Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 1993
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[The format is irregular--this page is still being worked on as of 11/05--but I just discovered three past classes' research preparation and wanted to make it available to the class of '05.]
Popkin, Cathy. "Essay: A Plea to the Wielders of Academic PRIVATE
Dis(of)course." College English. 54:2 (February 1992)
173 ‑ 181.
Cathy Popkin uses this essay to express her outrage at the
decline of the tentative and indefinite in academic discourse.
Her main focus is on the phrase, "of course," and all of its
linguistic cousins like, "Needless to say...," and, "the whole
problem of...." She derides the habit of many of her colleagues
of throwing these phrases around, all of which can be used to
positive effect, but which are all too often abused. Well‑placed
uses of such phrases allow the author to inform those who may not
be acquainted with the material, while allowing those who are to
reaffirm their sagacity and establishing the author's own
credentials. It minimizes the "risk of seeming to reassert the
obvious," and can be used as "shorthand for a well‑established
body of knowledge," without having to go into details. In this
usage it also establishes a particular fact as being previous
knowledge, as opposed to the new information the author will
present. Unfortunately, she sees that all too often these
phrases are used simply to give the appearance of superior
knowledge, with the dangerous implications that has in any
learning environment, in particular between graduate students and
professors. When "of course" is used, it "silences both forceful
dissent and timid questions," preventing the ignorant from asking
for an explanation for fear of being revealed as dumb, or worse,
a "fraud" who does not belong with such prestigious company.
Often, students subjected to this kind of "verbal terrorism"
adopt the same postures, but with no real knowledge to back them
up, anxious all the while that their ignorance will be revealed.
It also helps preserve the "scholastic hierarchy" by establishing
superiority on a topic. Such strategies are also used to
introduce alternate viewpoints in a way that implies that any
evidence they contain is not even worth contemplating. Worse
than thus dismissing objections is "the 'of course' that disavows
them altogether, presenting it's own 'truth' as beyond debate."
Although she seems to despise this academic one‑up‑manship she
does note that, in some fields at least, the trend is reversing
and some scholars are reverting to the tentative "perhaps" and
"suppose," and derailing the "obvious."
Popkin shows us how even good intentions can have negative
consequences. Perhaps some professors who behave as those she
outlines do use "of course" to include their students in their
discussions, as well as amongst themselves to reinforce their
common knowledge. However, it is easy to believe that
over‑reliance on such techniques is just so much hot air.
Including background information in the same sentences as "new"
statements may not only a way of anticipating questions that a
reader (or listener) may have, a way of presenting the evidence
they must know. It can also be a stylistic consideration.
Surely the preceding two sentences could have been one, but they
present the same information in a way that I, as the writer,
consider more aesthetically pleasing. This article certainly
seems to have a great deal to do with how carefully we, as peer
tutors, would have to watch how we word our opinions in order to
prevent the sorts of implications Popkin brings up. It is very
easy to slip into the role of knowing the "truth." I know this
because in the process of writing this, I have had to stop myself
several times on the verge of writing just such an absolutist
statement as she criticizes as being unconstructive. She
considers knowledge a "commodity," and "of course" as a ploy to
capitalize on that fact without necessarily having gone through
the process of actually acquiring it. This being the case, it
shouldn't be surprising that people are starting to debunk it.
Stephanie Brown 9/12/93
Young, Art. "College Culture and the Challenge of Collaboration." The Writing Center Journal. 13.1 (1992): 3-15.
This article makes the argument that, in the right circumstances, collaboration in the college curriculum can be quite effective and beneficial for all involved. The present belief is that student collaboration on the college level is destructive and to our American college and university system as it goes against the American values of individualism and competition.
Collaboration is also seen as an option only for lazy teachers and, without caution, will lead "to bad teaching and students being shortchanged" (4). However, Young believes that an increase in the frequency of group work, activities, and projects can benefit all individuals in many ways. The author argues that the reason collaboration is seen as a threat is because it is misunderstood. A part of this misunderstanding stems from the belief that all collaboration works in all circumstances. Certain projects are more successful when collaboration takes place, however, collaboration is not successful or effective in all circumstances. Young tells us to be very careful to understand "the local culture of our particular campus" (7) before trying to integrate collaboration.
Young presents five assumptions in order to help us better understand the benefits and limits of collaboration. These include: (1) Collaboration helps teach students what we know how to do, not just what we know. (2) Collaboration succeeds when every individual as well as the group as a whole succeeds. (3) Collaboration invites students to actively participate in teaching and learning. (4) Collaboration does not function in the abstract. (5) Collaboration involves taking risks.
I believe this article helps to make clear for me the importance of collaboration in certain circumstances. The fact that collaboration occurs in nearly every profession leads me to believe that at some point in my future career as an elementary education major, I will join in on some form of collaboration-- whether it be team teaching or co-authoring tests. In this sense, I would like to practice in working with others now, rather than being in a position later on where I have had no previous experience in collaboration.
The article was careful to state the limitations of collaboration. In this, I realize that it is not always the best idea to collaborate, and that different groups will collaborate in different ways and in different intensities. It is determined by the group how much group work will balance with individual ideas. Some projects can only be completely successfully with collaboration, while other projects are more successful when done individually. In any case, I think it is important to find a balance in any college curriculum between collaboration and independent work. Kerry Flanigan, 9/13/93
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Prose of the World "The Indirect Language" (pg. 47-113). Trans. John O'Neil. Illinois: NorthWestern University Press, 1991.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty opens his discussion on language and its use as a tool for communication by placing the utmost importance and responsibility of writing on the individual author. The writer is given the task of organizing and manipulating the structures of language: words, phrases and grammar, into a work through which his individual life experiences shine through. Merleau-Ponty compares language to visual art in that there exists a plenum of either meanings of words, or of colors and shapes on a canvas. Thus, by focusing either on one meaning of a word, or on one angle of a picture, meaning and significance arise. This allows the writer an immense power and responsibility, as words have a sophistic and self-concealing nature. The writer must choose his meaning and convey it the best that he can. However, his choice does not sediment meaning as Merleau-Ponty describes language as being "open". This openness is displayed in how merely rereading a piece of writing can completely alter the interpretation of its meaning. This reveals the author's style which is what the reading audience detects while reading a work. Style draws the process of writing inward, making it interpersonal and subjective.
The physical motion of writing is actually the presence of style making itself manifest through the vehicle of the body. The physical action of composing is merely a fountain pen through which the constituted essences of an author's style flow out. The writer's "goal" is to bring forth her style through her words. The power of prose is that the speaker is joined to her audience and, together, they are swept towards new meanings. This brings the writer out of the shell of her own mind, and out into the world. Through the interaction of the writer and her audience, significance arises. The paradox the author encounters is that by creating meaningful language, she is also destroying it. Old meanings are replaced by new focus, and the author is allowed to come through the words into the world, joined to a cooperative audience.
Using a philosophical approach in the study of the processes involved in writing provides a fresh outlook on a subject that is usually pursued in a scientific manner. This method of explanation could have a positive effect on students who prefer to find the power of writing within themselves and not as a product of society, or as the result of a preconstructed reality. This approach is mostly expressivist which Faigley describes as how "the individual discovers the self through language". There are also elements of cognitivist methodology in that there is the interaction with the other as the audience, as well as Marxist philosophy in that writing is an extremely effective tool of power. The role of the tutor or teacher would be to help the student see that the power to create through writing lies within them, waiting to be tapped into. The tutor illuminates the possibilities and finds the most effective way to help the student see writing as a chance for self expression and actualization. Explaining the writing process in this manner allows for the student to gain confidence and pride in that they are made aware of the awesome tool of writing that they themselves possess. Shannon Mussett, 9/13/93
Corbett, Edward P. "My Write of Passage: From the Quill Pen to the Personal Computer." Computers and Composition 8:1 81-88.
Corbett lauds the wonders of the computer in this essay about his personal trials and triumphs as he learns about word processing. His wariness of the computer stemmed from the common humanist "fear of the machine as a 'dehumanizing' force." The author describes his progression from manual typewriter to word processor, and the consequent realization of the changes his writing undergoes with the advent of the new technology. Corbett finds that he prepares less for writing with the advent of the computer, because seeing the easily-deletable words on the screen stimulates his thought processes more. He takes more delight in expanding from vague notions to brilliant ideas, and he finds the computer "helps me to discover my content and thesis and organization and verbalization." He also realizes the difference in his writing in respect to revisions. Rather than keep with the traditional route of revising after writing an entire article, Corbett finds his revisions are constant because of the convenience of the computer. He easily swaps sentences or rearranges paragraphs, and makes most of his writing changes page by page rather than all at the end. The author finds that the capabilities of a personal computer are numerous, and considers himself a "grateful and enthusiastic supporter of the computer."
Corbett heralds the dawn of a new writing age as he discusses the changes word processing brings to his work. His remarks about the differences in the preplanning and revising processes fit for writers across the board, from students to professionals. Planning tends to be simpler and less structured, and people take the opportunity to write their thoughts as quickly as they come to mind and grapple with reorganization later. Writing revisions are less time-consuming and quite effortless, which gives the author the chance to carefully reread their work and spend their energy on the cognitive part of the process. This in turn brings writing to the hierarchical state the Flower and Hayes article discusses, in which writing becomes less programmed, linear, and predictable. The prewriting, writing, and revising processes are continuous throughout the paper with the help and facility of a computer, which allows better brainstorming and exploration of new topic routes within the writing. Computers alleviate the physical strain of writing for the author, and help writers find a better way to convey their myriad of thoughts to the reader. Christine Kucia, September 13, 1993
Hilbert, Betsy S. "It WAs A Dark and Nasty Night It Was A Dark and You Would Not Believe How Dark It Was a Hard Beginning." College Composition and Communication 43:1 (February 1992), 75-80.
Hilbert's article focuses on some questions and fears that student writers encounter when writing introductions and opening lines. Every semester English composition professors are bombarded with the questions, "How do we start?" Hilbert believes "how to begin writing" and "how to write beginnings" are inseparably interwoven. Trust in their work, severe self-consciousness, and a fear of betraying majestic preconceptions of their work, are a few of the major blocks that inhibit a student's writing. Students who learn to trust their work will have an easier time beginning then those who fear the "red pen." Insecure students often cling to the "rigid, five paragraph, thesis-directed format." Hilbert, however, argues that the fear of deviation from this unbending structure limits the creative possibilities in a student's work. The only certain piece of advice that Hilbert feels she can offer her students is, "Write an opening paragraph that makes me want to read the rest of your essay." By trusting in his or her own work and believing in himself or herself the student will be able to write a beginning and begin writing.
This article questions methods of teaching that implement, rigid, unquestionable techniques that allow very little room for self-exploration and expression. The article by Flower and Hayes augments criticism for Gordon Rohman's Pre-write/Write/Re-write model of the composition process, and adds that "they (stage models) offer an inadequate account of the more intimate, moment-by-moment intellectual process of composing. If a student writer feels bound to these rigid structures, they will never allow themselves the freedom to explore internally beyond these external boundaries. As Hilbert mentions, the student must trust himself/herself in order to open up to his/her own ideas. Unfortunately, in the case of rigid models, the student learns to rely on the structure of his/her paper, more than on his/her individual thought processes.
According to Hilbert, first impressions are of extreme importance. Not only does she mean this in terms of a catchy opening line, but also in terms of how writers feel about their writing competence. Many students have a deep mistrust of their ability. If, as they write, they are constantly reminding themselves of past failures, they will have great difficulty in moving ahead. Fear will discourage them from developing as writers and will inhibit any existing possibilities for creative expression. However, with encouragement from a peer-councilor who reminds the student of his or her own potential, the student will be able to begin developing the self-trust needed to explore his/her thoughts and writing. By acting as a guide and encourager instead of a proof-reader or instructor, the peer-councilor forces the student to think for himself/herself. Once the student observes that his/her improvement is a result of his/her thought, he/she will be able to develop the self-trust needed to write on his/her own. Dani Salzer, 9/14/93
Fleckenstein, Kristie S. "An Appetite for Coherence: Advising and Fulfilling Desire." College Composition and Communication. 23:1 (Febrary 1992): 81-7.
According to Kristie Fleckenstein, Director of Composition at Perdue University, revision in order is the difference between coherence and incoherence in written work. She explains that, "writers may provide linguistic cues, but it is the readers who fill the gap between ideas by building relationships that bridge ideas, and thereby create their sense of order." Therefore, the author must step out of his or her shoes and examine the passage as a reader. They must become aware of their audience after they have written a work, and examine how they create coherent meaning as their audience might. Then they can examine their work for problems of incoherence.
Fleckenstein goes on to explain her strategy for bringing students to this state of audience awareness. She begins by reading an essay with which it is impossible for the reader to "fill the gaps between ideas." She then practices peer editing by examining the incoherent work. Next she has students edit small samples of the work of their peers. Working their way up to larger works through these steps, Fleckenstein weans her students from depending on the judgement of others to relying on their own instincts.
In their article, A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing, Flower and Hayes discourage the revision stage. According to their theory this is one of the steps that a "good writer" does not take. However Flower and Hayes theory is that their are only two categories of writers, good and bad, and their system does not to develop better writers.
I believe that Fleckenstein has a very interesting idea, and valuable suggestions, however I have doubts that her exact method will be successful in every case. She provides some interesting exercises that certainly deserve experimentation. I much prefer her theory to the discouraging beliefs of Flower and Hayes. Fleckenstein's approach of making what was once incoherent understandable through this extreme form of audience awareness could bring out "good" things from a writer Flowers and Hayes would term as "bad." Amy Reiley, 9/14/93
Behm, Richard. "Ethical Issues in Peer Tutoring: A defense of Collaborative Learning." The Writing Center Journal 10.1 (1989):3-12.
Because of a complaint that the tutoring program violated a university's plagiarism policy, the director of the program, Richard Behm, questions and explores the ethical issues of collaborative learning. The traditional approach to education discourages collaboration and instead emphasizes sorting, grading, and certifying students. However, Behm argues that this approach actually perverts the learning process by discouraging teachers and students to share knowledge in the pursuit of truth. Instead, schools assign grades to students and issue credentials without concern for what has been learned and how students have developed. In describing an effective writing center, Behm stresses that its success depends on the amount of collaboration between the tutor and the tutee. Furthermore, he states that writing is not an individual act; writers absorb influences from others throughout the composing process. Professional writers receive advice and direction from colleagues, friends, and editors, yet inexperienced students are denied the opportunity to develop through such interaction. Thus Behm concludes that the traditional theory of education, which is based upon adults merely transmitting information to students, essentially contradicts the aim of the writing center, which centers around growth through the process of collaboration. Although by traditional societal and educational standards the collaborative efforts of the writing center may seem unethical, Behm asserts and clarifies the ethical and essential nature of collaboration in writing.
