The Prose Reader: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing (6th Edition)

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9780130293251: The Prose Reader: Essays for Thinking, Reading, and Writing (6th Edition)

For courses in Freshman Composition. Based on the assumption that lucid thinking, reading, and writing are so closely interwoven as to be one process, this rhetorical reader helps students improve their abilities to think, read, and write on progressively more sophisticated levels by providing a collection of 60 provocative and interesting essays. The essays are accompanied by apparatus that includes clear, well-developed rhetorical introductions, sample student essays, prewriting questions, and flexible writing assignments. The essays cover a broad range of contemporary topics and portray the universality of human experience as expressed through the viewpoints of men and women, many different ethnic and racial groups, and a variety of ages and social classes.

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From the Back Cover:


  • Fifteen new essays that introduce interesting and provocative topics
  • A stronger commitment to cultural and gender diversity
  • New end-of-chapter writing assignments that offer practice in the mode and additional assignments that focus on contemporary topics regardless of the rhetorical strategy
  • Completely renovated capstone chapter ("Thinking, Reading, and Writing") that provides a strong conclusion to the theoretical framework of the text


The companion website provides students with additional chapter by chapter exercises, links, and activities that reinforce and build upon the material presented in the text.

Features include:

  • Additional essay and short answer questions for every reading in the text
  • Web links that provide additional author biographical information
  • Web destinations that relate to every essay topic
  • Instructor area that includes downloadable quizzes for every reading

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Prose Reader is based on the assumption that lucid writing follows lucid thinking, whereas poor written work is almost inevitably the product of foggy, irrational thought processes. As a result, our primary purpose in this book, as in the first five editions, is to help students think more clearly and logically—both in their minds and on paper.

Furthermore, we believe that college students should be able to think, read, and write on three increasingly difficult levels:

  1. Literal—characterized by a basic understanding of words and their meanings;
  2. Interpretive—consisting of a knowledge of linear connections between ideas and an ability to make valid inferences based on those ideas; and
  3. Critical—the highest level, distinguished by the systematic investigation of complex ideas and by the analysis of their relationship to the world around us.

To demonstrate the vital interrelationship between reader and writer, our text provides your students with prose models intended to inspire their own thinking and writing. Although studying rhetorical strategies is certainly not the only way to approach writing, it is a productive means of helping students become better writers. These essays are intended to encourage your students to improve their writing through a partnership with some of the best examples of professional prose available today. Just as musicians and athletes richly benefit from studying the techniques of the foremost people in their fields, your students will grow in spirit and language use from their collaborative work with the excellent writers in this collection.


Each chapter of The Prose Reader begins with an explanation of a single rhetorical technique. These explanations are divided into six sections that progress from the effect of this technique on our daily lives to its integral role in the writing process. Also in each introduction, we include a student paragraph and a student essay featuring each particular rhetorical strategy under discussion. The essay is highlighted by annotations and underlining to illustrate how to write that type of essay and to help bridge the gap between student writing and the professional selections that follow. After each essay, the student writer has drafted a personal note with some useful advice for other student writers.

The essays that follow each chapter introduction are selected from a wide variety of well-known contemporary authors. Needless to say, "pure" rhetorical types rarely exist, of course, and when they do, the result often seems artificial. Therefore, although each essay in this collection focuses on a single rhetorical mode as its primary strategy, other strategies are always simultaneously at work. These selections concentrate on one primary technique at a time in much the same way a well-arranged photograph highlights a certain visual detail, though many other elements function in the background to make the picture an organic whole.

Before each reading selection, we offer some material to focus your students' attention on a particular writer and topic before they begin reading the essay. This "prereading" segment begins with biographical information about the author and ends with a number of questions to whet the reader's appetite for the essay that follows. This section is intended to help your students discover interesting relationships among ideas in their reading and then anticipate various ways of thinking about and analyzing the essay. The prereading questions forecast not only the content of the essay, but also the questions and writing assignments that follow.

