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Teaching Critical Reading and Writing in the Era of Fake News

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Edited By Ellen C. Carillo and Alice S. Horning

This collection offers support for instructors who are concerned about students’ critical literacy abilities. Attending to critical reading to help students navigate fake news, as well as other forms of disinformation and misinformation, is the job of instructors across all disciplines, but is especially important for college English instructors because students’ reading problems play out in many and varied ways in students’ writing. The volume includes chapters that analyze the current information landscape by examining assorted approaches to the wide-ranging types of materials available on and offline and offers strategies for teaching critical reading and writing in first-year composition and beyond. The chapters herein bring fresh perspectives on a range of issues, including ways to teach critical digital reading, ecological models that help students understand fake news, and the ethical questions that inform teaching in such a climate. With each chapter offering practical, research-based advice this collection underscores not just the importance of attending to reading, particularly in the era of fake news, but precisely how to do so.

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6. Factual Dispute: Teaching Rhetoric and Complicating Fact-Checking with The Lifespan of a Fact

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DANIELLE KOUPF

In 2012, John D’Agata and Jim Fingal published The Lifespan of a Fact, a book that presents two texts side by side: an essay and the fact-checking required to publish it. The essay is John D’Agata’s piece on 16-year-old Levi Presley’s suicide in Las Vegas, denied publication by Harper’s due to factual inaccuracies and resubmitted to The Believer for fact-checking by intern Jim Fingal. Surrounding the draft of D’Agata’s essay are Fingal’s fact-checks, which appear in black ink when substantiated and in red ink when not. As Fingal identifies more and more factual inaccuracies in D’Agata’s piece, a rich dialogue develops, in which D’Agata champions his creative freedom as an essayist and Fingal defends the sanctity of truth as a fact-checker. Allegedly spanning seven years, this dialogue mimics, yet exaggerates, the real-life debate between D’Agata and Fingal, who develop as characters throughout the book in increasing opposition to each other.

The Lifespan of a Fact is a hybrid text in several ways. It is a dialogue between D’Agata and Fingal, and it consists of both an essay draft and the fact-checks of it. Having taught the work in both an introductory literature course and a first-year writing seminar, I also identify a source of multiplicity in its status as both literature and rhetorical criticism. With these labels, I don’t mean to establish a false dichotomy between the terms literature and rhetorical criticism but rather, to celebrate their confluence in this text. For,...

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