In an initial questioning of ethical standards, Behm confronts his doubts about the rights and wrongs of collaborative learning. But his approach to the essay proves his dedication to the collaborative process. Behm defends and justifies collaboration by first offering accounts of collaborative learning in history as well as examples of the natural tendency of students to work together as peer tutors. Thus he views today's standards of education through Rousseau's perspective, perceiving them as falsely constructed obstacles to the Emilian natural experience of education. Behm recognizes the societal pressures to grade and rank students, but recoils from using those faulty standards as an excuse. The "real-world" to Behm is not what is beyond one's reach, but rather what is at one's fingertips. Thus rather than refuting the social theory of composing, Behm embraces and upholds the idea that social interaction is essential to the writing process. To Behm the writing process is a "kind of communal struggle to make meaning, to clarify, to communicate." (6) He takes a cognitive process perspective as well by focusing on the situational nature of writing and the problems of facing unknown variables such as the type of audience. In vehement defense of the discoveries and sharing inherent in the writing process, Behm firmly declares not only the ethical nature of collaboration, but further attests that "collaboration is a natural part of the social act of writing." (9) Thus with earnest persuasion he switches from his defensive assertions to a more aggressive conclusion that the unethical approach would be to deny students the access to collaborative learning, since it is the natural process by which one develops. Meagan Ledendecker, 9/13/93
Reither, James A and Douglas Vipond. "Writing as Collaboration."
College English 51:8 (1989); 855‑866
Reither and Vipond propose that the writing process is
fundamentally collaborative in nature,deriving their thesis from
a case study involving "Evaluations in Literary Reading," an
article by Russell Hunt and Douglas Vipond. The authors identify
three forms of collaboration: short term "coauthoring", "peer
editing," and long term "knowledge making." While the first two
forms of collaboration, "coauthoring" and "workshopping" (i.e.
peer editing), form supportive microcosms within a discourse
community, neither is imperative to writing. The third form,
however, "knowledge making" is fundamental to progress in any
The authors also provide guidelines under these three
categories to design courses for collaborative writing. While the
benefits of coauthorship are efficiency and quality of writing
through cooperative teamwork, workshopping promotes self esteem
by giving writers a sense of expertise on a subject and value to
the group, according to Reither and Vipond. The authors finally
propose to make the course a "knowledge making" process through
the investigation of a research question. Writing in this sense
is an ongoing conversation in which each study and article
published adds to a pool of knowledge for further research,
study, evaluation, and discovery. Reither and Vipond conclude
that writing is a goal based process. Writing does not exist as
anything other than collaboration because it enables a community
to change, elicit change and progress.
Its a funny thing that the course Reither and Vipond propose
bear remarkable resemblance to English 221. After reading this
article, I'm beginning to wonder if my role in our final group
research projects is that of a guinea pig in an experiment
testing the validity of the collaboration theory. Although I
will evaluate the article now, it will be interesting to see how
my views change or remain stable after completing the course.
While writing as collaboration is a valid exercise to focus
on the forces of human interaction, the writing process cannot be
pinpointed to this one viewpoint. One cannot ignore the
introspection a writer goes through as a human with emotions and
opinions, as the students of English 221 underwent in our "How Do
I Write?" essays. As Alice Brand suggests in "The Why of
Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process," the affect controls
one's writing as much or moreso than any cognitive (or social)
phenomena. Any knowledge making that occurs through the writing
process can only be valuable to an individual through personal
interpretation, for "it is in emotion that sense finds value
(Brand 157)". In turn, Flower and Hayes place emphasis on the
inventive power of the writer, "who is able to explore ideas, to
develop, act on, test, and regenerate his or her own goals"
(Flower & Hayes 386)." The collaborative writing process is an
interesting study of group dynamics, but it ignores the ecstasy
of self‑expression: the personal satisfaction one feels when one
has completed an essay formed in one's own mind, regardless of
outside influences.(Stephanie Donlon 9/12/93)
Hairston, Maxine. "Different Products, Different Processes: A Theory About Writing." College Composition and Communication. 37:4 (1986): 442-452.
Maxine Hairston draws together the work of the members of the "romantic" school of writing and the "classical" school in her hypothesis regarding three different, flexible classes of writing. While she suggests that writers of the romantic persuasion discover their meaning while writing and classicists act as strategists making their plans and carrying them out, she believes both to be of equal value and encourages students to take both approaches to writing. Hairston divides writing into classes I, II and III: I.Message writing; II. Self-limiting writing which has a clear end in sight at the outset; and III. Reflective writing which requires the act of discovery during the writing process. Hairston notes from personal experience and the experience of her colleagues that Class I writing is so routine it often escapes notice. Class II writing, informative in nature, is essential to the functioning of society. While it is not necessarily easy writing, it is an essential academic skill. She qualifies Class III writing as different from Class II, but not necessarily better, although it may tend to take a superior aspect in our culture because of its "reflective," "original," "probing" nature. It is also undertaken in a variety of situations from government to architecture.
Hairston suggests eliminating the academic bickering over methods of teaching writing by distinguishing between Class II and Class III writing, placing equal importance on each class and encouraging students to do both. Finally, good writing teachers must be adaptable and flexible in their response to a students writing, reflecting the type of writing, whether self-limiting or exploratory in nature.
After reading all the assertions and denials of various writing process theorists, it is good to come across a synthesis like Hairston's of the dichotomy of views on the "writing process." She makes the cognitive process and expressive theorists sound equally ridiculous in their adamant stances by drawing all of their ideas into her hypothesis. According to Hairston, there is no reason why a writer cannot have the best of both worlds. Her position reflects Harris' view of one and multi-draft writers; namely, that "There is a real danger on imposing a single "ideal" composing style on students" (Harris 190.) Hairston defines good teachers as "pragmatists who don't totally accept.. . any single prescription for teaching. . . ."(Hairston 452). One problem which she does not fully address is how a teacher is to grade her students writing objectively. If the writing process is that fluid, how are they to decipher where to draw the line between reflective writing and rambling, for instance? If good writing teachers "take whatever works whenever they can find it," then how are they to devise a system of grading (Hairston 452)? It appears that writing teachers who are truly dedicated to fairness, objectivity and the total formation of the emerging writer definitely have their work cut out for them.
Stephanie Donlon 9/26/93
McQuade, Donald. "Living In-and On-the Margins." College Composition and Communication Vol.43, No. 1, (February 1992): 11-23.
In his article, "Living In-and On-the Margins", Donald McQuade illustrates the importance of expression through writing. To do this, he tells the story of his mother, who on her death bed is unable to speak, and so she writes. Adelina Pisano was never a woman to attract attention to herself, her son informs us, but she is desperately in need of communicating her experiences with others. She lives "in the margins" as her very existence now is in many ways being determined by external factors. By writing, Adelina asserts herself and affirms her life. "It seems as if she is writing to keep herself alive", her son tells us. McQuade also shares other stories of women for whom writing was a life matter. McQuade summarizes his article best when explains that the story of his mother is "about writing as a matter of life and death...about the dignity and importance of what we try to do each day in our public and private conversations about the importance of the work of words in the lives of our students and in our own lives" (11).
The experience of McQuade's mother illustrates his expressivist view of writing very clearly. With McQuade, we are allowed to discover the integrity and importance of writing as the story of his mother unfolds. By using a couple of other small anecdotes, the different ways in which writing can be a form expression, and even a release for some, is more fully explored. I particularly liked the phrase he quoted from Francine du Plessix Gray, "I write out of a desire for revenge against reality". Just as McQuade writes about his personal experience with the power of communication and writing, while reading his essay, it is impossible not to be moved by the power of his own words. Laura Manfre, 9/21
Waismann, F. "Meaning", Readings in the Philosophy of Language. Ed. Rosenberg, Jay and Travis, Charles. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1971: 395-403.
For the most part, Waismann's essay on meaning can be broken into about three separate parts. He centers not necessarily on just the philosophical side to meaning, which in itself is a life time topic, but on the actual basic meaning of meaning.
In his first division, "Substantive and Substance", Waismann attacks the philosophical definition of meaning by stating that philosophers misuse the actual word "meaning" and distort their intentions so that the word itself changes definitions. He also criticizes philosophy's attempt to interpret the word out of its context, rather than keeping in bounds with the regular english definition.
In his second division, "Meanings of the Word Meaning", Waismann explains just how hard it is to pin down as to what exactly meaning is. He lists nine uses for the word "meaning" and then points out the fact that the reader will, "gain some idea of the many senses in which they are used (Waismann 397)."
In his third division "Meaning and Mental Image", Waismann wrestles with the many examples of the mental pictures that can be seen when seeing meaning. After concluding that there is no mental image that can describe meaning, Waismann concludes that meaning is a concept that cannot be understood and thus the word can only be visualized from the words around it.
Waismann's essay is confusing and contradictory. Although he tries to get away from the philosophical aspects of meaning, and its many complexities, It is almost impossible for him to escape philosophy's grasp upon the term. It's almost humorous to watch as Waismann turns one corner, only to find a slew of stumbling blocks from which he can't simply run over. To say "meaning is simply a word" is like stating that "Philosophy is simply a subject." There is no end to the circles that can be drawn round and round the topic. Gavin Patashnick, 9/27/93
Runciman, Lex. "Fun?" College English, v. 53, no. 2 (Feb. 1991) pp.156-162.
In this article, Runciman considered the fact that in the teaching and study of writing, considerably more emphasis is given to the problems it causes rather than the enjoyment it can bring. He wonders what motivation there is, given this situation, to want to write. He is spurred on in this question by Harris' article, "The Composing Behaviors of One- and Multi-Draft Writers." This article, he notes, puts all writing in terms of problem-solving, following the school of cognitive-process theory, and most textbooks emphasize the hard work involved in writing. The question therefore arises that if writing is hard work, confusing, and complicated, why do people write? Harris asserts that single-draft writers are more likely to put off starting their writing because they are less likely to enjoy it. Runciman raises the concern that in studying the process involved in writing that there is the danger of forgetting how writers feel. The research of Flower and Hayes and their colleagues have "demystified writing activities," giving students practical writing strategies, assuming that success brings with it satisfaction. Emotions being so undefinable and indefinite it is difficult to codify pleasure, and therefore difficult to place where it falls in the writing process. Furthermore, different people find what pleasure they do find in different parts of the writing process. And many people set the enjoyment of writing on a higher plane, something which is more common among those writers deemed "loftier," or only those with strong literary impulses, like poets and creative writers. Runciman pictures the "literacy wars," in which the teaching of writing is a series of struggles which tend to overpower the successes. He fears that in teaching writing teachers have given their students the impression that writing is supposed to b a problematic, difficult, and negative thing. Simply being aware of the pleasures of writing can help a person work through the frustrations.
I found many things I agree with in this article. For one, I have found pleasures in writing in many of ways Runciman mentioned: finding just the right phrase, having created order out of a chaos of ideas, seeing the page (or screen) fill with words. Often, when frustrated or stuck for ideas, I hit random keys on the keyboard or type nonsense phrases to myself just to see the words appear on the screen. In high school there is very little mention of any kind of pleasure related to writing, and it seems as if a person doesn't already know that writing can be fun, having learned from some other source or figured it out on their own, they receive little or no encouragement to find out. These are probably the people who dread writing English papers, and would rather do their math homework, while others look forward to them. It is true that the concept of what is fun is very different for different people, but to at least be exposed to the idea that something can be fun can help. So often writing is presented as something repetitious - a rote, mechanical function that is to be regurgitated when needed, like mathematic formulas - instead of something which changes and becomes something different every time. Granted that problems get more mention because they are somthing that needs to be worked out (if it ain't broke, don't fix it, the squeaky wheel gets the grease), but the positive things should not be overlooked. In young children, the praise they receive for their early writing efforts (provided they receive any encouragement at all) is probably a source of pleasure for them, but in upper grades this translates as grades, those stolid indicators of worth, which for many people is undoubtedly a source of anxiety more than anything. I think it really depends on what kind of teachers you have; even one teacher at some point who encouraged creative writing or showed the pleasures of composing can make all the difference.
Booth, T. Y. "I. A. Richards and the Composing Process." College Composition and Communication 37:4 (1986);453-465.
T. Y. Booth's main consideration is with the ultimate question: "Who, in what situation, is here talking to whom and trying to say what" (Booth 453)? His thesis is bases on I.A. Richard's dealings with language as it is most commonly used, or the contextual nature of the word. Booth offer's two of Richard's insights into language. First, the job of language is not to "package" meanings we already know, but to achieve new meanings. Booth agrees with Richards on the theory that language helps people to achieve meanings at which we could not otherwise arrive. The greatest danger to composers is the assumption that composing is a means of formulating in the mind what one wants to express and then finding the words to convey the meanings. Language points out the memory of things that exist, things of the imagination, and kinds, sorts, or types which can be pointed out only with words.
Secondly, Booth considers how words work to achieve their meanings. Words are affected by the context that draws them up and that which they make on their own. Composition, he suggests, start with the writers purpose and his process involves feed-forward and feedback, a constant process in which words change within the context of other words, phrases, and paragraphs. Meanings are gained from "interinanimations," or interactions, among words. Most of what writers finally decide they want to say can only be found as they find the words that will say it, which leads to controlling the process more effectively. Booth finds that a word without context has too many possible meanings. In fact, the primary job of language is to act as "an instrument for the purpose and control of" those meanings that exist only in language.
Booth's article has flaws and exposes flaws. One problem Booth poses to me is over the evaluation of papers in an ethnically, socioeconomically diverse class whose English differs in accordance with their familial background. Should there be one standard of English usage or should society and schools accept offshoots like Black vernacular as correct and valid? While black English may be perfectly acceptable in one ethnic community, the reality of the workplace and the upper-echelons of society do not accept dialects as proper English, a subject Joseph Harris explores in regard to "public language" and "private identity" (Harris 274).
Also, Booth's assertions cannot be taken in absolutes. It appears that Richards and Booth advocate multi-draft writing as Muriel Harris explains it in her essay on "One and Multi-draft Writers." This philosophy of constant "eddying," working and reworking as the final meaning of a draft materializes with the interplay between words, would be deadly to the single draft writer who sits down to the computer the night before a paper is due. Other suggestions are needed to put Harris' ideas into practice for the single draft writer. As a multi-drafter, I am at a loss. The single drafter is an alien being to me whose process boggles my mind.
Drawing from I.A. Richards for his hypothesis, T.Y. Booth exposes one of the flaws of cognitive research: the isolation of the part from the whole. In defense of the contextual nature of language, Lester Faigley paraphrases Bakhtin, "words carry with them the places where they have been" (Faigley 46.) (For some reason this phrase conjures up clips of classic films such as "Casablanca.") This eloquent phrase is highly relevant to the query of Booth's composition: "Who, in what situation, is here talking to whom and trying to say what (Booth 453). In support of Booth's assertions Faigley also notes that Patricia Bizzel "claims the separation of words from ideas distorts the nature of composing" (Faigley 46). I suppose, then that T.Y. Booth and subsequently I.A. Richards would not agree with Flower and Hayes' cognitive theory which states that language comes after ideas are formed. It looks like were back to the old "Chicken and Egg" philosophical debate. Also relevant to Booth's assertions is Vygotsky's study of language as a historical and cultural process, in which a child "acquires not only the words of language but the intentions carried by those words and the situations implied by them" (Faigley 46). Evidently, we are back to the social process model. And I thought (hoped!) after reading Maxine Hairston's "Different Products, Different Processes: A Theory About Writing" we were out of the composing theory woods and into the open field of synthesized and integrated theories! I am feeling deeply entrenched in all this writing muck. In one sense, I am like a pig delighting in wallowing in the composing mire and yet, I can't wait for that long awaited rain (a solution!) to wash me clean. I have an inkling that the holy waters of "eternal solution" may never rain down as new technology and new theorists (into whose society I will be inducted--heaven help us!--through the final collaborative project) arrive with fresh muck to cover me.
