative writing, can re-energise essay-writing as a form. Finally, elements from the Australian Curriculum are examined in this context.