The Book Behind the Book | A Conversation with Joseph Harris

One of the books that helped me the most when I was a student was Joseph Harris’s Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts (Utah State UP, now in the second edition). On the surface, the book lays out practical moves for working with sources in academic writing, moves like “forwarding,” “countering,” “remixing,” and so forth. But deeper than that—what I’m calling the book behind the book—is an implicit vision for what academic writing, at least a particular kind of academic writing, is: intellectual conversation marked by listening, engagement, curiosity, generosity, and the generation of new ideas. So while I loved that the book showed me how to use sources, I loved even more that the book embodied why one would even care to write the kind of essay where sources matter. Over the years, I’ve recommend and assigned the book often. Now, I’ve sat down with Joe to talk about it. The idea for the video below is that it can serve as an introduction—for those about to read Rewriting—to the human behind the book, a writer and teacher, yes, and also a grandfather, chess player, and lover of dogs.

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