Stephanie Donlon -AB 3- 10/2/93
Davis, Kevin. "Responding to Writers: a Multi-Variate Approach to Peer Interaction." The Writing Center Journal 10:2 Spring/Summer 1990:67-71.
Kevin Davis is concerned with an apparent inflexibility in tutoring styles that tutors use. This concern arose when he tape recorded in class peer groups as they discussed drafts of papers and realized that each individual had a specific role within the discussion that he/she was unwilling to diverge from. At a writing center conference Davis noticed that audience members refused to change their "...in-grained tutoring approaches, even if adherence to the approach would cause a student to fail..."(67) As a writing center director Davis also noticed that reports about the various tutors under his direction were consistent. If one report said the tutor was tough all the reports said the tutor was tough. Davis feels that this inflexibility towards tutoring arises for several different reasons. First of all he points out the fact that problem solving is easiest when approached the same way every time. Secondly the training tutors receive tends to center around one particular response to writing. Thirdly and finally, by choosing likes and dislikes about the many theories, the tutor narrows the field of ideas from which to draw upon for tutoring.
In response to this lack of adaptability of tutors towards the needs of their tutees Davis has devised what he calls a multi-variate approach to writing or the Chinese restaurant menu approach. He lays out three major areas of tutoring, Conversation Focus, Methodological Approach, and Interactive Style, with various subheadings under each division. He feels that one subheading from each division should be chosen for each tutoring session and that it should be individualized on the basis of the needs of the tutee not the needs of the tutor. Under Conversation Focus Davis notes that peer groups tend to remain centered on what the writer is trying to do(writer centered) and respond by explaining what the reader understands(reader centered). He believes that his tutors jump right in on the meaning and organization of the paper which is a text centered focus. Writers using the writing center are more concerned with a convention focus to a tutoring session that is usually comes down to basic proofreading. A fifth conversation focus that none of Davis' groups seem to use is process centered. The four methodological approaches that Davis lists are person needs, social negotiation, ethical considerations, and pedagogical philosophies. In his experience, Davis says that tutees tend to approach a tutoring session on personal needs whereas tutors approach it form a pedagogical approach and neither one of them consider or are perhaps not even aware of the other approaches. Davis feels that interactive styles should move across the spectrum of authoritarian/assertive, balanced/conversant, and passive/receptive.
By asking tutors to leave behind their patterned response to tutoring, Davis has created an extremely challenging situation for writing tutors. This system forces tutors to raise their own confidence levels so that they can be free enough to perceive the need for different approaches in a tutoring session. This concept applies to the article "We're All Basic Writers: Tutors Talking About Writing Apprehension." At one point the author, Wendy Bishop, mentions that "blocked writers were often unable to enter into the composing process because they were being inflexible in their writing strategies, misapplying rules, using inappropriate rules, or applying precise, algorithmic rules"(33). I believe that it is possible to compare a blocked writer to an unsuccessful tutoring session because they mirror one another in inflexibility and misapplication of rules. It is important to see that the tutoring and writing processes are linked because they are both working toward a similar end: the effective transcription of thoughts to paper. The deference for the writer in the tutoring session is that it adds the element of a personified reader in the form of the tutor. The tutor in turn must use sensitivity to help the writer through the various hurdles in writing so that they can become low apprehension writers. It seems important for the tutor to realize that they may need to use methods that they feel are wrong(especially on a personal level) but which are extremely helpful to the writer. During our future class readings it will be important to particularly aware of how important it is to remain open-minded about new ideas.--Edith Howell, September 29, 1993
D'Agostino, Karen Nilson and Sandra D. Varone. "Interacting with Basic Writers in the Computer Classroom." Computers and Composition 8:3 39-49.
This article focuses on an experiment conducted by the authors with their basic writing class at the local community college. All of the students composed at computers during each class period, and the D'Agostino and Varone offered suggestions and corrections for the text on the screen, rather than writing the corrections on printed copies of the students' compositions. The goals of the course were not only to improve the writing styles of the members of the class, but also to show the students the usefulness computers have in the composing and revising processes. The authors learned as well through the changes they made in their teaching approaches as the class composed on the computers. Primarily, interaction at each stage of the writing process enabled students to learn different (and usually helpful) techniques to enhance their compositions. In the early stages of writing the teachers proffered words of encouragement for the writers, and simply acted as "interested readers." After the composition of rough drafts, the teachers also assisted with the organizational aspects of the papers, and acted as "resources persons" in learning how to use the computer as a tool in the writing process. In the final stages of drafting, they taught the writers how to effectively proofread their own work and realize typical mistakes in order to learn from their own writing styles. Throughout, the authors utilized the ease and simplicity of the computer to teach the students better writing habits. In the end, the teachers realized the power the computer had to aid basic writers, as well as the differences the new tool made in teacher-student interaction in the composing process.
This experiment not only studied the effect of the computer as a physical tool for the writing process, but it also shed some light on the psychological differences that composing on computers created for the students. The group studied was mixed in terms of writing abilities, and included ESL, learning disabled, and below-average writers. The use of the computer in the writing process, as well as the unique interaction between the teachers and students, produced an atmosphere conducive to easing the apprehensions of the writers. Multiple drafting and learning organizational strategies, which are thought to be attributes for low apprehension writers, were encouraged in the test group of students. The ease with which the computer could assist in these categories helped the students become comfortable with writing as well.
In addition, the constant presence of and reading of their compositions by the teachers enhanced the students' sense of audience and purpose for their writing. Difficulties in composing may arise when writers are uncertain for whom they are writing, but the receptive and helpful roles the teachers acted served to alleviate the worries about the audience and gave the writers confidence in their compositions. Reader opinion can be a huge barrier in student writing as well. Rachel's belief that "other peoples impression" gave worth to her paper showed her dependence on the opinion of the reader, not her own feelings, for Rachel to like her paper. Additionally, the distinct problem of the students writing what they thought the teacher wanted to read surfaced in Bob's log. The teacher accidentally changed the purpose of part of his composition, and D'Agostino and Varone recognized that "some students perceived our suggestions as orders (instead of options)." The authors then reflected on the importance of "preserving their [the students'] individual voices" when assisting student writers with the composition process. The interaction with the teachers was indeed helped apprehension and uncertainty in some of the writers, but it also created some doubts about their compositions.--Christine Kucia, October 1, 1993
MacArthur, C., and B.Stoddard. "A Peer Editor Strategy: Guiding Learning Disabled Students in Response and Revision." Research in the Teaching of English v27 n1 (Feb.1993): 76- 100.
This article summarizes the effects of a study on the writing revising skills of learning disabled students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The theoretical framework on which this study is based is described in detail, and takes a view of writing as a goal-directed problem solving process, involving recursive movement among planning, production and reviewing processes (77). The learning approach under study involves integrated strategy instruction, peer response, and word processing. The method of experimentation is described and the results of the findings show that these three elements are most effective when used together. From pre-test to post-test, the number of revisions rated as improvements increased by 36%. Applications of these findings, recommendations for future research, and limitations of the present study are discussed.
If one can suffer through the scientific jargon and statistics, the results of this study hold significant implications for future tutoring and teaching of writing to learning disabled students. It was helpful that, unlike other reports on research that I've read, the limitations and failings of the study done was discussed so that improvements could be made in future studies. It is also interesting to note how word processing improves the writing and revision skills of LD students-mostly by taking away the physical difficulties posed by handwriting. Best of all, however, was that I recognized many of the names cited in this report, and was able to understand the theoretical framework on which the research was based. Laura Manfre, 27 Sept. 1993
Gerrard, Lisa. "Computers and Composition: Rethinking Our Values." Computers and Composition 10.2 (1992): 23-34.
Gerrard opens her discussion by acknowledging a consistent system of values which computer composition instructors share. These values, such as collaboration, risk-taking, and technological innovation, are not reflected outside of the classroom. Conversely, there is a heavy emphasis on competition and ranking in the hierarchy of the English professors' professional lives. When these two sets of standards collide, both leak into each other, confusing the methods of teaching.
However, Gerrard focuses heavily on the benefits and strengths of the computer composition professors and their "democratic" and supportive community. She finds that the members of her field have "embodied some of the most appealing characteristics of the computer industry: optimism, vitality, and inventiveness" (Gerrard,24). Computer composition instructors are not afraid to experiment and challenge their students in nontraditional, even radical ways. However, they keep in mind that their priority lies in the students first and the advancement of technology second. It is through the technology though, that breakthrough methods of instruction have jumped from the theoretical realm, into the realm of the applied. Students are able to collaborate on papers, communicate through words what may become obscure and biased in face to face encounters, and learn to celebrate their classmates' "differences in ideology, experience, and culture" (Gerrard, 27).
The downside of Computer Composition lies in the competition between professors within the English departments themselves. Often times, the strife results from rivalry over status and resources within the department. There are many theories that have resulted from such an atmosphere that have "motivated more by the pursuit of tenure than the pursuit of knowledge" (Gerrard, 29). Gerrard cautions against this, as theorizing is a vital part of the computer composition profession. For it is through new research that this field, which is still at its experimental stage, can generate theories which are applicable to the classroom. As she points out, "theory grows out of what we do in the classroom and conditions what we bring back to the classroom. Without practice, it wouldn't exist" (Gerrard, 31). It is through experimentation, collaboration and cooperation that the field of computer composition can thrive.
This article, although raising some very interesting points, is almost unprofessional in its presentation. Gerrard is purely biased towards her profession and portrays it as a perfected polis in which democracy and intellectual growth are the norm. There is validity to her assertions that the computer can socialize writing and make students more open to not only sharing their own work, but to constructively critiquing the work of their peers. She sees this as being accomplished through the use of such tools as conferences and e-mail.
More specific to the issues faced in English 221, this emphasis on reading and collaborating on each other's works could prove to be invaluable. Although we upgrade our assignments onto the GBB, rarely do we actually read each other's writings. We have at our fingertips, a means of cooperative learning that few of us are employing. We need to take advantage of "e-mail and conference networks- that offer new opportunities for group work" (Gerrard, 26). How can we possibly expect writers to come to us, open themselves up to us by allowing us to aid them in their compositions, when we aren't undergoing the same process. It is difficult to let others read our works- that is an established truth for everyone. But perhaps it's time we did that so that we can better understand from where the students who ask our help are coming. Shannon Mussett, 9/27/93
Leahy, Richard. "Of Writing Centers, Centeredness, and Centrism." The Writing Center Journal 13, 1 (Fall, 1992) 43-52.
This article is a discussion of the role of a writing center in a college and Leahy's own experiences as director of a writing center. He begins by the meaning of the term "writing center" (as opposed to "writing lab."). Focusing particularly on the idea of commmunity as being essential to the concept of a center, he briefly compares his experiences as director of a writing center with about twenty writing assitants to other colleges and institutions with as many as 150, concluding that the sheer magnitude of those groups make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to foster a close sense of community which he feels is vital to the success of a writing center. He exlains that developing a close community among the writing assistants (including the director!) is vital because it makes them more inclined to reach out to the writers who come to them and welcome them in as well. Without a strong sense of "purpose," a common bond, such ties are weakened and it becomes much more difficult for the director to keep track of everyone's progress, and much more stressful for the others because they don't have the trust and interdependance they need to work effectively. This feeling of unity and knowing "who you are" is what Leahy calls "centeredness." On the other hand, he also see the danger that writing centers may be enveloped by the idea that they are (or should be) "the center of all writing on campus." He calls this "centrism," the "worlds to conquer" attitude, the danger of feeling responsible for everything and trying to take on too much responsibility. Writing centers simply do not have assistants with backgrounds in all the disciplines in an institution - the majority most likely hail from the english department - so they should not try to dictate to writers in these fields how they should write.
Leahy touches on a lot of the subjects we have in class. He describes the idea of discourse communities, even if he never calls them by that name. His idea is that the writing center should be its own community which should welcome others but not not interfere overtly with the discources of other communities. I found it interesting that his idea of creating the community was apparently a single seminar followed by weekly meetings while involved in the work, while we are taking a full semester class. I doubt I would be very eager to jump right into tutoring with only one seminar under my belt. I can imagine that the same sense of community is hard - if not impossible - to develop in a situation with large numbers of people and administrators, especially if some are working there as a requirement to become teaching assistants as Leahy said is the case at some colleges. If there is one advantage to smaller intitutions, it is that they foster closer working relationships - a stronger sense of togetherness. He also mentioned the presence of other writing centers available to students. ACE would be the only official alternative on our campus, and some writers do go there for writing help. Like Leahy, I think this is probably a good thing, so the "writing center" doesn't feel it has to be responsible for everyone. However, it sounded as if his writing center was much more involved in campus politics and having to sell itself to the students than we are here, having the assisatnts actually go into classes "armed with our sales pitch and stacks of brochures." It seems as if too much competition causes problems as well.
--Stephanie Brown, 11/2/93
Elbow, Peter. "Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgement." College English. 55:2 (1993) 187-206.
Peter reassesses the value of the grading system in his article on the assessment of writing. He finds fault with ranking, or scoring writing with a single number or letter, because it is inconsistent from evaluator to evaluator, it doesn't give the student any reasoning behind the holistic score, and it undermines the purpose of scoring writing. Ranking causes students to worry more about the grade than about learning through feedback. Grades also causes high ranking students to become lax rather than push themselves and low ranking students to become discouraged and ultimately apathetic if they cannot break the pattern of low marks. He thus reaches the dilemma that grading is unfair and counterproductive, but that institutions and students want to rank and be ranked. Elbow questions if grading is really the best source of motivation, and cites Evergreen State College as an institute which only gives written evaluations and no number grades. While Elbow doesn't want to totally get rid of the grading system, he proposes less ranking and more evaluation instead.
Elbow argues for evalution because it goes beyond ranking to point out the strengths and weaknesses of different aspects of students' writing, which he believes to be much more meaningful and beneficial to the writer. Through evaluation, he find that we have to admit to the subjective aspect of assessment: "that different readers have different priorities, values and standards" (192). Elbow identifies the problems of evaluation and the benefits of "evaluation-free zones" as well. Too much evaluation causes students to focus too much on what the teacher wants, preventing them from taking risks, to trust their own ideas. He promotes evaluation-free zones, such as freewriting, sketching without revising, and reading aloud student writing. The emphasis of these zones is on " getting rolling, getting fluent, taking risks" (198). Finally he promotes the idea of "liking" writing. For one, its a positive reinforcement for a student to have a reader who simultaneously likes and evaluates his writing. For teachers, liking someone's writing makes it easier to criticize it.
Elbow provides some innovative, interesting ideas on aspects of assessment, coinciding with Beverly Clark's own suggestions on generating ideas (Clark Chapter 2). He seems to want to draw our focus away from the nebulous grade and back to the beginning stage through the uninhibited writing which causes the writer to grow and progress. Writing is thus focused on the process rather than utterly consumed with product. Grading, although meant to stimulate the writer and give a clear indication of the writers place among his peers, can actually frustrate and hold back writers on both ends of the scale. The reality is, though, that some sort of quickly recognizable standard must be set in order to determine the level and progress of the writer. It is a shame that so much appears to ride on a grade, everything from Goucher's own writing proficiency to "eligibility for a scholarship or a job or entrance into professional school" (189). The question this article raises is over whether there is, in fact, a negotiable solution to the dilemma of grading? As Elbow notes, the same student could hand in one paper to different teachers and get different grades. And what type of system does the CIE faculty use to evaluate and determine writing proficiency? Are students and teachers satisfied with its results? Stephanie Donlon 10/31/93
Bartosenski, Mary. "Color, Re-vision, and Painting a Paper." The Writing Center Journal 12 Spring 1992: 159-173.