The questions after each reading selection are designed as guides for thinking about the essay. These questions are at the heart of the relationship represented in this book among thinking, reading, and writing. They are divided into four interrelated sections that move your students smoothly from a literal understanding of what they have just read, to interpretation, and finally to analysis.

After your students have studied the different techniques at work in a reading selection, a specific essay assignment lets them practice all these skills in unison and encourages them to discover even more secrets about the intricate and exciting details of effective communication. Three "Ideas for Discussion/Writing" topics are preceded by "prewriting" questions to help your students generate new ideas. Most of these topics specify a purpose and an audience so that your students can focus their writing as precisely as possible. The word essay (which comes from the Old French essai, meaning a "try" or an "attempt") is an appropriate label for these writing assignments, because they all ask your students to wrestle with an idea or problem and then attempt to give shape to their conclusions in some effective manner. Such "exercises" can be equated with the development of athletic ability: The essay itself demonstrates that your students can put together all the various skills they have learned; it proves they can actually play the "sport" of writing.


  • The Prose Reader is still organized according to the belief that our mental abilities are logically sequential.

In other words, students cannot read or write analytically before they are able to perform well on the literal and interpretive levels. Accordingly, the book progresses from selections that require predominantly literal skills (Description, Narration, and Example) through readings involving more interpretation (Process Analysis, Division/Classication, Comparison/Contrast, and Definition) to essays that demand a high degree of analytical thought (Cause/Effect and Argument/Persuasion). Depending on your curriculum and the caliber of your students, these rhetorical modes can, of course, be studied in any order.

  • The Prose Reader provides two Tables of Contents.

First, the book contains a Rhetorical Table of Contents, which includes a one- or two-sentence synopsis of the selection so you can peruse the list quickly and decide which essays to assign. An alternate Thematic Table of Contents lists selections by academic discipline.

  • The chapter introductions are filled with several types of useful information about each rhetorical mode.

Each of the nine rhetorical divisions in the text is introduced by an explanation of how to think, read, and write in that particular mode. Although each chapter focuses on one rhetorical strategy, students are continually encouraged to examine ways in which other modes help support each essay's main intentions.

  • Two separate student writing samples are featured in each chapter introduction.

The chapter introductions contain a sample student paragraph and a complete student essay that illustrate each rhetorical pattern. After each essay, the student writer has provided a thorough analysis, explaining the most enjoyable, exasperating, or noteworthy aspects of writing that particular essay. We have found that this combination of student essays and commentaries makes the professional selections easier for students to read and more accessible as models of thinking and writing.

  • This edition includes user-friendly checklists at the end of each chapter introduction.

These checklists summarize the information in the chapter introduction and serve as references for the students in their own writing tasks. Students should be directed to these fists as early in the course as possible.

  • We precede each reading selection with thorough biographical information on the author and provocative prereading questions on the subject of the essay.

Because our own experience suggests that students often produce their best writing when they are personally involved in the topics of the essays they read and in the human drama surrounding the creation of those essays, the biographies explain the real experiences from which each essay emerged, and the prereading questions ("Preparing to Read") help students focus on the purpose, audience, and subject of the essay. The prereading material also foreshadows the questions and writing assignments that follow each selection. Personalizing this preliminary material encourages students to identify with both the author of an essay and its subject matter, thereby engaging the students' attention and energizing their responses to the selections they read.

  • The essays in The Prose Reader continue to represent a wide range of topics.

As in the past, the essays in this edition were selected on the basis of five important criteria: (1) high interest level, (2) currency in the field, (3) moderate length, (4) readability, and (5) broad subject variety. Together, they portray the universality of human experience as expressed through the viewpoints of men and women, many different ethnic and racial groups, and a variety of ages and social classes. The essay topics in this volume include such provocative subjects as discrimination, ethnic identity, job opportunities, aging, war, the media, women's roles, prison life, time management, euthanasia, romantic relationships, family values, immigration, physical handicaps, reading, and the writing process itself.

  • The Argument and Persuasion section (Chapter 9) includes three essays on a variety of topics and two sets of opposing-viewpoint essays.