The focus of this article revolves around the experience of one tutee and her approach to revising written assignments. The tutor, Mary Bartosenski, provides detailed journal entries dealing with the process which her tutee, Marianne, constructed in order to help her write more lucid papers. Marianne's problem was that she was "easily distracted and that she often lost the train of her thought" (Bartosenski, 160). After discovering that Marianne had a mild learning disability, Bartosenski describes how they shifted away from some of the more traditional approaches used in the writing center in the revision of compositions. The article centers around one particular essay which Marianne wrote for her art history class. This paper lacked a clear thesis as Marianne herself was confused about the purpose of the essay. Marianne began to approach her assignment more as an act of constructing a painting rather than an act of writing a paper. She corrected her rough drafts over and over using fuchsia, green, and other colored pens. Each new draft, created through her colorful corrections of the previous drafts, became more and more concise and focused.
Not only did Marianne gain better writing skills, but her self confidence increased as well. She became proud of herself when she created thoughtful, evocative sentences to which Bartosenski accredits her revolutionary method of composition. Marianne saw that "not only did the colors make it easier for her to see the changes she made (and then the ones she made over those) but also the layers of color helped her to view the writing as a process, to realize that she was building meaning with the revisions she was making" (Bartosenski, 167). Even the childlike notion of the entertainment found in playing with markers and crayons allowed for Marianne to see writing in a new and much more constructive light.
This article is unlike many of the articles read in class, however, it resembles the approach taken by Beverly Lyon Clark in her book, Talking About Writing. The main content of the article consists of journal entries written by a tutor about an experience with a particular student in the Writing Center. While taking away from much of the feel of scientific validity, this article relies mostly on the type of validity to be found in real-life, one-on-one tutoring sessions. Bartosenski is slow to make her point and the purpose of her article only emerges towards its conclusion. Marianne had a problem in transferring her thoughts into written words. Working with a tutor, she was able to see how using colors "added to the feeling of layers, the sense of building a paper" as well as "giving her a sense of control over the writing" (Bartosenski, 170). Bartosenski plays off of Peter Elbow's notion of detaching yourself from your paper in order to judge it objectively. Bartosenski admits that Marianne's papers were not perfect but they displayed radical improvement. This article lends itself to research in experimental methods used in Writing Centers or as a specific example in employing other researchers' (such as Elbow) methods.
Shannon Mussett 10\30\93
Boyle, Frank. "IBM, Talking Heads, and Our Classrooms." College English 55 (October 1993): 618-627.
Using a creative mix of humor and keen insight, Boyle examines the computer revolution and its affect on our system of education. However, instead of analyzing and criticizing, Boyle simply shares his experiences at IBM's conference center in the Palisades, then comes to swift, striking conclusions about the effectiveness of computers in our classrooms.
Through the first half of the article, Boyle describes the various educational tools that were currently being developed by IBM to modernize and efficienize the classroom of the twenty-first century. He recounts how the computers were able to fix run-on sentences, plot graphs, give questions to students, and display a host of "mixed-media" presentations that followed a Sesame Street type format. However, as each presentation is described, Boyle examines the methods and concludes that there was no real difference between the present and the future: "The message was never really intended to be that these were better ways to educate; the message was that students would prefer to be educated this way (624)."
Boyle resolves the article by showing four things that struck him during his experiences. The first being that computers were simply a tool and it was a lie to believe that you could get a better education out of them. The second was that even if that lie was recognized, the students, who live in a "video world" will believe the lie and educators must oblige or risk losing them. Third is that computers are becoming too much like television and the messages that television brings. Finally, the nature of the message of television, or simply entertainment is more valuable than reality, degrades education as an artificial media rather than a system of reflection and thought (625).
The points that Boyle bring up in his examination are frightening and eye-opening. The thought that computers are actually "making us more stupid (619)," goes against every aspect of societies prevalent attitude. Computers are generally seen as the helpful tool that frees the student from most of the tedious tasks of education and leaves more time for reflection. To believe, as Boyle does, that education is teetering on the brink of slavery to the information age makes one pause before poping in that CD-ROM encyclopedia disk into the hard drive. However, it is inevitable that technology and education will meet and merge, in fact, the process is well under way. However the future of that merger should be dissected and examined more closely than ever before. Gavin Patashnick, 10/27/93
Ritchie, Joy S. "Beginning Writers: Diverse Voices and Individual Identity." College Composition and Communication. 40:2. (1989). 152-174.
Joy Ritchie deals with the paradoxical divergent and convergent aspects of teaching writing and learning to write as the student simultaneously undergoes the processes of "socialization and individual becoming" (153). Citing Mikhail Bakhtin and Lev Vygotsky, she identifies the struggle a writer must undergo to find his/her own voice amongst the multitude of discordant voices in the surrounding environment. The writer may need to try on and reflect the various styles and voices in his community in the process of finding his own distinct writing flavor. Bakhtin and Vygotsky describe this as an ongoing process of "negotiation" within the individual and the community (154). Ritchie sets out to simultaneously "untangle" and "complicate" the ways students find their voice through her study of a writing workshop. The workshop in which Ritchie participated and observed encouraged students to take responsibility of their writing and discover and experiment with new ways of writing and thinking. Ritchie borrows Bakhtin's word "heteroglossia" to describe the various forces working as sources of conflict and growth within the individual and community of writers: the values, ages, genders, lifestyles, purposes in essence, all aspects of every individual which make him unique from everyone else and define and shape his writing style and voice. Ritchie sights 5 "heteroglossial" influences in the writing workshop which provide for tension and growth: (1) the students' unique backgrounds and emerging awareness of self as they tried new ways of writing; (2) narrow preconceived notions developed in high school about what was expected in their writing; (3) the influence of the college instructor through his own writing and responses to students' writing; (4) the students' own voice surfacing within the context of the collaborative workshop environment; and (5) the reactions of students to their peers based on their individual and group values. Ritchie monitors two students' writing, their original attitudes and notions about the purpose of writing and their process of growth and change as their writing interacted with the writing and reactions of their peers and teacher. Unlike David Bartholomae, who finds that students must conform to the discourse community, becoming something foreign to themselves, Ritchie found that the two students on which she focused "became more themselves" though the workshop (171). The process of defining ourselves through our writing in a group situation is more important than a grade we might ultimately receive.
Addressing writing teachers, Ritchie expresses that the teacher's role is dichotomous as well. Teachers simultaneously "represent normative, unifying, and ordering forces," as well as "contending, generative forces" which push themselves and their students "beyond the limits of traditional thought" (173). She promotes an openmindedness which encourages students to make their own valuable contribution to a dialogue rather than focus on conforming to the dictates of the community. Rather than regurgitate the teacher or communities' thoughts, the students evolve and help each other evolve through redefining their meanings as they capture their own unique voice. From this cacophony of voices emerges a symphony of rich dialogue.
Joy Ritchie's open way of dealing with the problems of finding voice are much more satisfying than those of Bartholomae's "Inventing the University." To me, it seems that Bartholomae goes about finding voice in a nonproductive, even harmful way, asserting that "some students will need to learn to crudely mimic the 'distinctive register' of academic discourse" (Bartholomae 162). This philosophy could be most detrimental to a student, lost in a discourse community without an individual identity. The Door's song "Riding through a desert on a horse with no name" comes to mind. The student needs to search for an identity from within through exploring those from without. The process of finding voice is equatable with a little kid playing dress‑up, assuming various "grown-up" roles. The clothes, of course, start out too big and sloppy-fitting, but the child eventually grows into them. In a similar manner, the writer needs to explore more advanced and unfamiliar ways of writing in order to grow into his own style. Unfortunately, this process is risky and difficult in a traditional classroom setting in which the teacher adheres strictly to a set standard. These writing situations ironically pigeon-hole and cramp the student's writing style at a time when the student needs the most room for exploration and growth. From personal experience, I felt a tremendous sense of relief and freedom when my second semester CIE professor URGED me to explore my own topics and opinions rather than regurgitate what he said in class. I saw my writing ease up so much that semester, and I began to rid myself of much verbosity and sentence complexity because I said what I wanted to say. Perhaps, though, a writer needs to reach a certain maturity in writing in order to free himself up to find his voice. Or, rather, perhaps urging less mature writers to find voice helps them mature? Stephanie Donlon,October 24, 1993
"Beyond Literary Darwinism: Women's Voices and Critical Discourse." College English. Sept 1990: 507.
The author touches on some very interesting points about women's roles in literary criticism. The author quotes Jane Tompkins as saying, "There are two voices inside me. . . One is the voice of a critic who wants to correct a mistake. . . The other is the voice of a person who wants to write about her feelings." I believe women often feel this way in that at times we want out femininity to be expressed in our writing (some would argue that our femininity is expressed subconsciously in our writing) but we are afraid to risk the rejection or failure of our writing. Jane Tompkins describes writing as uncomfortable, unnatural-- "like wearing men's jeans". And how many times have I, as a female writer, struggled to find the appropriate way to express myself-- a way that I hope will be accepted. The author describes women who desire to take risks in their writing but don't for fear of rejection, failure, disappointment.
We spoke in class about how female writers are described as "female", while male writers are simply described as writers. This puts more pressure on women as they have to be legitimized as decent writers, despite their sex. In order to do this, many women write in conventionally masculine ways. Often women are so concerned with being accepted or hired as a writer that they forget the importance of process in an effort to get the final product "right". Women writers fail because they allow other emotions and feelings to affect their tone and style.
It is sad to see that in this day and age women must conform to male standards in order to be deemed successful.
Kerry Flanigan, 10/27/93
Sloan, Gary. "Frequency of Errors in Essays by College Freshman and by Professional Writers." College Composition and Communication. Oct 1990: 299.
Sloan makes some interesting remarks and performs an interesting study of the quantity and quality of grammatical errors among college freshman and professional writers.
Sloan's study takes a writing sample out of 20 samples from freshman writers. The essays were approximately 500 words, and the students had 2 hours to write the essay.
The professional's essays were cut to use only about the first 500 words. The professionals had much more time to research their topics and probably had other people helping them. However, Sloan did come up with some interesting results. I commend Sloan for realizing and admitting the limitations of his experiment. Sloan found that the freshman writers and professional writers were "almost equally prone to commit error" (303). . . that is, the errors defined in Trimmer and McCrimmon's handbook. The three most common errors defined in freshman writing were misspellings, comma misuse, and word choice. The most common errors in professional's writing were triteness, comma misuse, and verbiage. The professional's tendency to be verbose is explained in that their vocabulary is so much more expansive because they have a greater use and practice with our language. On the other hand, verbiage in freshman writing is explained (unfairly, I think) by a need to fill up space.
The errors that commonly occurred in both groups also occurred under the same conditions. This is explained in that both groups probably used similar logic. Sloan makes some suggestions as to how to improve freshman writing.
Although the experiment was limited, I found its conclusions interesting. It also gave me some hints as to what to look for in tutoring.--Kerry Flanigan, 10/26/93
Stotsky, Sandra. "Conceptualizing Writing as Moral and Civic Thinking." College English 54:7 (1992) 794-808.
This article deals mainly with the ethical and moral dilemmas when writing research papers. Stotsky starts out with the obvious sin of plagiarism but then plunges much deeper into philosophical points about authors misusing a certain amount of "writer's leeway". Stotsky believes that the process of "authoritative corruption" begins not in the actual writing stage, but in the failure of most research authors to think objectively about their topic. Her view is that although it is hard to refrain from putting a certain slant in the writing itself, the job of the researcher is to analyze both fairly and impartially, then extrapolate from this analysis a clear and concise thesis. Too often, the writer will only research one particular bias and will act upon it, usually resulting in a prejudiced account. Most of Stotsky's article is spent on examples and criticism, her actual explanations of her main argument is very vague and simplified.
Gavin Patashnick, 9/13/93
In this essay, Stotsky discusses the necessity of teaching students moral and civic standards in writing, which is an often neglected subject in composition instruction. She revels at "how little attention we have paid... to helping our students learn to use moral principles for guiding... the exercise of cognitive judgement" (Stotsky 794). The author finds a distinct lack of emphasis on ethical teaching in moral education, composition writings, research and theory, and rhetoric and composition education which in turn carries over from the composition instruction community to their students. Stotsky then explores the different ways teachers might morally influence their students, from vague hints of responsibility to the civic community to strong indoctrination of the teacher's moral standards in their students. However, none of the efforts which Stotsky examines reveals a distinct teaching of ethical principles to students for use in composition. She then suggests four responsibilities of the academic writer, including respect for the language of the community, other writers, the subject matter, and the reader. Stotsky uses her colleagues' compositions to demonstrate transgressions of these obligations "because our students should learn that irresponsible writing is not confined only to student writing" (Stotsky 800). For each responsibility, she provides an example that fails the criteria, and a counter example which successfully upholds the respect required for each area. Stotsky suggests this technique for writing teachers to increase awareness of the necessity of ethical standards in composition in their students, rather than the extremes of neglecting morality in writing or preaching dogmatic principles.
A controversial topic brought up by Stotsky, which she acknowledges as a popular means of ethical instruction, involves "convincing students to adopt and commit themselves to the teacher's personal values" (Stotsky 797). She explains how some teachers feel about this teaching method:
our personal values on social and political issues should be privileged over those of our students (or their parents)... Collectively determined moral thinking on social and political issues is conducive to the working out of the common good, rather than a major source of its corruption (Stotsky 797).
These dangerous methods of teaching create questions about the ethical legitimacy of using one's own moral standards to instruct another. Although the only way to learn morality is through others' sense of moral obligation, is it the responsibility of teachers to so strongly assert their ideals upon students that the principles with which the pupils were raised are overshadowed? This method of teaching ethics puts instructors in very powerful roles for students, and raises concerns about the quality of teachers' morals as well. Younger, more impressionable pupils could easily be taken in by the ideas of an authority figure, and might be influenced with questionable ethics. College students may not be as impressionable as younger students, but since professors are in positions of power and authority over their pupils students may feel obligated to compromise their morals for those of the teacher's to please the instructor, and perhaps increase chances for a better grade. This directly correlates with the writers responsibilities which Stotsky outlines, since a desire to preserve the integrity of others or one's subject arises from a sense of responsibility to the community as a whole. When a lack of morality causes a deviation from this obligation in a writer's everyday life, the student will be hard pressed to apply such morals to his writing.
Writing tutors, though not in such high authority positions as professors, do influence tutee's compositions. This gives tutors a little power to manipulate the writer's thoughts, and although a thought's intention might be preserved, tutors can persuade an unsure student to write without certain responsibilities to the community. This could produce insulting compositions (for both the reader and the subject) which are overly biased, generalized, and unintelligible. What tutors must learn, therefore, are the rules for ethics in writing. With these obligations to the community clearly understood, tutors will then be prepared to help others compose within the established responsibilities for writers. Thus, the writing tutor can be a positive influence for students, and can help teach the little-discussed subject of morality in writing.
--Christine Kucia, October 24, 1993
Hartwell, Patrick. "Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar." Graves, Richard L., ed. Rhetoric and Composition. 3rd Ed. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton, Cook, 1990.
Hartwell discusses the on- going question of how much grammar to teach in schools today. Some argue that multiple grammar rules stifle creativity, while others say that without specific rules, writing is not able to communicate successfully. Hartwell openly admits, however, that all the research done in the past century in an attempt to tell us which side of this argument is more valid has, all in all, told us nothing. Some studies have "proved" that the teaching of formal grammar has improved writing quality in students, while other studies have "proved" quite the opposite. Hartwell also describes the different types of grammars-- the grammar of the head, the grammar we speak, and the formal grammar we are taught in schools.
Hartwell raises some interesting questions that lead me to ask what functions affect my writing. I guess I never analyzed that before, but this class has made me so aware of the internal and external influences that affect not only my thoughts and ideas, but also my writing. To parallel this article to some thoughts I had from the readings of week six, does who I am writing for affect the grammar I use in my writing? I am apt to say yes.
So where do I go? What should I teach in my elementary classroom? Should I emphasize the importance of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in running the risk of scaring off my students so that writing, for them, is never a positive experience? Or, do I allow them to express themselves regardless of run- on sentences or spelling errors in an effort to allow them to fell the freedom and beauty of the written word? Apparently, we do not yet know these answers. --Kerry Flanigan, 10/11/93
Marcus, Stephen. "Invisible Writing With a Computer: New Sources and Resources." Computers and Composition. 8:1, November,1990:40-48.
Marcus provides insights into the merits of invisible writing and some exercises for students to use when familiarizing themselves with invisible writing. Invisible writing on a computer occurs when the writer turns the computer screen down. It need only be used for short intervals of perhaps five minutes time to help the writer focus on "content of their writing instead of its surface features"(42) rather like a freewriting exercise. Many of the exercises involves direct comparisons of visible and invisible writing by typing visibly about a topic for approximately two minutes and then typing invisibly about a similar topic for the same amount of time. Class discussions about the students' reactions for and against invisible writing help students in further exploring their reactions to it. Invisible writing can be particularly helpful in revision by using it during the composing process to answer such questions as "In a nutshell, what is it you've said so far?...What do I want my reader to care about at this point? What do I want my teacher to think about me at this point?"(44) This can help the writer to refocus on the topic and "gain perspective on what they've been saying"(44). Invisible writing can also be used in prewriting for brainstorming about a topic by listing words about the topic and alternately writing visibly and invisibly. This can be expanded to see the differences personal and academic writing by listing words that describe you as a student and listing words that describe you as an individual. Write alternately visibly and invisibly and describe the results. Another prewriting strategy begins a paper by "talking"(45) to the computer invisibly about a topic and how you feel about a topic and then analyzing the response. Semi‑invisible writing also serves to assist students on focusing more on the topic than on syntax by dimming the screen so that some corrections can be made "while still discouraging them from examining their texts too closely and getting distracted by typos"(46).
Stephen Marcus provides some exercises to the invisible writing that Elbow mentions in his audience awareness discourse, "Closing My Eyes as I Speak." Both authors use invisible writing to rid the writer of the paralyzing affect that mistakes can have on the composing process. Elbow specifies that fear of errors comes from audience awareness. Highly apprehensive or blocked writers may find this technique useful because it can rid them of audience and so that they can progress inward and express their ideas. Disabled writers can also use this technique to free themselves of the visual problems of syntax. Because of the number of errors that come with the free style of invisible writing, revisions necessary afterwards will be more extensive than usual. Although this may prove frustrating for some at least the ideas are down on paper and once that is achieved reorganization is relatively easy. In "Responding to Writers a Multi-Variate Approach to Peer Interaction," Davis mentions that tutors and tutees can look at papers from a process oriented perspective yet he made no mention that either group did. As a process, a tutor might introduce a writer to invisible writing to assist a student that has difficulties in focusing their topic. This process helps the student explore their thoughts freely and use writing as a time of discovery.--Edith Howell, October 9, 1993
Marcus tackles the innovative idea of invisible writing on computers for student writers. Marcus finds that "it helps writers focus their thoughts on a topic," and that the writing becomes more lucid and fluent with writing without seeing the words on the screen. Marcus also remarks on the advent of technology which produces the ability to let writers compose without seeing their writing, thereby rendering invisible writing as new an idea as the personal computer. Researchers in the 1970's thought that writers were incapable of composing without visibly following their text, but invisible writing "builds fluency by freeing students from the common desire to tinker unnecessarily with their words." Marcus mentions that "technology can change the quality (and often quantity) of time spent at any given point during a writers composing processes," referring to the initial stages of writing. He then offers several different ways for writers to experiment with invisible writing, so as to become comfortable with the process. Ideas range from writing with another person to prewriting invisibly to revision strategies. Though Marcus humbly acknowledges that writing screenless is not for everyone, he concludes that writers enjoy the freedom "to concentrate more on the content" of their compositions.
Marcus' different strategies for invisible writing appear valid enough, although he does not put much thought into the sense of the writer's audience in the composition process, nor how invisible writing emancipates the writer from their own critical evaluations. His revision strategy of inserting questions throughout the text to clarify meaning for the reader constantly reinforces the writers' need to be aware of the audience at all times, which in turn inhibits the writer's ability to compose effectively. If the writer cannot remove the audiences of the reader and himself completely from his mind while composing, then he will constantly remember his fears of others reading his writing. Even the writers who darken their screens halfway are constantly reminded of their audience since they can monitor their typing. In addition, they also monitor their typos (no matter how much they deny it), and thus they defeat the aim to freewrite and then worry about revision after their initial thoughts are on the screen. True invisible writing forces the writer to reread his composition for errors, which also makes him evaluate his own writing and learn how to self-critique his work. Invisible writing can be an incredible experience in new kinds of composing for any writer, but Marcus' poor explanation of the system leaves the writer with a lot of room for ineffective, constrained writing.--Christine Kucia October 11, 1993
Sherwood, Steve. "Humor and the Serious Tutor." The Writing Center Journal Spring 1993: 3-12.
Sherwood suggests that the "intelligent and humane use of humor" be included in the writing process as a method of encouraging collaboration between the tutor and the tutee. He believes that this collaborative environment will encourage the tutee to strive for his/her own creative potential. By easing the social situation with the use of humor, hierarchical barriers will be lessened and tutor and tutee will be able to take advantage of a relationship between "equals." In this less strained relationship, the student will be able to develop the distance needed to observe his/her own work in a clearer light. "Failure" will no longer seem like an end, but instead will become "merely a temporary stepping stone." Humor can also provide "a point of balance" for the tutor by making sure that criticism of weaknesses "hurts as little as possible." In his article, Sherwood never fails to remind the tutor of the danger of humor lacking sensitivity. He warns that some students might be "too touchy or downtrodden to tolerate humor directed at their writing." In this case, humor should be used only in "self-deprecation," in attempts to relate the tutor's own past "failures" to the student's own difficulties. Most importantly, the tutor should always remember that humor used to build a wall of tutor "superiority" through the use of "put-downs" will destroy the relationship and environment that a student needs in order to develop his/her potential.
Like Sherwood, I disagree with the "hierarchial model of education." I believe that those people who fight to keep humor out of learning environments are more obsessed with their own fear of a loss of control than concerned with the progress of the learner. Using humor can be frightening because it is unpredictable. Yet, it would be very difficult to develop and express creativity without this unpredictability. Although students can memorize mundane facts without the use of their creative side , they will find it impossible to figure out things for themselves if they do not use this creativity. For both educators and learners unpredictability is necessary for development. New discoveries are made by those who challenge the predictable.
If we allow students to laugh with their own work, it will help them not only in developing the distance to rework "failures," but also by allowing them to bring joy into their work. This "joy" in their work will help them to enjoy the process and their efforts instead of always remaining preoccupied with results and products. If the student perceives the learning situation as hostile, he/she will build a wall or "attitude." It can become very difficult to pass new ideas through this "attitude." However, if warm humor can help to crack this wall, all sorts of new ideas will be able to pass through and reach the student.--Dani A. Salzer, 9/21/93
In this article, Sherwood attempts to display how humor can "build rapport, calm fears, sweeten criticism, and enhance creativity" (Sherwood, 11) in the writing center environment. He opens his argument by illuminating the notion that too often writing centers are viewed as places where remedial writers are forced to go to in order to be criticized by a highly knowledgeable, authoritative tutor. This misconception, according to Sherwood, can be remedied "through the intelligent and humane use of humor" (Sherwood, 3). This is not meant to be a blind, insensitive attempt to make the student laugh as "attempts at wit, however well-intended, may fall flat or backfire resulting in confused, wounded, impatient, or angry student writer" (Sherwood, 4). The humor must be appropriate, not derogatory towards the student or the writing in question.
The use of carefully chosen humor not only relieves tension between tutor and student by allowing them to share in laughter and therefore loosen the distance felt between them, but it inspires creativity and toleration for ambiguity as well. The student will no longer feel quite so intimidated as "shared laughter usually occurs between people who, if only for a short time, find themselves relating as equals" (Sherwood, 7). Students are faced with an array of fears to deal with in writing papers: failure, ridicule, low self-esteem and expectations, deadlines, and grades. Laughter can diminish some of these fears as it redirects the focus of the student away from their fears and towards the paper at hand. Sherwood even ventures so far as to say that humor "plays its most vital role in liberating creative potential" (Sherwood, 9). Humor releases the fearful constraints on the student's mind and allows for tolerance and productivity in collaborative efforts.
Upon first choosing this article, I was under the impression that Sherwood would argue against the use of humor in the writing center as it does have such a potential to harm an individual's ego. I thought that I would need to hear such an argument as I am more than aware of the large role that humor plays in my relations with other people and I was unsure of its appropriateness as a tutor. But Sherwood argued a very strong point. Of course humor must not be condescending or in any way show a disrespect towards the student or the paper. We've all had that experience of a teacher attempting to be witty while correcting a paper but only succeeds in hurting our feelings and causing us to doubt our abilities as a writer in general. But there is a legitimate claim to using humor as a tension breaker and an effective tool in fostering creativity and collaboration. There is a point when the humor must end and the serious work must begin. I don't doubt that Sherwood implies this in his piece. The session cannot break down into a comedic duet or monologue on either the tutor or the tutees part. But humor as an icebreaker, and as an allayment of fears which makes the revision process "hurt as little as possible" (Sherwood, 8), can help the students to not see us as omniscient figures who are ready to have their paper for lunch. One way to vanquish such misconceptions, and Sherwood gives an example of his own, is to share a story of our own where we were less than adequate as writers. We all make mistakes and tutors are still far from being truly successful writers, in fact, our own inadequacies lead to grave fears of our own success in being tutors. Laughing can make us all forget our performance fears and get to the matter at hand, which is to learn from each other how to become better writers. Shannon Mussett, 10/27/93
Zuber, Sharon and Reed, Ann. "The Politics of Grammar Handbooks: Generic He and Singular They." College English 55 (1993): 515-530.
In the present climate of political correctness and social upheaval, a change is needed for the generic pronoun "he" which is used for blanket coverage of all genders. However finding an acceptable alternative has become a difficult task. This article calls for the removal of the "he", and the more cumbersome "he/she", in exchange for the gender friendly "they".
Zuber and Reed begin the article by tracing the historical context of the "he" in relation to grammatical handbooks. They find that aside from many handbook's seemingly objective nature, the use of the "he" has been stubbornly placed into the English language and has reduced all pronouns into a masculine oriented way. By doing so, handbooks have, "represented conformity which denies cultural and creative diversity and obscures gender, racial, and class struggles (518)." Also, by elevating the authority of the handbooks to a biblical level, teachers have perpetuated sanctioned sexual discrimination in a grammatical level.
"Thus," writes Zuber and Reed, "what the English language needs is a truly epicene singular pronoun, one belonging to both sexes (520)." The pronoun "they" as the pronoun is not a new idea and has been kicked around by grammaticists for many years. As it turns out, most English writers prefer and use the "they" in a variety of different linguistical constructions. Thus, Zuber and Reed conclude, since the "they" is already in use, the next step that should be taken is to "legalize" or put into practice the "they" in grammatical handbooks.
It seems easier, if you want to be P.C. about it, to simply replace the "he/she" with the short, fuzzy, warm feeling of the "they". However, just as replacing the spelling of the word "woman" to "womyn", the P.C. generation has decided to strike another blow to the yoke of male imperialism. In the haste to simultaneously unite and separate the genders, the "P.C's" have neglected to understand just what putting the "they" into the english language will accomplish. Instead of wasting time nitpicking around with pronouns and spellings, perhaps it would be more prudent for the feminists to strive for equality in society first and then worry about language next. This "they" will only add to the hostile feelings already present in the relations between the sexes.--Gavin Patshnick, 10/27
Davis, Kevin. "Responding to Writers: A Multi-Variate Appraoch to Peer Interaction." The Writing Center Journal 10 (1990): 67-73.
Davis expresses concern about the rigidity of interactions between students in their responses to writing, be it in the classroom or in tutoring sessions. Three incidents drew his attention to the issue: group members discussing drafts of their papers by assuming roles (one person critiques audience awareness, another focuses on style), tutors expressing unwillingness to use different approaches in sessions even if their approach would produce poor results, and informal reports from tutees which clarified how tutors were known for one role they emphasize. Davis argues that student response should be writer-centered, an approach which isn't based on what the reader is most comfortable with. Because of the importance of flexiblity a tutoring session, he questions where the rigidity comes from and how to promote a less fixed approach to writing conversations. Davis realizes that the inflexibility partially stems from training tutors and emphasizing a particular approach: ". . . in this way we perhaps inadvertantly train tutors to always rely on what feels most comfortable to the tutor, not to the writer." (68) Davis also suggests that "inflexibility comes from the ideas we read and endorse." (68) To allievitate rigidity, Davis feels we need to identify and understand the various approaches. First he examines the focus of writing conversations and presents five approaches: reader centered, writer centered, process centered, text centered, and convention centered. We each should then acknowledge our preferences for one or two of these methods, for by understanding our bias, we can consciously apply the approaches we tend to ignore. Davis also considers why the conversations are focused in those areas, presenting the reasons of personal needs, social negotiation, ethical considerations, and pedagogical philosophies. Finally he emphaisizes the examination of how the tutor and tutee work together. The conversational interaction ranges between authoritarian/assertive, balanced/conversant, and passive/receptive. The approach will depend upon individual writers, argues Davis: "Tutors must be flexible, willing to discard their procedural manual in order to accomodate a particular writer." (72) He hopes that by presenting the aspects of conversational focus, methodological approach, and interactive style, he will show the range of options available and encourage tutors to explore the options, thereby enhancing the writing conversations.
Although Davis address the problem of rigidity in tutoring sessions and admits that much of the problem stems from the training, he doesn't propose a strong shift in the training process. A radical revision seems viable considering his admission: "My own tutors, as much as I emphasize flexibility in their training, are role-comfortalbe and set in their ways." (68) Although one of the subtitles is "Practical Suggestions," he merely summarizes his points and restates the importance of recognizing the options available. His suggestions offer little beyond the advice to read the article and then make sure others read the article. I feel that increasing awareness of the issue will help the problem, however a couple of obstacles may prevent the information from affecting us beyond the training period. Because we read vast amounts of articles, each presenting a different and important theory, we don't internalize every ounce of information. I've found myself questioning how much of the readings I will remember next semester when I'm actually in the process of tutoring. Furthermore, I doubt I will have time to reread the numerous chapters and essays, thus failing to rediscover vital methods or theories I could apply in the sessions.