The essays in Chapter 9 are particularly useful for helping your students refine their critical thinking skills in preparation for longer, more sustained papers on a single topic. The first three essays in this chapter encourage students to grapple with provocative issues that make a crucial difference in how we all live. Then the two sets of opposing viewpoint essays help the students see coherent arguments at work from two different perspectives on a single issue. The argumentative essays cover such timely topics as gun control, affirmative action, and immigration; the opposing viewpoint essays are on the relationship between computers and books and on freedom of the press.

  • "Documented Essays: Reading and Writing from Sources" (Chapter 10) features research papers throughout the college curriculum.

These essays demonstrate the two most common documentation styles—Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA). By including documented essays, we intend to clarify some of the mysteries connected with research and documentation and to provide interesting material for creating longer and more elaborate writing assignments. These essays cover the history of war and the relationship between personal appearance and delinquency. We offer a full range of apparatus for these selections, and we provide at the end of each selection a list of Further Reading on each subject and suggested topics for longer, more sophisticated essays and research papers.

  • This edition offers four progressively more sophisticated types of questions at the end of each selection.

These questions are designed to help students move sequentially from various literal-level responses to interpretation and analysis; they also help reveal both the form and content of the essays so your students can cultivate a similar balance in their own writing.

  1. Understanding Details—questions that test the students' literal and interpretive understanding of what they have read;
  2. Analyzing Meaning—questions that require students to analyze various aspects of the essay;
  3. Discovering Rhetorical Strategies—questions that investigate the author's rhetorical strategies in constructing the essay;
  4. Making Connections—questions that ask students to find thematic and rhetorical connections among essays they have read.
  • The writing assignments ("Ideas for Discussion/Writing") are preceded by Preparing to Write questions.

These questions are designed to encourage students to express their feelings, thoughts, observations, and opinions on various topics. Questions about their own ideas and experiences help students produce writing that corresponds as closely as possible to the way they think.

  • The writing assignments seek to involve students in realistic situations.

They often provide a specific purpose and audience for the essay topic. In this manner, student writers are drawn into rhetorical scenes that carefully focus their responses to a variety of questions or problems. These prompts are designed for use inside or outside the classroom.

  • The book concludes with a glossary of composition terms (along with examples and page references from the text) and an index of authors and titles.

The glossary provides not only definitions of composition terms but also examples of these terms from this book and their page numbers. The index lists both the author and title of each essay in the book. Both the glossary and the index serve as excellent reference tools for your students as they progress through the material in the text.


We have made several changes in the sixth edition of The Prose Reader that represent the responses of instructors from many different types of colleges and universities throughout the United States:

  • The sixth edition of The Prose Reader contains fifteen new essays.

We have updated some of the selections, added new authors, and introduced many new topics, such as nature, self-esteem, language, gang violence, e-mail, memory, romantic love, guidelines for arguing, gun control, books and computers, writing, and technology.

  • This edition makes an even stronger commitment to cultural and gender diversity.

Although multicultural and women's issues have always been well represented in The Prose Reader, in this edition we have included even more essays by women and ethnic-minority authors, among them Susan Austin, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, Brent Staples, Phyllis Schneider, Lois Smith Brady, Mary Roach, Bronwyn Jones, and Diane Russo Cody.

  • This edition includes a new set of writing assignments at the end of each chapter.

These assignments are divided into two categories, offering (1) more practice in a specific rhetorical mode and (2) a focus on interesting contemporary topics regardless of rhetorical mode. In this way, you have a variety of prompts to choose from if you want your students to have further writing experience at any time.

  • We have completely renovated our popular "Thinking, Reading, and Writing" section (Chapter 11).

This chapter now includes essays on one writer's passion for his craft, listening, reading fiction, writing in the professional world, the death of reading, writing as a moral act, and writing and technology. In addition to demonstrating all the rhetorical mode...

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Kim Flachmann; Michael Flachmann
Published by Prentice Hall (2001)
ISBN 10: 0130293253 ISBN 13: 9780130293251
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
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