Although I was pleased that Davis only mentioned and didn't rely on the rationalization that part of the problem comes from human nature, ("It's natural to assume and maintain comfortable poitions." (68)) I wonder if perhaps he shouldn't have given this reason more attention. After all, human nature is fairly all-encompasing and thus hard to avoid succombing to. The initial fear and uncertainty of being a novice tutor further lends itself to rigidity. We can fall back to Clark's guide, Talking About Writing, because it comfortablely spells out what we should do; it alleviates some of our insecurity which Clark describes: "This is it, you say to yourself, and you take a deep breath. You smile. You introduce yourself. And then, after a pause, you panic. She's silent, staring at the wall. What do you do now?" (111, Clark) For example, Clark states that getting started begins with getting to know the tutee. However, what about circumstances in which the tutee only wants to work without any personal distractions? Preliminary talk may ease the tutor's tensions but not the tutee's. Davis argues against such a set pattern of approach. But how can you get to know the tutee without first talking? Perhaps a basic pattern is desirable. For example, since, as Davis explains, tutors and tutees shouldn't work at cross-purposes, each must be aware of the other's needs, expectations and approached. Some preliminary conversation is thus helpful to map out how the conversation will progress. Davis does recognize that "saying a tutor must merely be conversational at times is ignoring potential problems." (71) Thus though Davis makes valid and vital points, he fails to present an effective and thorough process to counteract the comfort of roles and rigidity.--Meagan Ledendecker, 10/27/93
Woolbright, Meg, "The Politics of Tutoring: Feminism Within The Patriarchy," The Writing Center Journal, 13:1, Fall 1992.
Woolbright believes that feminist thought cannot be honestly examined without looking at it in its current patriarchal context. Woolbright uses Schniedewind's technique of measuring "the development of an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and community; shared leadership; [and] a cooperative structure," to determine whether the "hidden curriculum" of a tutoring session includes "feminist values." Using an excerpt from a tutoring session, she examines a feminist tutor who falls into the trap of disregarding feminist teaching methods of shared power and decision making in order to make sure that her tutee's product will fit into the more rigid five paragraph patriarchal essay structure and express her own (the tutor's) feminist theories while ignoring the tutee's discomfort with these theories. Woolbright believes that when the feminist "non-hierarchical" and cooperative" tutoring methods are disregarded, honesty is lost, and "good tutoring" can not take place. Because the student is forced to conform to a rigid structure and discouraged to make their own connections and conclusions, he or she will fail to write the dynamic essays which are essential for change in the current patriarchal academic setting. Woolbright concludes that in order for good tutoring to take place, people must honestly confront the conflict created when teaching feminist values in a rigid patriarchal system.
During class, many people have mentioned fears about working on papers with unfamiliar topics. I fear the opposite. It is when a tutor has their own strong ideas on a subject, that he or she often forgets the reason for tutoring the student. Instead of working to help the student find their own ideas and themes, a tutor can become trapped in making the studnet "see" the "correct" answer. This is definitely what happened when the feminist tutor pulled led the tutoring session around what she thought would be a good theme- that the men were trying to prove their manhood. Although the tutor found a way that she could outline this thesis and write a paper on it, she did not help guide the student to find her own personal understanding of the subject. Because the tutor was so comfortable with her ideas, she completely ignored that the tutor was uncomfortable and unhappy.
After reading this article, I feel more comfortable with my confidence flaw- always feeling like I know less than the person that I'm working with. Since I will be working with someone elses paper, I think it will be better when I ask questions that help the student put together his or her own thoughts, instead of trying to restate what I think they should say, or what I think they want to say. Also, it is not necessarily negative when the tutor has to pause to think. During this time of silence the student has time to think about his or her own ideas. The tutor should not attempt to prove their intelligence by answering her own questions. Instead, she can give the tutee time to think. If the tutee is still silent, perhaps the tutor can find a different way of wording the question so that it will inspire thoughts to flow from the student.
The tutoring session that I observed in this article failed because the tutor attempted to shape it according to outside systems and thoughts, instead of letting the student guide the session with what was meaningful to her. Perhaps, a great part of the problem rested with the fact that the tutor probably felt like she had to "accomplish" something in a very short amount of time. Once she found a section of the text that interested her, she latched onto it and threw out all other possibilities. The student still needed time to examine the other possibilities so that she could find an idea that would both relate to the text and relate to her own experience. I think it is very important that the tutor remember that her job is to help "guide" the student through the process, not "push" him or her through a list of meaningless steps.--Dani Salzer, 11/8/93
Nugent, Susan Monroe. "One Woman's Ways of Knowing." The Writing Center Journal. 10:2 (Spring/Summer 1990) 17-29.
This article was based on the book, Women's Ways of Knowing by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986). Nugent took the ideas in that book and applied them to a student who was working with in her writing center: Karen, a student who was attending college after spending some time in the work force. Her study was similar to McCarthy's study of Dave in that it was a single case study presented as a representative example. However her study wasn't nearly as exhaustive as McCarthy's, dealing with Karen only in the context of the Writing Center as an advisor. She does not go into great depth on the "women's ways of knowing," or how they differ from men's "ways of knowing," but outlines them and relates them to Karen's experiences. The five stages of intellectual growth are presented with a metaphor of "voice," starting with no voice, or Silence, progressing to Received Knowledge (repeating what the "experts" say), Subjective Knowledge (interjecting, usually with objections, her own personal feelings on what the "experts" say), Procedural Knowledge (developing her own procedures rather than blindly following the "rules" which may not work for her), and finally Connected Knowledge, when the woman has a strong voice of her own, able to synthesize the Received Knowledge given her with her own Subjective Knowledge and link her research with her own experiences. Karen did not progress directly from one of these stages to the other. Instead, her "voice" was very dependant on the context of where she was. While her writing placement essay placed her as Subjective Knower, once she entered the academic setting her insecurities and fear of criticism forced her into Silence. The majority of her classes, especially in her freshman year, encouraged and rewarded rote memorization (Received Knowledge), leaving her poorly prepared for critical thinking and opinion papers. She discounted her own thoughts on a subject, always looking for research which directly applied to what she wanted to write about (and getting frustrated if she couldn't find anything!)
The gist of Nugent's study is that the Writing Center played a vital role in bringing Karen out of her Silence and the rut of Received Knowledge. In the more relaxed environment of the Writing Center Karen felt more able to take risks, experiment with different ways of expressing herself, than in the more judgmental and restrictive atmosphere of the classroom. Nugent suggested not only that tutors should encourage writers to find their own way of working that is effective for them, but should engage them in conversation which will help them bring out their own ideas and make connections with what they have read (and been told by their teachers). She also encouraged Karen to learn more about her own development by reading more about it (but not necessarily agreeing with what she has read.) Since she was always rewarded in the past for writing which emphasized following a particular form and reiterating facts, she had difficulty when she was told to think of writing as a process, a method of learning in its own right. Nugent saw it as part of the tutor's responsibility to make the professors aware of what kinds of thinking their assignments ask their students to do, something they may have lost sight of.--Stephanie Brown, 11/9
Freed, Stacey. "Subjectivity in the Tutorial Session: How Far Can We Go?" The Writing Center Journal. 10:1 (Fall/Winter 1989) p 39-44.
This article asks how writing center tutors should handle papers which present ideas vastly different from their own, how they should react to a writers whose writing shows them to be, for example, extremely racist or sexist. In an informal survey of tutors from the writing centers of several different universities, Freed found most of them held similar views: that they often wanted to engage in debates with writers over ideological issues but set their differences aside to look at the writing itself, which was of most importance; that they "believed themselves to be more liberal than their students"; and that they should "press students about their point of view without arguing." Cultural differences can pose serious problems because a student may have deeply personal assumptions about such things as gender roles and race. The consensus seemed to be that it is important to question people about their beliefs and expose them to new viewpoints while respecting that they have their own point of view. In cases where there are serious differences, or they are highly sensitive and personal, it is better to refer that person to another tutor, so your personal views do not get in the way of your work - trying to make this person a better writer.
The problem with a debate or discussion about an issue is that it takes time, time which has been nominally set aside for improving writing. If there is time, I think a discussion that does not relate directly to a paper, but instead the ideas that go into it, can be very helpful to the writer and the tutor, giving them both a new viewpoint to consider. It becomes a matter of setting priorities - if topic-related discussion would be most helpful, maybe a time limit would help prevent it from getting out of hand. Some people may hold certain views because of the way they were brought up; they subconsciously reveal them in their writing, and might not even notice or question them until someone points them out and presents a different view. I'm not saying I would try to convert someone to my own ideas - I try not to be too argumentative most of the time, but would probably say something if someone says something that I disagree with strongly. I would have a great deal of difficulty dealing with someone who strongly held views opposite of my own, but I would also have difficulty in just passing them off on to someone else. As long a neither party is judgmental, there shouldn't be a problem (I would hope), but it is hard to objective, and know when you've gone too far.--Stephanie Brown, 11/9
Kennedy,Barbara L. "Non- native Speakers as Students in First- Year Composition Classes with Native Speakers: How Can Writing Tutors Help?" The Writing Center Journal. vol. 13 no. 2 Spring 1993: 27-36.
I chose this article because I thought it might help Gavin and Chignons group in their study of ESL students. Kennedy tells us that even advanced level ESL students still must decode as they read, rather than just read for meaning. This means that they must decode every word into their own language, try to make sense of it, and then gather meaning from it. ESL students decode every word, whereas native speakers are able to pick out key words and phrases and infer and gather meaning from them. Because ESL students have to concentrate on every word to gather meaning, they often have trouble understanding the "big picture" of an essay or chapter. This can lead to further problems in trying to summarize. Kennedy also states that this inability to obtain the main idea often leads to plagiarism in ESL students' writing. Kennedy also encourages ESL students to do some drafting and prewriting in their native language, as it saves time and may also be good practice in coding from their native language to English.
Kennedy also discusses how ESL students tend to use the style of writing they have been taught in their native language and transpose it to English. This is often not acceptable or appropriate in English composition.
Kennedy raises a point I never thought about until this year. She states that "ESL students are required not only to do what the American students do, but they also have to gain the basic knowledge of American culture that the text assumes the students already possess" (36). The freshman girl that lives next door to me is from Aruba, and is, therefore, an ESL student. In coming to Goucher and taking CIE, she has been bombarded with papers, readings, and assignments-- all of which assume she has some basic understanding of American history-- which for the most part she does not. For one writing assignment, she came to my room crying and asked me to explain to her what happened in the 1950's. It occurred to me at that point that information that native speakers take for granted is yet another obstacle that ESL students must encounter and overcome in order to be successful in American universities.--Kerry Flanigan, 11/9
Severino, Carol. "Rhetorically Analyzing Collaboration(s)." The Writing Center Journal. vol. 13 no. 1 fall 1992: 53.
I chose this article as sort of a part "two" for a bibliography I did earlier in the semester about collaboration. In that summary, I questioned the validity and effectiveness of collaboration. Here I have gone one step further to analyze the nature of the concept of collaboration.
I guess I always knew that there are different types of collaborations, but this article makes the differences very blatant. A hierarchical collaboration, according to Severino, is where one person has more power or authority, whereas a dialogic collaboration happens between people who are more balanced in power and status. According to Severino, "hierarchical collaboration stresses efficiency in producing the product (while). . . dialogic collaboration stresses the play of the process" (54). From this description alone and from the conversations we have had in class, my understanding is that our writing center is striving for more dialogic collaboration. It should be noted, however, that Severino makes a point to state that one collaboration is not "better" than another-- each may be more appropriate in different situations.
Severino also questions the validity of a peer tutor. That is, "how much of a tutor and how much of a peer is a peer tutor" (55).
Severino gives a list of some the factors of an individual that affect his preferred collaborative style. She also gives us dialogue in 2 different tutoring sessions, both having the same tutees but working with different tutors. The first tutor is a high school English teacher working towards his masters. He asks a lot of questions which direct the tutee. He focuses the paper and makes a lot of suggestions. He knows the direction he feels the paper should go in and asks questions which make the tutee go in that direction. The second tutor is a student. He does not try to change the goals of the tutee. This tutor has the tutee read his paper aloud in an attempt to make him feel more secure, confident, and comfortable. In this session, the tutee says more and has more "say" in what happens to his paper.
I preferred the second session, though the exposure to both gave me some awareness of how one tutoring sessions can differ so greatly, depending on the individuals involved.--Kerry Flanigan, 11/4
Severino, Carol. “Rhetorically Analyzing Collaboration.” The Writing Center Journal 13.1 (1992), 53-64.
Beginning with a brief description of the range of definitions of collaboration, Severino states that there is no one form of collaboration. Just as the writing process depends on the writer’s purpose, audience, and personality, collaboration depends upon certain variables: “writing center research suggests that there is no one kind of collaboration, but collaborations, whose structures depend on the same features of situational and interpersonal dynamics as do the various writing processes.” (53) She warns against a present “crush on collaboration,” which creates ambiguity and confusion about the nature of collaboration, as well as oversimplified interpretations of collaboration. Based on work from Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford, Severino elaborates on the distinction between hierarchical, which stresses efficiency in production of a product, and dialogic collaboration, which stresses the play of the process of production. She defines her purpose: “As I will show, to a certain extent, how much we value process/ play or product/efficiency will influence not only our collaborative styles, but also how we evaluate collaborative sessions.” (54) Severino then raises a number of problem-posing questions about collaboration and interpersonal dynamics, in order to initiate discussion.
Using video tapes and transcripts from two tutoring sessions with the same student but different tutors, she attempts to “inductively identify key features of situational and interpersonal dynamics that affect the nature of collaboration.” (54) She wants to analyze the extent to which the tutor is a peer or a tutor, and to which the collaboration is dialogic or hierarchical. Her description of the sessions includes information about the tutors and tutee, the task and their approach, and portions of their dialogue. She compares the two sessions, focussing on the tutors’ style of collaboration in relation to the tutee’s response, and lists 18 features for rhetorical analysis of collaboration. In her concluding thoughts, Severino makes the distinction that not all the features influence each session and points out some of the limitations of her study of the two sessions. Raising further questions about situational and interpersonal dynamics, she invites further study and discussion to evaluate collaboration. She also stresses that by analyzing tutoring sessions in terms of the 18 features, tutors can develop a flexibility to their approach.
Severino raises a huge number of interesting questions, but leaves them hanging open-ended and unanswered. I felt cheated; she touched upon many wonderful and intriguing points, but falls back upon using them as an invitation for others to delve into their complexities. On one level she provides a topical response to some of the questions in her presentation of the two sessions. However, she doesn’t specifically address the questions and instead leaves the reader to try and piece together the connections.
Despite her initial warning against oversimplified interpretations, she operates on a level of simplicity which doesn’t do justice to the complexity of collaboration. She lists 18 features and factors of the process, but then doesn’t apply them in her analysis beyond a basic labeling of the situations in the sessions. For example, introduces the scenarios of the two sessions with the statement: “In terms of features from the chart, training and age are the salient features that distinguish the tutor in the first session from the tutor in the second session which occurred a week later.” (55) She defines that distinguishing characteristic and then analyzes the interactions according to that assumption only. She only makes passing reference to other important factors. The fact that the tutee went to the second tutor a week later and with a completely new set of concerns, “He is in a different state of mind, a higher state of apprehension about his writing. . . .” doesn’t seem to concern Severino. Instead she approaches her analysis with respect to the tutor. Thus she places emphasis on a tutor-based approach which contradicts the fundamental writing center standard of writer-centeredness.
While Severino does highlight essential issues in collaboration (such as motivation, flexibility, process orientation, variables tutors should be sensitive to), she only mentions them in passing. She emphasizes that “The ability to describe rhetorically the richness and variation in collaborative processes will improve our research and tutor training.” (55) But she doesn’t elaborate upon HOW the analysis will affect the writing center. Furthermore, she ends the piece with a twisted version of the previous sentence, as if saying it again in a slightly different way would prove its validity: “In our research, teaching, and tutoring, we must also use these situational and interpersonal features to describe and analyze richly and rhetorically the variety of collaboration(s).” (63) Throughout the article she operates on the assumption that her blanket statements will explain themselves without further evidence or explanation.
Further undermining the validity of her assumptions is the limited nature of her research. She even admits the inherent problem, but only in relation to the ability to analyze gender variations: “The conclusions that can be drawn from this particular study are limited because all three writers were male.” (62) She examines videos and transcripts from only two sessions, each with the same tutee, yet she uses her “research” as a basis for her broad assumptions.--Meagan Ledendecker, 11/9/93
Bibliography #4 Edith Howell
November, 6 1993
Collins, Terence. "The Impact of Microcomputer Word Processing on the Performance of Learning disabled Students in a Required First-Year Writing Course." Computers and Composition 8.1 (1982): (49-67).
Collins was part of a research team at General College that studied 57 Learning Disabled writers from 1985-1988. The researchers followed these writers through their first year writing courses to determine whether or not computers in composition would help learning disable writers complete the course, increase their level of writing so that it compared with that of non-LD students, and reduce LD students' writing apprehension. With the aid of computers, LD students' withdrawal rate matched that of non-LD students. Course grades were tested on the basis of comparability to non-LD writers and on acceptability as far as university standards were concerned. Although the LD students' grades were slightly lower than non-LD students', they achieved a satisfactory passing grade. In one hour timed sessions, the researches had both groups of students write to determine if computers aided in fluency of writing. Fluency includes both quantity and quality. On both counts LD students fell a little short of non-LD students. "The key features were diminished amount of text produced, internal incoherence, and atypically flawed surfaces, especially in spelling"(Collins 59). Collins mentions however, that even though LD students had more spelling errors the differences were often statistically insignificant.
Using computers did reduce writing apprehension for all of the LD students. Computers freed LD students of many of the frustrating problems that the slow writing by hand process creates. With the computer they were better able to keep up with "what they acknowledged to be a scattered and sometimes uncontrolled though process"(Collins 64). The tidiness of the computer screen was preferable for many LD students because their often illegible handwriting made revisions difficult. The clarity This may have aided in keeping the students in class and giving them the confidence to achieve satisfying grades. Collins concludes that he believes that computers can help teachers to meet the needs of LD students by creating an equal opportunity environment.
Once again I am struck by how easily computers have the ability to facilitate writing. LD writers continually face difficulties in the areas of organization and mechanics. Computers provide a clear visual picture that can be easily manipulated. It also provides the handy dandy spell checker to catch many spelling errors. Computers reduce the LD writers's lode to a bearable level that they can cope with thus reducing apprehension. Elbow's article "Closing my Eyes as I Speak," addresses the possibilities using computers to aid in reducing writing apprehension by using its versatility in being able to turn the screen off or communicate with audience in different ways. Bishop's article, "We're All Basic Writers: Tutors Talking About Writing Apprehension," she states "blocked writer were often unable to enter into the composing process because they were being inflexible in their writing strategies..."(33) Because computers allow the writer to do mass editing with ease, they help the writer to become more flexible in their writing process and try new ways until they find procedures that make writing easier and more enjoyable for them. Many of the things that computers make easier for LD writers assists non-LD writers as well. It would be fun to explore the various uses of computers and software that can make writing more accessible to all writers.
Christine Kucia November 7, 1993 Eng 221--Annotated Bib.
Holt, Mara. "The Value of Written Peer Criticism." College Composition and Communication. 1992: 384-391.
Holt examines the advantages to written peer evaluations on student writing, and the different ways students may pursue the written criticism process. She argues that the typical kind of peer criticism involves the technical aspects and "neglecting discussion of the substantive issues in the paper" (384). She then focuses on two styles of responding to writing: the Elbow and Belanoff Peer-Response Exercises, and Bruffee's Cumulative Peer-Critique Process. The former is a more creative form of critiquing another's writing, using images derived from the text and immediate impressions from another's writing. Bruffee's model is considerably more analytical, with an complicated method of writing, responding, and responding to the responses. Holt finds that combining the two techniques of peer evaluation produces the most thorough methods of peer criticism, which uses both the creative, responder-friendly critiquing with the more content-oriented writing responses of Bruffee's model. These ways for students to evaluate one another's works gives more attention to the essentials of content, form, and idea clarification in writing, and makes peer criticism more than the dreaded grammar checking.
However, the methods described by Holt have their failings, which might not make written criticism as useful to those of us in the Writing Center as for in-class peer evaluation. Bruffee's method is long and detailed, and takes great amounts of time to follow. The writer's draft is commented on by a peer in essay form, and the writer then responds to critic's evaluation. A third party then responds to both the paper draft and the first responder's critique in essay form, and the writer responds to the third party's review. First, this many exchanges are simply too difficult to handle for the more transitory role of Goucher's Writing Center. The essay writing by the critics and the writer involve no conversation tactics, and are simply lengthy commentaries on what another said, rather than clarification of another's ideas or brainstorming new approaches to the topic. The critic is allowed to suggest alterations to the writer's draft, but this keeps the revision process more removed from the writer. Tutors should allow for the writer to discover for themselves the different approaches that might be taken to a topic, but written criticism is simply a suggestion box for the writer's paper. Elbow and Belanoff's technique is too broad to center on specific content or organization problems. Instead, their method focuses simply on the reader's reaction to the overall product, and does not channel the critic's energies to the writer's trouble spots. Writing tutors must concern themselves not only with what they see as problems in the writing, but also with what the writer views as an obstacle to their writing. Oral discussion should be the primary means of communication between writer and peer critic, since discussion of ideas and exploration of different topic avenues are the essential aspects of developing a good paper. Written criticism just takes the writing process away from the writer, and gives undue power to the mighty reader.
Meyer, Sheree L. “Refusing to Play the Confidence Game: The Illusion of Mastery in the Reading/Writing for Texts.” College English 55 (January 1993): 46-63.
In describing the tendancy to formalize classroom writing, Meyer presents the formal, argumentative mode of writing as systemic. The conventional form of an essay doesn’t leave room for any personal or informative information. Meyer offers the textbook definition of a “formal essay” to present and examine the guidelines to which we subscribe. The author is expected to write as an “acknowleged authority” about a “serious subject” to a “specialized audience.” But the student must POSE as an authorized authority, the subject is often imposing (Meyer attributes this to the fact that “it is Literature written by a Great Author”), and the audience is inevitably the professor. Thus Meyers argues that students must present themselves as authorities by imitating models, which leads to feelings of fraud, or what she terms the “imposter complex.” Students must play a confidence game and maintain an illusion of being in control. Meyers continues by showing how this pretense of control depends upon adoption of a fixed position, a stated certainty or thesis. Papers become polished and predictable packages without mention of uncertainties, ambivilence, or changes in ideas. Students learn how to please those in power even if the standards do not fulfill their own expectations. Meyers offers the example of two “ideal” students: “. . . these two women have followed the rules of the formal essay all too well. . . . they have been so concerned with their ‘specialized audience,’ their reader and so successful in adopting the impersonal tone, that the results are less than fulfilling.” (50) Hoping to move beyond the dichotomy between objective and subjective discourse, Meyers explores alternatives and challenges us to move beyond the conformity of the safe and traditional rules. Meyers expresses a desire to find “an academic discourse that is not aggressively combative and competative but that promotes a community that engages in dialogue not debate.” (52) Rather than adopting a fixed and assertive position to argue, Meyers suggests a more fluid approach which promotes more flexible interaction with the texts and a more personalized voice. Works are continually in progress, according to Meyers, because reading and writing evolve through time and are thus open to change. Meyers states simply: “From the beginning of a chapter to the end, because the writing of that chapter took place in time, change occurs.” (56) She suggests that the narrative mode of writing could encourage the ongoing nature of reading and writing. Finally she describes an assignment called Double Trouble which she uses in her class to help students develop the two voices of certainty/objectivity and doubt/subjectivity. She offers alternative approaches as methods to exapand the definition of essay writing, not to replace it: “. . . if we make students aware that there is more than one way to read and write about literature - more than one process and more than one kind of final product - then they can gain confidence in their ability to compose differently in response to different writing situations.” (62)
One of the most effective examples Meyer uses to elaborate upon her point (I refrained from saying she “proved” her position, because that would refute her basic ideology of continually developing ideas and positions) that “all utterances are provisional and subject to time” (56) is her own developing ideas within the article. Her introduction presents an idea about the formalization of essay writing. From there she extends her thought without a predetermined direction or conclusion. Thus she doesn’t fall into the process she decries: “ . . . our students’ problem of taking a position and writing a conclusion that does not really follow its introduciton but merely repeats it, as though the introduction, body, and conclusion of an essay emerged at one transcendent moment, or in a neat, linear movement from one point to another.” (56) After elaborately exploring how Jane Gallop’s THE DAUGHTER OF SEDUCTION exemplifies her argument, Meyer reorients herself and admits how she naturally let the ideas develop without forcing them into her initial stance: “Although I am tempted to make Gallop’s texts the center of this essay, I remind myself that I began with a somewhat different purpose.” (59)
In this utterance Meyer exemplifies another aspect of her thesis: including personalized thoughts and comments. In directly admiting her digression to the reader, Meyer presents herself not an unidentifiable narrator, but as an actual person with actual perceptions and predilictions. The reader can then relate to her as such. In a standard, formal essay the narrator often exists only as the “acknowleged authority.” Meyer’s call for attention to “the determining aspects and assumptions of gender, race, and class,” (which are often ignored in a traditional argument) seeks to refute the idea that “The rules of logic . . . are universal and should be presented in recognizably ‘universal” style.” (57) Thus she disqualifies the pretense of equality, objectivity, and universality.
Much of her thesis could be applied to journalistic standards which uphold objectivity and the distance between the writer and the writing. The following statement can apply directly to the pretense of authority adopted by journalists: “Indeed, argument directly seeks to blind us to the personal and subjective qualities of its own speaker, by making it appear as though we all, or at least those of us who know better, speak with the same voice.” (57)
Meyer’a assumptions of personalizing essay writing relates to the feminist thought that the personal is political and the political is personal. In other words, how can we be expected to dichotimize what is intrinsically intertwined? In BLOOD SISTERS, an examination of women’s accounts of the French Revolution, Marilyn Yalom describes how despite Madame de Stael’s aspirations toward objectivity, her memoirs include much personal testimonial: “I would say that she COULD NOT by objective inspite of her best efforts, but that the emotional undercurrent in her work should not necessarily be judged as a shortcoming. It may, indeed, have sharpened her vision.” Interestingly enough, Yalom uses the personal “I” throughout the book as she interweaves the factual analysis with personalized reflection. And thus the reader can relate to Yalom, much as she can relate to Meyer. Meyer stands firmly by the importance of this identification process: “the ‘person’ who speaks (and narrative reminds us that there is always a person who speaks) is himself or herself a character whom we can only know through the discourse.” (57)
--Meagan Ledendecker, 11/9/93
"Elizabeth Bishop" in Plimpton, George, ed. Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews. New York: Viking Press, 1984. pp.123‑148.
The interview opens with a brief sketch, in italics, of the setting for the interview, which takes place in Bishop's summer house on the Maine island of New Haven. There is a description of her house, and the furniture; particular care is taken with the description of a primitive Brazilian statue of a blue, horned monster. Bishop refuses to have her picture taken because of a recent case of hay fever, addingthat "photographers, insurance salesmen, and funeral directors are the worst forms of life."
This sets the tone for the interview, which is chatty and
pleasant. Bishop sounds like the kind of woman you'd like to sit and have tea with, and talk about the books you've read and the poems you've attempted and she wouldn't strangle you with constant academia.
One thing sets her apart, though‑‑ it's an issue that has never quite been resolved: do writers speak as beautifully as they write? Bishop, though she has a definite kibitzing‑over‑coffee tone, speaks with a language full of startlingly vivid images. There is a literary sensuousness to her speech, a sense of timing and rhythm that is too full of flair to be completely deliberate.
Bishop makes a statement that made a distinct impression. She was asked whether she composed on a typewriter, and she said, "I can write prose on a typewriter. Not poetry." This leads to the question of how different the composing process is for poetry from prose, even with the same artist? There seems to be a need, with poetry, to "carve" one's lines out, for the hand to be more intimately connected to the paper.
When asked about her teaching career at Harvard, Bishop made another interesting point‑‑ "From everything I've read and heard, the number of students in English departments taking literature courses has been falling off enormously. But at the same time the number of people who want to get into the writing classes seems to get bigger and bigger." To which the interviewer replies, "I think poeple want to be able to say they do something creative like throw pots or write poems." Apparently, poetry attracts more than its fair share of dilletantes, but there seems to be a larger statement being made: that poetry is an art that seems much easier than it really is, and that the line between mediocre poetry and really powerful poetry is becoming ever more difficult to define. To write incredibly rich free verse (which, alas, attracts more dabblers than any other form) is extraordinarily hard.
To close, Elizabeth Bishop, as shown in this interview, is considerably kind, aware, and endearing, as well as an excellent poet. A quote from John D. MacDonald comes to mind‑‑ "Writing is like brain surgery‑‑ it looks incredibly easy. You hold the knife just so, and you cut."--Sarah Reilly, 11/4/93
Healy, David. "Tutorial Role Conflict in the Writing Center." The Writing Center Journal Spring\Summer 1991: 41-50.
David Healy writes an article in which he addresses an audience of supervisors who hire tutors for their Writing Centers. He deals with the subject of "role conflict" which affects tutors on many different levels. He proposes many different scenarios in which the tutor might possibly be placed, and asks the supervisors to gauge the perspective tutors responses. He believes that by posing such situations, the tutor may become better equipped to handle whatever comes along in that, "as administrators and supervisors, we have little control over our tutors' personalities. We can however, have a significant influence on the climate within which they work" (Healy, 49). He reminds his audience that although the tutor is in fact a professional, he or she plays a special kind of function in which "the writing center conference in particular can cast tutors and tutees in a variety of roles" (Healy, 42). The problem with the changing roles of an individual tutor is that their job is not always well defined. They must shift styles, approaches and focuses with each new tutee and paper. There are other problems in addition to the varying levels of stress which the tutor may encounter with each session. There is the dilemma that "the same qualities that make them attractive as employees--academic aptitude, wide-ranging interests, interpersonal skills--predict success in other ventures as well, with the result that they can be pulled in many different direction" (Healy, 46). The tutor must try to please the tutee who has many expectations and demands to be made, as well as the supervisor who has a set standard of how a Writing Center should be run. In pleasing such entities as the individual tutees, added pressure of living, working and playing with these very people can make the tension increase greatly.
I found this article to be very helpful in the scenarios which it posed. They ranged from having to tutor a teaching assistant that you have had in a chemistry class, to trying to help a tutee with organization, when all they want to work on is grammar errors. I do think he got a little carried away by throwing in the stress of a tutor who had been physically abused by an older brother or father and subsequently could not tutor older men. Although a situation like that could arise, it does not help the majority of tutors as much as the more general scenarios which Healy proposes do. I do think that he is correct in defining the peculiar situation in which tutors find themselves. He states, "Writing Center tutors are not unique in being exposed to role conflict," however, they are faced with the added strain of job ambiguity, varying expectations and time constraints.
McDonald, James C., "Tutoring Literature Students in Dr. Frankenstein's Writing Laboratory," The Writing Center Journal 12:2 (Spring 1992): 181-189.
McDonald uses the Frankenstein myth as "a helpful analogy for understanding the relationship of student, teacher, and literary work in an academic community and the difficult role of the tutor in helping to make this relationship work." This myth is particularly useful in describing the student-tutor relationship created when the tutor must work with a student's "bizarre" interpretation of a text. This "bizarre" interpretation becomes the "monster." Dr. Frankenstein is the literature professor who brings together the "body" of the text and the "mind" of the student. However, like Dr. Frankensteins disgust with the monster he created but could not control, the professor is often horrified by the student's unconventional, unmanageable interpretation. The professor might look at the draft and tell the student to start all over. Like Dr. Frankenstein, he is attempting to destroy a monster that he helped to create. The academic community is as destructive as the town people who attempt to kill the monster, or at least drive it from their country. While most professors do not throw stones, "low grades, angry comments and ridicule are powerful weapons."
Particularly in the case of strange interpretations, the tutor is placed in a difficult, yet highly consequential, position. Like Igor, the tutor's role is both more personal and less powerful then Dr. Frankensteins. Yet, since the tutor is partially in both the world of the student and the professor, he has the opportunity of bridging the gap between the student and his community. Unfortunately this gap is often eliminated by suppressing the interpretation of the student so as to make the student's work more acceptable to the professor and the academic community. McDonald believes that a new ending must be written to the Frankenstein myth in order to create a positive student learning experience. Destroying or suppressing the students interpretation will work only to distance the student from both the text and the academic community. McDonald concludes that an effective tutor should work with the student to critique his or her interpretation as a legitimate piece of work. Instead of "hunting" down errors, the tutor should listen to the student and help her find the interpretation that is meaningful to her, relevant to the text, and acceptable to the academic community.
McDonald's analogy examined an issue of tutoring that I find highly relevant. While working with junior high school students over the summer, I came across many bizarre interpretations of difficult literary texts. The issue of how to approach both the student and text is complicated. While I, as the tutor, could be positive that e e cummings did not write "next to god america," as a patriotic text, I did not want to force my interpretation on Kate. Instead. I wanted her to discover the author's meaning for herself. This was quite a difficult task. Although I am positive that by the end of the session, Kate understood that the poem was not praising America, my methods of tutoring were less than perfect. I liked the way I asked her questions about the text that did not require "yes" and "no" answers. However, unfortunately I think that during the times when she did not reply or have an answer, I answered the question myself. Answering my own questions made me feel that I was giving her my interpretation, instead of letting her discover her own interpretation for herself.
Another of my faults during this tutoring session was that I totally led the discussion. I found parts of the text that stood out to me, and asked her what she thought they meant and how they related to the general overall idea. Certainly, I could have given her more power by asking her what she thought was important and why. Then, perhaps we could have created a debate. One of us could have debated reasons why it could be considered patriotic, and the other could have debated why it was a critique of blind patriotism. By making our relationship more equal, and by forcing her to play a more active role, I could have helped her to find more personal meaning in the poem while helping her to bridge the gap between what she had originally thought and the new understanding she was achieving during our session.
One thing that I did like about our session was that we talked about how her original interpretation was so like the blind patriotism that the writer seemed to find so dangerous. This probably helped to create a more personal link between her ideas and the poem. Another positive part of the tutoring experience was that we created a little performance of the piece to do for the class. I think that the complete mental and physical commitment required for the performance, helped to make the poem more meaningful for both of us.
Working with student interpretations, particularly when these interpretations are "monsters," could be the most difficult part of the tutoring process. However, it can also be the most rewarding for both the student and tutor. McDonald's suggestion that the student learn from his or her own interpretation, sounds highly effective for teaching the student. I believe that even "monsters" have beauty inside of them. The ugly ducking was really a beautiful swan. The problem was that none of the ducks around him looked closely enough at his differences to realize that he was beautiful when viewed as a growing swan instead of a deformed duck. We can search out the beauty and uniqueness in a "monster" interpretation instead of judging it for something it is not. By working with the interpretation instead of destroying it, the interpretation could grow into an unique and acceptable work in the discourse community. Dani A. Salzer 11/1/93
Annotated Bib. #4
Peritz, Janice Haney. " Making a Place for the Poetic in Academic Writing." College Composition and Communication. Vol. 44, No. 3, Oct 1993: 380-384.
The point of teaching freshman college writing, Peritz tells us in her article, is to provoke "a revision of the ways our students normally approach academic reading and writing assignments" (385). She found students had difficulty entering the academic discourse and that their voice tends to be one which simply reports what is viewed as what "authoritative others already know" (380). In an assignment that she gave to her class, Peritz describes the method she found to release the poetic and (de)constructive potential in student writing. The assignment she gave was to write in a Geertzian way, based on his work, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight". After the students had written their essays, Peritz instructed them to go back and choose suitable epigraphs for them. This is what changed their approach to writing and reading.
Peritz analyzes the way in which choosing an epigraph effected her students. It transformed their reading and rewriting by associating external terms and ideas to the text. Their essays became more textural, thematically moving, and it was easier for the students to enter into the discourse with their own voice. Their rewritings and readings became more "poetic", and Peritz found that the students suddenly had a much greater interest them. Peritz also discusses the socio‑cultural aspect that the epigraph brought in, as two of her students chose epigraphs in a language other than English. Peritz covers a couple aspects of teaching freshman college English, but what I found most interesting and useful was her discussion of discourse, and her alternative to entering analytic and academic writing.
Morrow, Diane Stelzer. "Tutoring Writing: Healing or What?" College Composition and Communication, Vol. 42, No. 2, May 1991: 218-229.
In this article, Diane Morrow examines the relationship between tutor and student in the writing center. Prior to her own experience as a writing tutor at George Mason University, she was a family practitioner at a medical center in D.C. Because of her background as a doctor, Morrow found herself comparing the students who came into the writing center to patients and the tutors to doctors. Drawing from past research and generally accepted medical doctrine, Morrow discusses the tutor-tutee relationship in terms of the three basic models of the doctor-patient relationship: activity-passivity, guidance-cooperation, and mutual participation. She evaluates each method, while comparing and contrasting the writing center to the doctor's office.
Even though she makes the comparison of the tutee to the patient, Morrow does not take the view that the student who has difficulty writing is in any way ill, nor that the tutor possesses some secret cure for writing. She relates many of her own experiences with tutoring which I found very helpful. A lot of the issues and methods discussed in Clark are also described here through Morrow's own experiences as a doctor and a tutor. She writes about the authoritative role of the tutor vs. the authority of the student, misconceptions about the mysterious healing power of the tutor, and tutoring someone writing about an unknown topic. Reading this article gave me confidence in my ability to tutor and helped me understand what we are supposed to be doing as tutors and how to tutor effectively. Even if this article isn't relevant to anyone's final project, I highly recommend reading it if you plan to tutor. Amongst other things, it's a nice change from Clark.
Bibliography 5 Edith Howell
November 11, 1993
Tuman, Myron. "Campus Word Processing: Seven Design Principles for a New Academic Writing Environment." Computers and Practice 10 (1993): 49-62.
After discovering that using computers in the writing process did little to turn writing into a collaborative project, the writing professors at University of Alabama. started discussing the idea of making use of the computer networking becoming available on their campus. They hoped that the computer networks would enable students and professors to communicate and exchange writing without even printing it out. They also hoped that it give students the capability to work collaboratively. In preparing to network, they set up seven design principles that they felt should be followed in finding the hardware and software for the program.
Design principle one focuses on making the "campus word processing accessible to all students campus-wide"(52). There should be no restrictions on who can use the word processing so that the campus becomes a pseudo-classroom where students and professors can exchange ideas online. The second design principle recommends using e-mail to send the documents so that the risk of overwriting someone else's file disappears due to the nature of e-mails sending process. However, the e-mail program as it stands does not satisfy the needs of networked classes as design principles three through five illustrate. Design principle three highlights the fact that, in order to be affective, the network system must have all of the capabilities of word processing and be compatible with other word processing programs so that students may move from location to location as needed in order to complete their assignments. Fourthly, without printed documents, it becomes necessary to be able to have two documents on the screen at the same time so that the writer has the reading directly in front of them to respond to. Fifthly, conferencing needs to be used to insure that discussions remain somewhat focused on the suggested topics. The sixth design principle points to the need for revision and keeping conferencing from becoming too much like a conversation that react statement to statement in strictly forward movement that does not look backward. The final design principle hopes campus word processing will encourage collaboration on the basis of seeing its benefits and not on the basis of being forced into it by a professor. The four step model for networked word processing that Tuman lays out: "one, the teacher prompts; two, each student responds; three, the group discusses' four, each student revises" (60) concludes the article.
The article contains a very interesting end note that talks a little bit about networking program at Case Western University. They instituted networking and the most benefits it has reaped exists in the area of registration and library circulation. No benefits in the area of instruction have appeared. Students and professors alike use the system for purely social interaction. Goucher bulletin boards in conferencing attempt to reach beyond that without the initial teacher prompt. The English 221 conference appears distinctly lacking in the area of discussion. I personally love being able to send my papers across the cables without printing them out and the idea of sharing ideas in print rather like a permanent conversation wonderful. Printed messages give the individual time to prepare a thoughtful response rather that having to give off the cuff remarks as happens in fast paced discussions. My own insight into why the networking at Case Western is not used more as an instructional tool leads me to believe it is lack of time. Professors still give the same amount of work to their students and then expect them to give extra time in thought and discussion in computer form beyond the usual bull sessions in dorms. If professors want computerized discussions they need to integrate the computer use into the class itself and make it a central forum that they could not survive the class without.
Bib #6 Edith Howell
November 13, 1993
D'Agostino, Karen and Varone, Sandra. "Interacting with basic Writers in the Computer Classroom." Computers and Composition. 8.3 (1990):39-49.
Brookdale community College in Lincroft, New Jersey studied basic writers in two sections of their English 095 class. They taught the class that met once a week for three hours in a computer classroom and interacted with the students during the composing process. Journals were kept by both teachers and students to record the types of interactions that occurred. The study worked to answer two basic questions:"What kinds of teacher interventions take place in the computer-integrated basic writing class? [and] What impact do these interventions have on the students' composing and revising processes?"(41) Dealing with students on an individual basis enabled the professors to assist the students in the areas that they most needed it rather than having to teach it in a pre-prescribed fashion that a syllabus creates. As the papers progressed the types of interactions changed. In the early stages of writing the professors only offered advice from an "interested reader"(42) standpoint. As a working draft developed, teachers made more specific comments about organization and clarity of ideas. The interaction that the professors had with the students proved more compelling than written comments on an already completed assignment. These basic writers are more likely take the advice of a professor while they are still writing than go back and revise later.
This is an incredibly wonderful program. I gets to the students during the process and enables professors to teach them how to think about the composing process. It helps the students before they compose themselves into a bind that can only be escaped through major and frustrating revisions. It teaches the students what kinds of questions they should ask themselves during writing and gives them a real audience to write for. In a way it is a bona fide tutoring session that helps circumvent the fix-it shop attitude towards writing. This line of thinking led me to ask "Why don't we have writing tutors on staff in the computer labs?" It would take quite a bit of educating to teach students how to use such an added resource but it could help students overcome writers block and give them a way to ask those quick questions about organization and the like so that they can continue with their paper. It would provide help before they finished a draft that they considered a completed product and were unwilling to revise very much.
Christine Kucia November 12, 1993 Eng 221--Annot. Bib 6
Gerrard, Lisa. "Computers and Composition: Rethinking Our Values." Computers and Composition 10 (1992) 23-34.
Gerrard explores the theories and practices of computer compositions as related to the professional English field. She initially explains the background of the acceptance of computers in the writing community, starting with the community's acceptance and experimentation with the new technology to make computer use more universal. She then points out that computers socialize writing, and that the individual nature of writing is replaced by collaborative composition (due to computer lab setups, which are conducive to socializing). Computers also become the "equalizing force" for students who would not otherwise communicate so readily because of shyness, disability, or speech impediment; they provide a more open forum for ideas for students and even remove some of the responsibility of teaching from the professors in favor of shared learning. Gerrard acknowledges with some sorrow, however, that the experimentation in computers and composition is being replaced by theories of these practices by means of the competitive, hierarchical structure of the discursive community. She notices that the research, "publish or perish" styles of higher education produces more conflict between the camps of practical methods professors and methods theorists. Gerrard sees that "in our eagerness to legitimize composition in the English department, we are adopting its priorities... and depreciating teaching in favor of scholarship" (29). She notes that the schism developing between the presumed "scholars" and the "teachers" does not prove itself creative in favor of furthering composition teaching. Although theory helps the teachers understand their practice, "theory grows out of what we do in the classroom... without practice, it wouldn't exist" (Gerrard 31). She hopes that the creative teachers behind the new practices of computer composition will be acknowledged as readily as the theorists, since their contributions are just as significant and far more applicable.
Gerrard's thoughts introduce important topics for discussion regarding practice versus theory in computers and composition. Unfortunately, the argument basically comes down to bureaucracy and its effects on the profession. The schools' constant efforts towards name recognition cause pressure on faculty to adopt more theoretical styles of teaching, and force the inventive sides of teaching to be placed on the back burner. This results in fewer creative attitudes in teaching, to which the constantly evolving state of computers does not adapt easily. Computer composition requires innovative thought, experimentation beyond the normal bounds of the classroom, and the search for the audience through the socializing nature of computers (i.e., networks, e-mail, etc.). Stagnation in these areas only drags the computer composition community down from its fast-paced, changing track into the backwash of technology. Thus, efforts must be made to keep the creative spirit alive in utilizing computers in composition. More active participation by other English classes in the computer labs would be a start. Tedious tasks such as in-class writing could be moved to the computer writing atmosphere, thus actively changing the teaching of writing to accommodate the new styles of composition. Gerrard's encouragement of active participation in the computer composition scene could also define the Writing Center's need to purchase a few computers. As tutors, we need to help students refine the composition process using the tools the students actively utilize. If students are expected to use computers on all of their school papers, then the Writing Center should cater to this basic need for students, since computer composition IS what they are learning. These ideas for active participation in the computer composition arena are few, but may introduce broader changes in the writing community. Taking action through careful experimentation, rather than passive analysis of the pros and cons of each idea, keeps the computer composition field moving forward and does not let stagnation get the best of everyone.